The History of Windows
Ever since we started living in huts and houses, we’ve needed a way of getting light and ventilation into our homes. In the earliest days, we had to be content with just a doorway and some roughly cut animal hide across the opening. Once man became more adventurous, we began building in things like shutters that could be flung open during the day – great in hot climates but a little more risqué when frost was on the ground and snow in the air.
While we’ve been making glass for thousands of years, sticking it in our windows has been a much more recent invention. The Romans, of course, started it when they used bottle shapes or jars that had been flattened out to make rather thick windows which let hardly any light through.
As manufacturing techniques slowly began to develop smaller glass windows were incorporated into buildings, albeit mainly for the rich who had plenty of money for such things. Across the world in China and Korea they were using paper windows and continued to do so well into the last millennium. It wasn’t until the 16th Century and the later growth of industrialisation that properly made windows became widespread and the province of middle class families, not just the rich. Still, for a long while, even many homes only put glass in the windows of their most important rooms, using shutters for the rest.
The seventeenth century saw the rise of the lattice window with small squares of glass separated by lead and it was about this time that the weighted sash window was invented. It was the French who discovered how to make larger and flatter panes of glass which were showcased in the Palace of Versailles around 1680.
By the middle of the 19th century there were better ways of producing glass windows and we began to see more extravagant architectural creations such as the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition in 1851. Steel manufacturing processes meant that it was easier to incorporate glass windows into buildings with features such as curtain walls. As we headed into the 20th century, windows became common place in most homes and office buildings.
The History of Double Glazing
You might be surprised that one of the first instances of double glazing for homes was found in Scotland. In the cold winter months those canny scots used to putty an extra layer of glass onto their windows to help ward off the chill of night. The double glazed windows that we know today were first formally invented in the 1930s in America by C D Haven. The trouble was that these windows were initially very expensive to produce.
Large scale manufacturing didn’t begin in earnest until after the Second World War and this was led by an Ohio based company who called their double glazed windows Thermopanes. It wasn’t really until the late 70s and early 80s that double glazing began to take on in the UK and had become a standard in new builds by 1985. Part of this was due to the energy crisis in the 70s where we had to find new ways to cut down on those all-important fuel bills. Part was also down to wider manufacturing that began to bring the price of installation down.
In more recent times, companies like Thermotech in Canada began making triple glazed windows and these have become more popular as the green revolution has taken hold. They are less common in the UK but are gaining in popularity as we seek better ways to insulate our homes.
Windows today have their own energy ratings and consumers have a choice from a wide range of products to suit their needs and their budget. It’s difficult to contemplate that just a hundred years ago people were living in draughty rooms and houses even if they were rich.
Discover how windows are made here.