From Iceland — Ask An Expert: Why Are Icelandic Windows Built The Way They Are?

Ask An Expert: Why Are Icelandic Windows Built The Way They Are?

Published October 8, 2021

Ask An Expert: Why Are Icelandic Windows Built The Way They Are?
Reetta Huhta
Photo by
Art Bicnick

In the Nordic countries, the windows are typically built using two double panels of glass. This way the chilly air doesn’t have easy access to the apartment. However, in Iceland the windows consist of only one double glazing rather than two, even though the country is – literally – as cold as ice. So why are things done differently here?

The question turned out to be much harder to solve than we had expected. If we were annoying intellectuals waiting for a chance to sneak in posh idioms, we would describe the journey as Kafkaesque. But since we aren’t, we’ll just quickly recap the events.

As the Icelandic winter draws in we’re reaching for our comfy traditional lopapeysa sweaters, the beautiful woollen garments which have been keeping Icelanders warm for generations. They’re available for international delivery through our online shop, and ours are hand-knitted right here in Iceland from local wool.

At first, we reached out to architects, but they were busy architecting and didn’t have time to come up with an answer. Next, we asked the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland to see if they would have anything to say about the critical issue in hand. They couldn’t give us a waterproof answer but encouraged us to contact the Housing and Civil Engineering Institute. We contacted the institute only to receive speculations about the topic. They, in turn, urged us to ask the same question from a window factory.

Weary of the hunt for an answer, we turned finally to Glugga og Hurðsmiðja SB, a manufacturer of windows and doors. From them we finally received the long-awaited answer.

According to the owner and managing director of the factory, Jónas Sigurðsson, the main reason for the lesser-insulated windows is the cheap cost of heating in Iceland. He mentions also that Icelandic winters aren’t as cold compared to the other Nordic countries, which encourages Icelanders to build their windows in a lighter way.

All’s well that ends well! It turns out that there was a simple answer to a simple question.

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