What is the Best Alternative to Hope’s and Crittall Hot-rolled Steel Windows & Doors

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Interior window wall | out-swing door | lake view
Inside lake view window wall with an operating out-swing door

Hope’s and Crittall have been around since the earliest parts of last century.  Their histories are intertwined and go back to the Henry Hope Company in the early 19th century.  During the 1990’s there was quite a squabble between Hope’s Architectural (predecessor to Hope’s Windows) of Jamestown, NY and Crittall of the UK because of Hope’s claim “since 1818.”  The end result was that Hope’s had to stop making the claim since Crittall had the direct corporate history dating back to Henry Hope and “Hope’s” of NY descended through International Windows which was a sales arm of “Hope’s England”.

Legal squabbling aside, the history of both companies dates back to the development of hot-rolled steel as an alternative to cast iron for the making of train tracks needed to move coal which was essential to the industrial revolution.  Cast iron was very brittle and prone to cracking while hot-rolled steel was more ductile and resistant to cracking.  Once this technology was discovered, the process of using progressive rolling dies to form red-hot steel into intricate shapes found its way to the making of window sash profiles.

Hot-rolled steel windows can be found throughout castles and estates of England and the US.  From the 1930’s through the 1950’s, steel windows were manufactured in both the US and England and then shipped in standard sizes to warehouses for fast delivery.  They were either unpainted or sprayed with a simple primer with no surface preparation which lead to a reputation for rusting.  These windows and doors can be found on many tract houses, high-rise apartment buildings and commercial buildings all over both countries.  In their day, they were considered commodity windows.

Starting in the 1960’s, steel windows and doors were overtaken in the market by aluminum, wood and later thermally broken aluminum windows and doors, the hot-rolled steel window and door market faced extinction due to increased cost, poor thermal performance and maintenance issues.  In the late 1980’s and 1990’s Crittall and Hope’s began to make significant headway in the modern architecture market because of their thin sightlines and technological improvements in their systems.  They were no longer what had become prison or “factory windows”.

Weatherstripping, zinc based undercoating, snap on glazing beads, and insulated glass became the way for modern steel windows to compete against other window systems, and these two players kept forcing one another to continue innovating.  Up until the early 90’s almost all hot-rolled steel window bars were made in low-tech factories in Birmingham, England.  That is when Montanstahl of Switzerland entered the picture based on processes developed by Wolfgang Stumm, the genius son of the founder.  The new profiles were rolled from rods rather than slabs and came out of the rolling mills straight and without most of the imperfections of the British steel.  They still dominate the market for hot-rolled steel bars.

In the late 1980’s Harry Framback of Skyline Windows developed a thermally broken aluminum window system called Designline 90 that simulated the dimensions and “look” of historical hot-rolled steel windows.  At the time, I was the Director of Special Projects for Skyline during this development, and since Harry was my partner, we spent countless hours brainstorming solutions to the design issues that came up.  This was a fun time and Skyline prospered from the development.  This alternative is still being manufactured by Skyline and can be found throughout New York City where they are based.  Other manufacturers have knocked off the design and many alternatives to the Designline alternative to real hot-rolled steel windows are available.

Soon after, a number of German, Swiss and Italian cold-rollers began to make similar profiles out of very thin steel (about the thickness of Tonka toys, if you are old enough to remember) bent and folded while cold into intricate, tubular shapes.  These products are still produced as lower cost alternatives to true, hot-rolled steel windows and doors.

One of the biggest criticisms of hot-rolled steel windows and doors is thermal performance.  It had always been preached by Hope’s and Crittall that steel does not conduct heat and cold as much as aluminum and consequently did not need thermal breaks.  The truth of the matter is that they had no idea how to thermally break the hot-rolled bars so that was a convenient truth to promote.  The cold-rolled counterparts came up with double sections and plastic separators to solve the problem, but true hot-rolled profiles were left without a solution until the early 2010’s.

Wolfgang Stumm of Montanstahl once again entered the picture and developed a technology of laser welding receptor channels onto laser cut steel flats and joining them with stiff fiberglass insulators to mimic traditional hot-rolled steel bars.  I was very fortunate to have been invited into this development and the resulting product was called Thermal Steel which I coined.  While my joint venture with them came to an end, they are still manufacturing bars using this technology.  Several US and European companies are producing windows and doors using this technology.

Hope’s in the last few years, having rejected the Montanstahl technology in the early 2010’s, developed their own thermally broken system using plastic shapes to cover hot-rolled steel bars to have an offering in this category.  I could expound on this system for hours, but needless to say, I am not fond of this approach.

Thermally responsible steel windows and doors are now available from many, many companies using hot-rolled or cold-rolled methods to produce their windows and doors.  Having been intimately involved with the development of both aluminum and hot-rolled thermally improved window and door systems, I set out to take a radical departure from both methods and created 2Fold® which is currently patent pending.

2Fold® utilizes hot-rolled steel sheet, laser cut and bent into structural shapes to form the basis of the system.  The sashes (moving door part) are fully welded into strong frames and have a visual sightline of only 1”, smaller than any of the alternative systems available today.  Thermal performance and a more pleasing interior finish is provided through the use of Accoya® the most stable and responsibly grown wood in the world.  I am very proud of this development and hope that you and your colleagues soon discover the benefits of 2Fold®.

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