Fenestration: A Healthy View

Windows Predict Physical & Psychological Discomfort in Buildings

by the National Research Council Canada, Institute for Research in Construction

Office employees spend most of their waking time inside the buildings in which they work.  To the extent that environmental conditions influence health and well-being, workplace conditions are important contributors.  The effects on individuals can carry through to influence organizational performance, making the work environment an indirect influence on measures of organizational productivity. 

         Among the architectural or interior design characteristics that define the office experience are the proximity of a window to the individual’s desk, the characteristics of the view outside the window, and the number of people who share the office.  Many investigators have examined the effects of lighting quality in an indoor space and its effects on the work performance, comfort, and satisfaction of occupants.  In addition to these visually mediated psychological effects, light has non-visual effects on physiology.  Light controls the human biological clock and is, therefore, an important regulator of the human physiology and performance.  Regular patterns of light and dark exposure each day are necessary to regulate circadian rhythms, including sleep-wake cycles.

         The desire for natural light, rather than electric light, is one of the reasons why windows are so important to building occupants.  Windows are openings for flows, both inward and outward, of air, light, and sound, and are often elements that influence the indoor environment most.  Preferences for windows are well established, too.  A window view provides information about time and weather, decreases the feeling of claustrophobia, and can have a positive contribution to eye health by providing a distant horizon at which to gaze.  Windows can bring both positive and negative experiences, including access to view and daylight, but also glare and thermal discomfort.  A good view should normally include the foreground and the skyline, but care needs to be taken to control the glaring effects of the sky. 

         Of all the characteristics of windows perhaps the most interesting is the view.  Studies have found that the farther occupants were from a window the less satisfied they were with the view, and the more they desired to sit nearer a window.  The preference of people for natural over built or urban views is shown in many window studies as well.  Natural scenes are advantageous to human health because they provide an opportunity for recovery from mental fatigue.              The National Research Council Canada Institute for Research in Construction is Canada’s leading construction research and technology development agency.  The Institute brings quality to the built environment by performing research and development, product evaluation, developing test methods, standards, and decision-support tools.  Through ongoing research, the Institute for Research in Construction helps to support a well-functioning marketplace by offering services and technology that improve the construction of high-performance buildings and infrastructure, both in Canada and around the world.

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