What Are the Real Costs Facing Owners of Glass Condos?

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CC BY 2.0. Loozrboy

There is much to complain about glass condos; we have noted that they are costly to heat and cool, often uncomfortable and hard on the furniture. As John Straube has noted, "Glass and aluminum are great for cookware but not for buildings." What we haven't noted is the inevitable cost of replacement. In Canadian Facility Management and Design magazine, one of those dead tree trade publications I get sent as an architect, quantity surveyor Joe Pendlebury describes the problem of the glass wall. He claims that five percent of thermal windows may have failed even before they are delivered to the job site.

After 20 years, another 10 to 15 percent of thermal windows will fail as they are exposed to the elements. And by the 25 year mark a growing number of cladding systems will have major thermal failures, requiring the building skin and/or its mechanical systems to be upgraded entirely.

And he is talking about commercial buildings here, not just the window wall systems used on condos. Thanks to the different rates of expansion between aluminum and glass, over the years the seals break down between the framing and the glass, the argon gets out of the sealed units and moisture gets in. Pretty soon the whole system has to be replaced.

The costs of replacing entire walls of glass are prohibitive to some owners of high-rise structures. The average cost to remove and replace a cladding system from a swing stage is about $200 per square foot. As the typical floor-area-to-cladding ratio in high-rise structures is .33, this will translate into a cost of $66 per square foot over the above grade areas of a typical building.

And that doesn't include the cost of the interior finishes, where drywall might have to be busted to expose the anchoring systems, ceilings, and possible relocation of occupants while the work is being done. The owner of a 700 Square foot unit might get hit with an assessment of close to $50,000 if there isn't a big reserve fund to cover it.

Fortunately the building codes are changing and the all glass buildings are no longer the standard. However there are a whole lot of them out there now that are going to have to be fixed in the rapidly approaching future, and it is going to cost serious money.

Watch me go on about glass here: