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An Old Trade-Off Is Still Current

The picture above is the 1914 Adams Express Building at 61 Broadway. The two biggest buildings below are Singer, on the left, and the 1907 City Investing Building on the right.

These two buildings are used as examples in the article below, “Heat Losses From Buildings Of Modern Type,” which I’m putting up here in its entirety. It was written by J. Byers Holbrook, a mechanical engineer, and published in Domestic Engineering[efn_note] volume 68, number 1, July 4, 1914 [/efn_note], a journal devoted to mechanical systems (plumbing and HVAC) for buildings.

Holbrook discusses heat loss through exterior walls as a factor in designing heating systems: the more heat lost, the larger the design load is. He makes the point that the structurally efficient “thin” curtains walls of the era – only 12 inches of solid brick – are not as good as keeping heat inside a building as the older, thicker walls, and therefore the modern structural design comes at a mechanical-systems cost. This discussion continues today, 108 years later, with glass curtain walls in the place of thin masonry walls, and insulated masonry walls in the place of thick masonry walls.