Brussels suburb forced to replace double-glazing with by single panes

Brussels suburb forced to replace double-glazing with by single panes
Credit: Visit.Brussels

Residents of the Le Logis-Floréal suburb in Watermael-Boitsfort wishing to replace their single-glazed windows with double-glazing have had their plans overruled by the Capital Region on grounds that the original windows are protected heritage.

Since the houses in the suburb and their original windows are protected, replacing them would violate urban planning. Double-glazing does not fit into the urban planning stipulations and double-glazed panes that have been installed must be replaced, Bruzz reports.

As a result, residents have hung posters with the message "Sorry, we are being forced to pollute" in their windows and are complaining that they are not allowed to better insulate their homes, even in the midst of the current energy crisis.

This has seen the regional housing company BGHM carry out renovation work to replace non-original double-glazing with single-glazed windows, BGHM spokesperson Charlélie Van Driessche told VRT.

Protected heritage

Currently, the BGHM is coordinating a large-scale renovation of 72 protected housing units in the neighbourhood which comprises both (rented) social housing and private properties. Most of the houses are protected heritage, meaning the distinctive woodwork (green in Le Logis, yellow in Floréal) cannot be touched.

Unfortunately, the windows are also part of that woodwork and the existing wooden frame is too narrow for two layers of glass. "We are bound by the Le Logis-Floréal Heritage Management Plan, which precisely defines which works are or are not allowed," Van Driessche said. He added that the renovation works started by some owners and tenants in the neighbourhood were not in accordance with regulations.

"We prioritise the restoration of existing windows. If they are damaged beyond repair, we are allowed to replace them but only within the same exact dimensions and using the same materials as the original." In practice, this means that the only material allowed to replace the windows is wood. This must be as thin as it used to be.

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Though thinner double glazing is possible in principle, in practice it proved unfeasible. "You would have to cut too deep a hole in the joists, which jeopardises the stability of the frame," Van Driessche explained. This means that the houses will get single-glazing again when they are renovated.

An agreement was reached between the housing company and the Region for those who had already installed double-glazing: social tenants will be allowed to keep their double-glazing throughout the winter.

After the renovation, the windows – even those with single glazing – should be insulated "slightly more efficiently" than today, thanks to some cracks being properly sealed shut.

Insulating elsewhere

Improved roof insulation will be installed, which should significantly improve the home's energy efficiency. Still, the BGHM admitted that significant energy savings can only be achieved with double-glazing. This would almost halve the kilowattage needed for heating.

In the meantime, the BGHM told Bruzz that it will consult with the Brussels Department for Heritage and Urbanism to explore possible ways to fit double glazing in the suburb. This would put a halt to part of the renovation works.

In light of the energy crisis, Brussels State Secretary for Urbanism Pascal Smet wants to adjust existing standards so that "Double glazing can always be installed."

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