Floor To Ceiling Windows Green Living or Greenhouse?

A friend mentioned an article he saw recently about some trouble people are having with floor to ceiling windows. Some urban developers are having success promoting high-rise condos with amazing views due to the expansive floor-to-ceiling windows and lofty locations.

These glass-encased domiciles come with a price, or two. Without much forethought, builders are selling these ‘fishbowls’ in the sky without much of any mechanism for controlling the solar gain which leaves residents with extraordinary climate control bills and faded furnishings.

You may find it shocking that, in this time of so much focus on green building and energy saving mindsets, people will build (and buy) such environmentally wasteful living spaces.

Some of the buyers of these penthouse greenhouses would be better off moving a crop of herbs and vegetables into their living rooms as the temperatures soar to intolerablely high levels.

Other problems include lack of privacy. You may be many stories up from the ground, but in many urban settings, the next building over is only the width of a city street sometimes less than 20 feet away. Once the lights go on in the evening, you’re on stage so I hope you’re ready for your performance.

I remember one local example I came across when showing property to a couple who was moving from Los Angeles a couple years ago. Facing a common dilemma many people encounter when moving from out of town, my buyers couldn’t decide if they wanted the urban setting of a property like One Boulder Plaza or the tranquility of Dakota Ridge.

When taking a tour of a $600,000 + studio condo we found an amazing view: to the south, a wall of a building 15 feet across the alley, and to the east, the parking level of the RTD bus station.

That clinched it, we were back to north Boulder, and other more residential settings. What I found intriguing about this experience, and the article about glass condos, is that buyers will often buy into the sales hype, or simply overlook some potential shortcomings because they are distracted by one selling feature.

I got caught by this when buying my first condo in Boulder. It had some great views overlooking downtown and the foothills when I first moved in, but within a year or so a new building went up in the adjacent lot. My new view was into the balcony and living room of the condo next door… 13 feet away from my living room window. And another new neighbor the same distance from my bedroom window. That was even more exciting when the neighbors set the balcony on fire in the middle of the night.

I think what I want you to take away from this is that you should try to step back and take a long look at the bigger picture before you make a choice on which home to buy. It’s great to feel the connection when you’re looking for a new home, and usually it’s one particular aspect of a home that helps you get an emotional attachment. When that happens, take a deep breath and see if there’s anything unusual or objectionable that you’ve missed.

In the case of the greenhouse penthouses, I wonder if any of the builders or buyers thought about building in sophisticated solar mitigation, or better yet, solar collection combined with mitigation.

Just as I could have done better due diligence when buying my first Boulder condo by asking about future plans for the adjacent vacant lot, you can also look for the things that may become an issue after you settle into your new home.

I also wish that my Realtor had at least mentioned that we should explore how long that vacant lot would remain vacant. You have an edge; you’re reading my blog, and now you won’t be swayed by your emotions without carefully evaluating your next purchase.

Thanks for visiting my site. I hope you find it helpful, and if you don’t already have a Realtor, I’d love the opportunity to help you, or someone you know, when it’s time to move.

Zachary Epps: Full-Time Real Estate Professional.


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