A Year Ago in TreeHugger: A Defence of Vinyl

One year ago John Laumer wrote a courageous post for a site like Treehugger: a defense of vinyl as the most efficient and cost-effective way to deliver high quality energy efficient windows, saying that "Millions of people with low incomes live with inefficient, uncomfortable windows. Vinyl replacement windows are the most common and easily installed technology for upgrading energy performance affordably. Highly energy efficient wooden windows are made and priced for rich people only. Take away vinyl windows and you remove the most affordable means of dramatically improving the efficiency of older buildings." It is still true that vinyl windows are efficient and cheap, but much has changed in a year; For some, they have become the defining issue about building green. From Treehugger this year on Building a PVC free house- "Their biggest concern was PVC, otherwise known as polyvinyl chloride, a cheap, hardy plastic used in everything from plumbing pipes to electric conduit. "PVC is just awful," Grassi says. Its byproducts — dioxin and other organochlorines — are carcinogenic, and PVC itself is tough to recycle." It is being phased out of roofing, piping and other equally permanent and inaccessible features of buildings. The Healthy Building Network says " PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) is the worst plastic from an environmental health perspective, posing unique and major hazards in its manufacture, product life and disposal. Global vinyl production totals over 30 million tons per year, and 75% of PVC is directed to building applications. PVC has contributed a significant portion of the world's burden of persistent toxic pollutants and endocrine-disrupting chemicals - including dioxin and phthalates - that are now universally present in the environment and the human population. When its entire life cycle is taken into account, it becomes apparent that this seemingly innocuous plastic is one of the most environmentally hazardous consumer materials produced."

The Green Building Network and LEED are still neutral on PVC windows, but in Australia they give points for eliminating PVC. John stands by his post- "Given the risks of climate change versus the risks of reproductive effects from a poorly documented exposure, it is a damn poor risk management choice to take cost effective alternatives away from designers and do-it-your-selfers" However he does point out that "In the long run energy prices are going to kill vinyl anyway because the cost is skyrocketing as a function of electricity costs." ::Look out any window