No one wants to live in a prison cell!
The outer walls of our homes are fixed. The floor and the roof are fixed. They enclose our homes, separating the inside from the outside. Windows and doors on the other hand, set in the enclosing walls, bring life inside the home. Without a window – a window that you can look out from, that can let in natural light and which you can open and close to let in the breeze, a room is like a prison cell.
The most important function of a window is that it is a way of connecting to the outside. You can open and close it, and adjust the opening. You can be in touch with Nature – the changing light of day and night, the cycles of the seasons, the view of gardens, the trees and flowers, and the sound of birds. You can be in touch with your street and the laughter of children in the playground. You can close it if the outside is too cold or too hot, shade it when the sunlight is too harsh, and shut it if you want peace and quiet. It is indeed this adjustable device that brings life to the home.
Therefore, it is very important to design windows with great care and attention so that you can enjoy all the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of poor window design.
Can you open the window fully when it is cool in the morning and evening and during the night, but keep the mosquitoes out?
Can you shut it tight when it is unbearably hot outside, and a dusty wind is blowing?
Can you shade it from the outside if the hot afternoon sun is shining through it, but you want gentle light and some ventilation?
Can you keep the rain out but enjoy the monsoon breeze?
Can you adjust the amount of daylight coming from the windows?
Can you control the breeze coming through the window?
Can you have the privacy of your room and still get the benefit of natural light and pleasant breeze?
Will you get warm sunshine into the room during winter mornings?
Do the windows give enough pleasant daylight so that you do not need to switch on any electric light during the day?
Can you install a cooler or an air conditioner without blocking the light and the view?
But remember, a window is not complete without a projection that protects it from the rain and a shading arrangement that you can adjust.
What can go wrong? How can a window become a nuisance and a source of discomfort?
In the old days, window shutters were made of wood. When you closed the window during hot afternoons, the wood worked like an insulating panel to keep the coolth of the room in and the heat out. Nowadays, window shutters have thin glass panels. The advantage of glass is that you can close the window but still have daylight and the view to the outside. Often, windows have fixed glass panels just for a better view to the outside. It is becoming fashionable to have large view windows.
The disadvantage of the thin glass panel is that it is not an insulator. In fact, if you allow the hot sun to come in through the window, it traps the heat in the room. It behaves like a solar cooker! Curtains inside the window are of no use. They only block the light but not the heat that the glass has trapped inside the room. You end up switching on electric lights, even when daylight is available!
If the glass area of the window is larger than necessary and it is not shaded from the hot sun you will suffer from overheating.
During warm and humid seasons, good and effective ventilation is needed in the evenings and night so that the house can cool down. The cool air carries away the heat that the walls and floors have absorbed during the hot day. Windows should be on both sides of the house so that the breeze can blow through. This is called cross-ventilation.
Builders often include sliding windows with two or three sliding panels. The window may be one metre wide but you can open only half the window for ventilation and, that is not enough ventilation. When the window has three sliding panels, two panels can be opened, but now the window may be larger than necessary letting too much light and heat.
Builders often do not provide a ventilator above the door, or a second window for cross ventilation. Well, if the breeze cannot cross the room, then it will not flush out the heat.
The climate is getting warmer. There are seasons and times of the day when, despite all the precautions you have taken in designing the windows and the envelope of the building, it is still too hot. When you can afford it, you will want to install an air conditioner.
An air conditioner is not cheap, and running it is very expensive. A 1.5 ton air conditioner will cost between six to ten rupees for every hour you use it! How do you get the benefit of air-conditioned comfort at minimum cost?
Make sure that the windows are shut tight. If the hot or humid air outside flows in through the gaps around the window frame and the shutters, your air conditioner is being unnecessarily overworked.
Sliding windows that are airtight when closed are rather expensive. Casement windows do a better job at a lower cost.
Make sure that the windows are not unnecessarily over-sized.
Make sure that they are shaded from the hot sun.
The green design of windows is, perhaps, the most important aspect for making homes comfortable – comfortable according to the local climate. The green design of windows reduces the demand for electricity, for lighting and for cooling. The biggest gain is that you will need the air-conditioner for only the hottest season, and on the days that you need it, you will need it only for some time of the day or night. Green window design can reduce the cost and the demand for electricity by 50% when compared to bad design with its pitfalls! Lesser the electricity consumption – lesser the carbon dioxide emissions.
Are the windows installed in your home green? If not, what are the issues that you face? Tell us in the comments below.
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