An Unexpected Window Saga…..With a Happy Ending (so far!)

There’s a popular saying here in Maine…. “we’re all set” ….to signify that the current situation is perfectly fine.

Window selection had so far been the most time consuming and vexing aspect of EdgewaterHaus.  That was all behind us.  We had made a final decision on an Optiwin designed Bieber manufactured Passive House certified window.  We had:

  • exchanged a few draft proposals refining the window specifications;
  • determined the exterior color (green);
  • opted to use FSC certified european pine for the window frame;
  • picked hardware style and color (contemporary look in silver finish);
  • chosen to have standard european style vertical hinges rather than the no-cost optional concealed horizontal hinges;
  • selected a factory applied interior stain color on the pine wood (a mid tone oak shade);
  • identified which windows required screens (all but the garage and a window at the top of the stairs to the lower);
  • approved detailed shop drawings of all the windows;
  • signed a sales contract;
  • made two down payments totaling some 50% of the delivered cost of the windows;
  • received word from Bieber that production of our windows was underway.

We were all set on windows.

Not so.

We got a call in mid-June from Bieber advising us that they would not be able to deliver the windows we had bought because of licensing issues.  Optiwin licenses their window design to Bieber and other manufacturers to produce and sell.   We were told that Optiwin had just withdrawn Bieber’s authority to ship the Optiwin designed window to the U.S. market.

Of course, our first reaction was disbelief.  How could that be, we wondered?  We had a signed contract with Bieber containing “irrevocable” legalities.  Surely, our contract must be “grandfathered,” and thus should, no, must be honored.

The shock quickly wore off to the reality of the situation.  Bieber offered to return all our money.  We could start anew with our runner-up window Intus.  But workers were already assembling the foundation.   We could easily foresee one or more months preparing and reviewing shop drawings and other decision points before even placing the order.  The building shell would be completed months before the replacement windows arrived.  What havoc would that bring to the construction schedule?

We momentarily considered legal remedies – sue’em for compliance with the contract.  But how long would that prolong the situation,  how much would that cost, and how much anguish would that create for us?

We’re not the litigious type.  Let’s find a reasonable alternative.

To their credit, Benoit, our Bieber salesman in New York City, was genuinely distressed and apologetic about the situation and wanted to find an acceptably accommodation.  In lieu of a refund, Bieber offered to provide their more expensive, Bieber designed Bi-Passif  window at no additional cost.  We looked at pictures of the windows and liked what we saw.  It’s also a Passive House certified window with slightly different aesthetics, installation, and preformance - the u-value is a bit better, but the frame dimensions and spacers a bit worse.  We are talking three decimal place differences.  Would any of this affect the Annual Heat Demand and our Passive House Design Stage Assurance from the Passive House Academy?  We would not know until the new values were entered into the the Passive House Planning Package.  Benoit offered to reimburse us for our architectural and energy consultant costs for switching to the Bi-Passiv, and a further discount on screens.  That sounded fair to us.

So our architect Chris Briley adapted the Bi-Passiv window to the EdgewaterHaus design, and PHA reran the PHPP model.  The results:  no significant impact on the PHPP; no change in the window shop drawings; some slight modifications to the exterior and interior detailing.

Problem resolved within about 2 weeks.  We were once again all set on windows.

Not so.

A few weeks later, Benoit called to say there was a supplier issue on the 0.63 SHGC glass Bieber had quoted.  He proposed to substitute 0.62 glass that had a slightly better U-value.  Here we go again on three-decimal place window metrics!

Again, a happy ending.  Passive House Academy confirmed that the better U value trumped the slightly lower SHGC.

Yep, we’re all set on windows.

Not yet.

Like many manufacturers throughout France, Bieber shuts production down during three weeks in August for employee vacations.  We were hoping that Bieber would make our windows before the vacation period.  Benoit advised us that Bieber’s supplier had not provided the aluminum cladding for our windows before the start of vacations.  Production of our windows would not be completed until the first week in September.  With a three week trans-atlantic shipping, we should get our Bi-Passif windows on site by the end of September.

I initially thought that would delay our ability to do our first blower door test.  But as we have learned, nothing, absolutely no construction related activities happen on schedule.  For example, the framers  have waited for over one week to receive the necessary 60-degree hangers to complete the floor framing (see my last blog).  When the hangers finally arrived from Coastal Forest Products, they were a face mount rather than the top mount we expected.  Why can’t Coastal provide the proper components for the floor framing package they designed?  We have been delayed for nearly two weeks on completing the floor deck, which delays erecting the walls, which delays placing the roof trusses, which……well, you get the picture.

So we await word that Bieber has completed production of our windows at their plant in Alsace, France, and are preparing to ship them to us.  We’re not sure what happened “behind the curtain” between Beiber and Optiwin, but feel that Beiber has done their best to help us resolve this to our satisfaction.  As for the shipping delay, well, with all the construction delays, the windows may yet arrive just in time.

So for right now……

We are again all set on windows…..until further notice!  

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2 Responses to An Unexpected Window Saga…..With a Happy Ending (so far!)

  1. john says:

    I read you problems finding adequate windows. I wonder did you consider moveable inside insulation for them, such as indoor shutters? Seems to me this could allow you to capture the sun and then keep it.

    • Roger says:

      John, the south facing windows are 7+ feet tall. The PHPP energy software shows that the windows are net gainers of heat. The large thermal mass of the concrete floor, air sealing, and high levels of insulation means we will lose little of that heat after the sun sets. We will use interior concealed window screens to control glare and heat gain in the summer. I’m not sure how you’d design shutters for such large window openings.

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