The awesome task of being a window
When a design client discusses the selection of a window type, there are usually only two considerations. They want to know that it fits the style of the house and how it will react to hurricanes. This is a good beginning of the conversation, but it is only the beginning. To choose a window design, one must first be aware of the awesome job the window is called to do if the building is to function well. In fact, the window must be the busiest element in the functioning of the building.
Light and air
While we may take it for granted, the window’s role as the hole in the wall that lets in light and air is its primary function. The size, shape and extent of the opening are strong determinants of the character of the interior of the building. Further, light, fresh air and ventilation are all needed for physical and psychological comfort conditions and to reduce the reliance on technology.
Views are important for several reasons. First, there is a need for the eye to focus on the distance to relax, otherwise fatigue is a problem. Secondly, the sense of security is enhanced by being able to see outside. Thirdly, pleasant views enhance the experience of the building’s occupants and users.
The window must be designed so that burglars, insects and other unwanted visitors are kept out.
It may seem contradictory, but the window, having invited the sun’s light in, must protect the building’s interior from direct sunlight. It must, therefore, provide shade. While sunlight has many benefits, direct exposure to the sun increases heat levels on the interior, making occupants uncomfortable. In our zone, this is worst in the afternoon and early evening, as the sun gets low above an already-heated landscape, making the west and south exposures most vulnerable, and increasing the load for fans and air conditioners.
The window, in normal times, must keep light rain out, especially during the “rainy season”. During storm weather, it must also be able to keep wind-driven rain and debris out, as well as the wind itself, which might destroy the building from the interior or help lift the roof to expose the building interior. During hurricanes, the window must be able to withstand the storm’s ability to suck it out of its opening, as the fast-moving wind creates a vacuum at the surface.
Finally, the window must perform all of these functions while looking good. It must find ways to be stylish as styles change, while still being good at what it must do. New materials, colors and methods of operation help the designer create innovative window designs.
As you can see, being a window is an awesome task, and one most often not appreciated. Unfortunately, the penalty for ignoring or not being aware of the many jobs a window does is extremely high. It results in the high cost of power to provide air conditioning to cool and ventilate the building, the high cost of window dressings to provide shade (after the heat is already inside), the high cost of security systems to dissuade intruders and the high cost of hurricane protection. So from now on, when you speak of windows, speak with great respect. They are there to serve you, and they work really hard at it.
• Patrick Rahming & Associates is a full service design firm providing architectural, planning and design services throughout The Bahamas and the northern Caribbean. Visit its website at www.pradesigns.com and like its Facebook page. The firm’s mission is to help its clients turn their design problems into completed projects through a process of guided decision-making, responsible environmental advice and expert project administration.