An Interview with Adrian Dymarczyk of Ikon Windows

Ikon Windows is a Brooklyn-based window distributor that has been a pillar of the Passive House community in the New York metropolitan area for years. We recently caught up with the President of Ikon Windows, Adrian Dymarczyk, at his office in Industry City, to learn more about their products, high-performance fenestration, and the future of windows in North America.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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Passive House Accelerator: When did you start Ikon Windows?

Adrian Dymarczyk: Ikon Windows was started in 2017. Originally, we had a different company in 2015 under a different name. However, we rebranded and changed the name to Ikon Windows in 2017.

PHA: Did you start selling Passive House windows right away?

Dymarczyk: The funny thing is that I wasn't actually aware of what Passive House was when we started. I wasn't even aware that our windows were already up to Passive House standards. All the European profiles that we sell and have been importing are made to very high-performance standards for the European market. I only found out through selling these windows in the U.S. that they were Passive House windows. By the end of 2017, I had firmly entered the world of Passive House here.

PHA: What is the difference between high-performance windows and more conventional windows?

Dymarczyk: When you look at high-performance windows, the main things are airtightness and thermal performance. If you look at the U-values of conventional windows, which you could buy at Home Depot or Lowe's, they're usually on the higher end—above 0.25 and usually around 0.3. For high-performance windows, we're trying to get into the low teens. Anything below 0.2 would be considered high performance, which also reduces your risk of condensation on the window frame, it reduces draft, and it increases overall comfort in the home.

PHA: When people hear “European windows” they tend to think of tilt-and-turn. What are some of the benefits of tilt-and-turn windows?

Dymarczyk: One of the biggest benefits of tilt-and-turn windows is the multi-lock hardware we use, which allows the sash to compress the gaskets all the way around the frame. This system, which includes multiple gaskets and a multi-locking point system, pretty much creates an airtight window. It’s not just our tilt-and-turn windows. The way that we extrude our frames is also beneficial for performance because they contain multiple chambers that act as thermal breaks.

PHA: And are all your windows triple-pane or do you also sell double-pane?

Dymarczyk: We do double and triple if we are asked to, but the price difference between the two is small. Most of the time, our clients will compare the prices and see that they're not really saving that much by doing double, so we try to push everyone to triple.

PHA: Does Ikon also offer glass door systems that can achieve Passive House levels of performance?

Dymarczyk: Yes. Depending on the system we use, our doors can achieve Passive House ratings. We have three profiles. Our top-of-the-line, high-performance doors will achieve the Passive House U-values, and our lift-and-slide door systems will, as well.


PHA: How does the framing material impact window or, in this case, door performance?

Dymarczyk: Out of all the materials that we have, wood is the only good natural insulator. Our entry level wood and our Passive House wood windows are already made out of a great material to start with, so they’ll achieve better performance. If we have to use a material like aluminum, which is not a good insulator, we'd have to thermally break it. Depending on what performance we're trying to achieve, that's the type of thermal break that we're going to put in the middle of that aluminum frame. It's a similar situation with uPVC, because uPVC is not a great insulator. That's why we put the multiple chambers in between. The framing material does impact how well the window performs. However, we take steps to increase the performance even of a poor-performing material.

PHA: What about costs. Is the aluminum- or wood-frame window more affordable?

Dymarczyk: If we take a Passive House aluminum window and a wood-clad Passive House window, they're roughly the same. The wood frame just has more options to make it more expensive. What I mean by that is that pine is usually our go-to just because it's the least expensive option. If somebody picks an oak window, that will be more expensive just because that type of wood is more expensive.

PHA: What is your most popular window model and what is your most popular model of door?

Dymarczyk: Currently, we've been mainly selling aluminum because a lot of people are going for that modern look—the sharp lines and thin frame. Our Alu8 and our Alu Pasiv are two of our most popular lines. As for the doors, it's not one specific door, but our lift-and-slide systems in general just because we can get very expansive units. They can be very tall, very wide, and up to 60 feet long.

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PHA: What about people who are hoping to get a more classic aesthetic. Are there challenges in manufacturing windows and doors that look historic, but are high performing?

Dymarczyk: That's usually tricky. In the beginning, we were trying to make them as slim as possible and still perform. The Landmark Committee, they're looking for very specific sight lines, and it's sometimes hard to achieve that with a high-performance window just because we have a lot of different mechanisms in play like the tilt-and-turn hardware and the addition of all the gaskets. Trying to make these windows as slim as possible to gain approval from landmarks and still perform to Passive House levels, that's been difficult, but we’ve found solutions [see Ikon’s Heritage series].


PHA: Has the process gotten any easier over the years?

Dymarczyk: Yes. At this point, when they see Ikon Windows and we have a list of projects we've already done, they don't even look at our drawings anymore. We've never had anybody complain, so I think that's a good sign.

PHA: Have you noticed that builders in the New York metropolitan area have become more familiar with installing high-performance and Passive House windows?

Dymarczyk: It will depend on who's actually reaching out to us. If the builders or developers are reaching out because they had a bid package from an architect who's familiar with Passive House, it seems like they've already installed European Windows. Builders who work with architects that are already in the high-performance world, they're very familiar with everything. We're also seeing an influx of developers asking questions and builders coming to us. They are curious about our products because they've seen them installed somewhere and they want to learn more.

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PHA: Would you be able to go and do an onsite presentation of an install or do a mockup for people who are new to Passive House?

Dymarczyk: Yes. That’s part of our package for anywhere that's within driving distance [of Industry City]. During our unloads, we’ll send one of our techs over to make sure all the windows arrive undamaged. We also like to take an hour or two just to go over the installation process with the GC or the builder or whoever's installing the windows on site. It's pretty simple and straightforward, but they always like to see us do one window first, and we'll do it with them. It also depends on the type of building it is. If it is a Passive House and it's using different types of tapes, that's usually shown in the architectural drawings. We review that well beforehand so that we'll be able to go over the installation process before the windows even arrive.

PHA: what are some innovations in fenestration systems you expect to see in North American markets within the next five to 10 years?

Dymarczyk: I think the North American market is going to start focusing heavily on how well windows are insulated. I know that our building codes are changing, and windows will need to meet higher performance standards. I think it's just implementing what's already on the market that's higher performance—copying European extrusions or something like that. I definitely think that, in the next 10 years, we will see even conventional windows perform much better than they do now.

PHA: Do you think it's going to be the East Coast that leads the way, or do you think these changes will come from the West Coast?

Dymarczyk: Right now, it seems like the Passive House community is rather large on our side. A lot is happening in the Northeast. We have a good market to try out all our products and windows because we live in a cooler climate, and we need to have higher-performing products. I think that we will be leading the way for the time being, but the West is definitely going to catch up.

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