QUESTION: Will you please help me understand building code for windows? Our house was built four years ago and the size and number of windows was limited strictly by state building codes designed to conserve electricity. Recently, during an appointment at the new Diana J. White Cancer Center Pavilion, the morning sun blazed through wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor windows. Patients fanned themselves with lab orders. The air conditioning promptly came on — on a cool winter day. Why the double standard?

Also, when a window shattered on my house, I was required to replace it with a wildland window. A window specifically designed for enhanced protection from wildfire. The wildland window was more expensive than a conventional double-pane window. I’ve heard that the wildland window actually has a plastic frame, which would melt during a fire. Why isn’t a metal frame mandatory for the wildland window?

ANSWER: First, I must give props to the questioner for adding that detail about the patients fanning themselves with lab orders. So specific, so vivid, the writer should have been a journalist. Not just cooling themselves but using lab orders to do so. Reminds me of my good friend Rick Bragg, a former New York Times reporter, who wrote about a religious woman whose Bible was so well used Corinthians was falling out. Beautiful stuff.

Anyway, to the question, Brian Bell, Tuolumne County principal plans examiner, said, “It is a double standard.”

Public buildings have different energy conservation regulations simply because there are fewer commercial buildings than residences, therefore residences use more electricity overall.

As far as the expensive wildland windows go, the point is to slow down conflagration with the glass, not necessarily the frame, which is vinyl. The state requires new homes in the wildland urban interface area — which includes us — have tempered windows so they won’t shatter, much like a car windshield. Those windows better withstand assault from sparks and embers.

The other choice according to state rules is to install a window that can withstand fire for 20 minutes. This relates to new construction.

If a window shatters in a home built with wildland windows, the same type of window must be put back in, Bell said.

Tuolumne County enforces these state rules.

Another code regulates the type of windows used in manufactured homes, and this code is enforced by the state. It requires all manufactured homes to have wildland windows.

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