Sir, - Along with Mary Bryan of the Georgian Society (September 19th), I am extremely wary of uPVC window-frames and with good reasons, as the more I research uPVC the more unsustainable it appears to be. While Mr O'Dwyer (September 28th) rightly mentions the aesthetic drawbacks of uPVC and other inappropriate window types, Mr O'Halloran (September 24th) seems to feel that uPVC is fine as it saves on heating bills.
Savings on fuels are indeed welcome, as is the imprimatur of the ISO quality scheme, but the greater picture should be seen. The real cost of producing plastic - the energy used in its production and disposal - must be taken into account and should be paid for by the consumer.
I would question Mr O'Dwyer's assumption that uPVC windows are available at affordable prices; they are extremely expensive per year of life as they last only about 30 years. At the time Mr O'Halloran's windows were installed, not even the plastics industry was confident of getting over 20 years from them. For this cost, they will contribute towards lessening the resale value of older, listed houses and assist in the decay of masonry. Also, they are fitted with spot-welded or riveted ironmongery that cannot be repaired or easily replaced.
Oh well, we live and learn by such expensive mistakes. Except that these, and countless other windows, are providing a toxic problem which will last well into the next millennium, as they are dumped in landfills, their noxious chemicals leaking into our ground water. And they will be replaced with more of the same, unless we all wake up and start growing good, native timber for windows, following the Scandinavian example. This is a vicious cycle, bring happiness only to the international petro-chemical industry and the owners of uPVC installation companies. Their workers, however, should beware, as they may be exposed through the manufacturing processes to the fumes of some organo-chlorine chemicals which have been or are in the process of being banned in many European countries (organo-chlorines include PCBs, CFCs and DDT).
I wish I could say, to paraphrase many a western actor, that the only good plastic window is a dead plastic window. However, the only good one is that which does not get produced at all, because a better, more sustainable choice is made by the householder, firm, local authority or builder.
Given the above, I would like to draw your attention to the ongoing installation of hinged uPVC windows in Leinster House, a listed building and seat of the Dail which itself outlawed such material alterations in listed buildings. Has the OPW applied for and received planning permission? I await further news on this subject with anticipation, and hope they will be removed promptly. - Yours, etc., Nessa M. Roche,