Part 2: Meet Glass Master, Dave Levasseur
By Rick Reynolds
As the window master at Bensonwood and Unity Homes, Dave Levasseur goes to great panes (sorry) to match each custom home, commercial structure or public building with the optimum window choices. And despite his easy-going nature, the seriousness he brings to the job is, for lack of a better term, transparent.
After all, as Levasseur will tell you, there’s more to windows than meets the eye. Like a teenager’s motives, windows are both looked at and through. Alternately, heat-reflective windows must permit visible light to pass while reflecting either in or out a part of the spectrum we can’t see; the infrared (IR), the heat producing rays that, depending on the time of year, either contribute to, or detract from, our comfort. At the same time, these coated windows must block out the sun’s damaging UV (ultraviolet) rays that can damage our skin, as well as our art, fabrics and other furnishings.
Additionally, as our link to the natural world, our windows must frame the great outdoors while efficiently containing its extremes in weather. On the exterior, windows enhance the beauty of our dwellings and beckon us inside.
From the interior, window sets, especially those framed in Bensonwood’s signature millwork, are works of art, forming ever-changing pictures on the wall, while dappling the interior with moving light as the sun arcs across the sky. For all they do, it’s not surprising that windows are a major part of any building purchase, and appropriately, require a great deal of attention.
Working with clients, architects, engineers, energy specialists, and project managers, Levasseur must evaluate each project, including building design, locale, build site, climate, and budget, in order to determine the right mix of window sets to maximize energy efficiency, structural integrity and comfort.
For example, if the building is out in a field, different coatings may be required than for one that is mostly in shade. When the structure is exposed to high wind, loads like those found at shore or mountain locations, a structural engineer may be called upon. And depending on where the window falls on a building, different window characteristics may be required.
According to Levasseur, two current Bensonwood projects, including a 14-unit townhouse, and a day lodge with two penthouses—part of a 70-unit, on-mountain community planned for SouthFace Village at Okemo in Vermont—are both examples of where comfort was considered a top priority. Relaxing after a day on the slopes, skiers tend to sit near windows to take in the pristine views, so high-efficiency, Energy Star-rated, triple-glazed windows were chosen to maximize comfort by minimizing body heat lost through its radiation towards the innermost surface of glass. Likewise, each project has its own set of performance criteria and preferences that must be met.
Depending on the needs of each project, Levasseur works with a number of window manufacturers. American brands include both Marvin and Integrity by Marvin window units. Also, European brands such as the finely-tuned Unilux window units from Germany (considered by some as the Mercedes-Benz of windows), as well as Intus window units from Eastern Europe (Lithuania), are both used in our high-performance buildings where exceptionally stringent thermal properties are required. In general, higher-end windows tend to have thicker glass, finer details, enhanced performance and greater clarity.
Loewen windows from Canada have also been used in certain instances.
For larger architectural openings, NanaWall operable glass wall systems offer panoramic views, versatility and energy efficiency. And when there isn’t a factory solution, Levasseur emphases that Bensonwood has a great deal of experience engineering custom, structural, window curtain walls to complement a wide range of architectural and energy goals.
Unlike short-lived home amenities like designer appliances and electronic gizmos, nothing delivers more value, beauty and comfort to the living environment than high-quality windows, expertly selected and installed.