The following is a guest post by Brian Persaud, a Toronto based real estate agent, investor, analyst, TV show host, producer and author of the forthcoming book “Investing in Condominiums“. He is a provider of Toronto condominium information and a good friend to the folks of BuzzBuzzHome. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to his newsletter. And now here’s Brian!

With all the talk about “Throw Away buildings” I wanted to give an excerpt of my book that talks about the part of the building getting the most press: The Windows. The pre-construction condo market is strong because of the investors who purchase units and put a substantial deposit down on a condo that they are not likely to walk away from. This lessens speculation in the market because a builder will not build a tower without presales. On the downside, these investors do not have a long term outlook for a building.

Commercial towers are built with higher quality materials (i.e. Finishes and Windows) and equipment (i.e. HVAC and elevators) because the developer will manage the building over many years. Residential towers are built with investors in mind and one of the biggest determining factors for an investor is the price per square foot and the end price of the unit.

This can result in buildings that could have long term issues because cheaper materials are used, deficiencies are dealt with quickly and corners could be cut. This is why understanding how condos are built and understanding how to choose a reputable developer are so key when buying a condo (all topics talked about in my book).

Case Study: Curtain Walls vs. Window Walls

 For residential condo construction, condos built with glass are usually built using a window wall design; in contrast, office buildings and hotels normally use curtain wall design. Window wall systems are installed between the concrete slabs of a building and use caulking and taping to create a seal that prevents moisture from entering the building. The two advantages for window walls systems are, first, they can be installed quickly and easily and are relatively cheap, which keeps individual condo units affordable. Second, they compartmentalize issues between floors. If spot repairs are required, they can be carried out with minimal disturbance. The compartmentalization also decreases sound transmission between floors.

One disadvantage of window walls is that, over time (and in the worst-case scenario, with poor installation,in as little as five years), the seals can dry out and crack, causing water to leak into the building, which will result in expensive repairs to reseal the entire building. A second disadvantage is that, due to the weaker structural integrity of the glazing in a window wall design, the system has to be built with more pieces (mullions) and joints. This construction makes the building look less smooth aesthetically and, due to the number of joints, increases the risk of failure.

Curtain walls, which have been used mainly in commercial buildings, hang off the front of the building and are anchored on the concrete slabs using metal plates. Curtain walls are much more resistant to moisture, wind, heat and earthquakes and require less maintenance (again, if installed correctly).

Curtain walls also have stronger structural integrity, meaning fewer mullions and joints; as a result, the buildings can look more aesthetically pleasing. On the downside, curtain wall systems can be anywhere from double to triple the cost of window wall design, and are typically found only in more luxury projects. Another disadvantage to a curtain wall system is sound conduction. Noise can be easily transmitted throughout the entire building as it’s conducted through the wall system.

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