Necessity of Windows in the Workplace

The article Windows in the workplace: examining issues of environmental sustainability and occupant comfort in the selection of multi-glazed windows by Menzies and Wherrett is based on a study of four buildings in Edinburgh Scotland and a survey of architects and occupants. The study was carefully thought out with the aim of analyzing sustainability and comfort issues in relationship to glazing and buildings. For this purpose, four buildings were used as case studies, architects were interviewed and occupants of the four case study buildings were interviewed after occupancy. It was thought by the researchers that not enough attention is paid to comfort and sustainability in combination by architects in the UK, but that the prime consideration was most often comfort and not sustainability or carbon footprint. This was surmised as possibly due to lack of information and the study rather backs this up. However, according to some other studies, which I have read the information needed is actually readily available. The information gathered by this study does, however, highlight the needs of the occupants rather than the cost and maintenance factors, which are generally the prime criteria for builders in the UK. Considering the amount of information gathered for this project, more could have been done with the results. Some further study would also probably identify the incentives elsewhere as a contributing factor to the problem being investigated: why more consideration is not given to sustainability and comfort. Over all the study was well done, but the reporting could be improved.

In this study, the introduction contains the following statement:

However, many (architects) remain wholly influenced by the performance of buildings in operation, using components which are less sustainable but permit greater control over the indoor environment and the comfort of its occupants. It is not often considered that both these criteria can be met by appropriate building component selection.

One factor which is very important in architectural decisions for high buildings is not mentioned at all here: safety. The public is relatively unaware of the numbers subclass failures in tall buildings around the world. So this must be a consideration but it significantly increases the cost of the glass.

“Now you can install self-cleaning, glare-reducing windows that also reduce the risk of window failure during tornadoes and hurricanes. The glass is laminated with composites to withstand high winds and projectiles. Cost: Laminated safety glass adds about 50 percent to the cost of a typical 30-inch by 50-inch window.”

This is actually a major consideration by architects and builders, so it should, at least, have been mentioned.

Considering the supporting evidence presented, the methodology of this study was well thought out and carefully constructed. However, the use of a Likert scale would have improved the value of the results over the multiple choice among subjective terms: very poor, poor, fair etc. In addition, the data displayed in the charts did not fully support the statements made in the conclusions. The researchers stated that more consideration was given to the adjustability of the interior for human comfort than to the sustainability of the materials. Table 1 does not really support these statements. In fact, the ones who gave more attention to occupant comfort were owner-occupant designers.

Additionally, the qualitative research with architects and specifiers was a valuable addition, except that the discussion questions were not presented nor were the transcripts. It is entirely possible that this data might be interpreted differently by using different perspectives. All we really know about the perspectives of the researchers is that they expected to prove their thesis. It is entirely possible that an analysis of this data from a socio-psychological perspective might prompt a different interpretation. We have no way of knowing without the content of the transcripts.

Mattingly and Lawlor note that, In studies of professionals, narrative is sometimes used to explore the reasoning of the practitioner. What they suggest in their study is that more is revealed of motivation and emotional reactions by narrative than by simple survey or Likert Scale analysis. Since Menzies and Wherrett are trying to identify a causal factor in choices by architects and designer decision makers, it makes sense to look at possible human psychology issues. Now everything people do is logical for certain. In fact, very few human decisions are based totally in logical reasoning.

No mention was made of other methods for distributing light or of the use of full sdpectrum interior lighting, so we have no way of knowing what, if any, effects these had in the case study buildings. It is a factor to be considered, since it is more than wiondows and views which are important to interior comfort. It is what they supply or destroy: daylight, heat and cooling.

My greatest problem with this study is in the reporting. Just as leaving out the transcript leaves out information which might inform, the choices made for what data to display and how to display it are a strong influence upon how the reader received the results, and how they react to them. The choices of data left out what I consider to be critical data, such as the directional orientation of the four buildings. Directional orientation of building windows have a strong influence upon the occupants, just as they do on plants. A study by Ecici and Aksoy showed further differences in the heat gain and loss through windows according to their orientation. This information should have been included in order to understand the differences in the environments. Some other differences should also have been related closely to the responses of occupants, including the glazing types, the number, placement, size, relative spatial percentages and proximity of windows to the respondents. If I sit 20 feet from the windows facing left or right, or with my back to the windows I will feel very differently than if I face them. All the other factors mentioned in the previous sentence would, necessarily, affect the respondents. I believe that this is also important in order to understand the data.

In addition to not relating what I consider to be important data to the data presented, the method of presentation was lazy, at best. The charts presented used four colors to separate responses, with two of the colors being so close as to confuse. It was certainly not a well considered move, since the paper style has no color scheme to match. In addition, the design of the charts made them less than instantly communicative of the results, since no percentages were places on the segments of different responses. Instead, a simple percentage line was used which gives the mistaken impression that there is meaning in the placement of the responses within that 100% line. (It has no meaning.) Finally, the data which I think should be there, of course, is not. In fact, the simple charts preclude the display of additional data. The sources and collection types are not readily identified by looking at these charts and even though the buildings were identified, we know relatively little about the differences among the buildings, except for some minimal information concerning the glazing.

A large study on the use of renewable resources and financing such construction highlights the problems in using the more expensive installations and materials in modern buildings, since windows are a huge part of the budgeted construction. In addition to this the framing materials and methods of installation are of prime importance in gain or loss of heating and cooling, as shown in Conberes article.

Laminated safety glass adds about 50 percent to the cost of a typical 30-inch by 50-inch window. But they go up faster and easier because fewer pieces are assembled on site. Because the wall sections are sturdier, they also require less bracing. Like their conventional counterparts, vertical ICFs provide outstanding disaster and sound resistance. There are also significant labor savings.

I note the mention of sound resistance in this article, a factor which was considered, though perhaps not elaborated upon enough, in this study.

More useful solutions may cost more now, but this is changing, according to Reed Business Information. This article shows how the cost is changing as popularity and understanding of the usefulness and cost effectiveness is becoming better understood. As windows become more and more advanced and the needs for carbon awareness become more and more internalized by people in business, the popularity of sustainable materials with low, zero or negative carbon footprints rises and costs go down.

My final criticism of the results and the reporting of same is the tables used to display responses in context with the various buildings. While some information was displayed concerning the buildings and the relationship of the respondents, presumably part of the focus groups, not enough information is displayed. I would like to see full page diagrams with labeled results, perhaps using SmartDraw or Visio or even Autocad. I realize that this report is aimed at an audience of educated specialists, since considerable undefined industry jargon is used and a considerable amount of prior knowledge on the part of the reader is assumed, but I believe it should be just a little more accessible to the other readers, such as finance and project planners, who would, presumably, find these results interesting, were they more completely reported.

I believe that this study is a good addition to the body of information in the field. It would be more valuable if more care were taken in the reportage and display of results. More study is certainly needed in this field. However, I would expand the possibilities for the difference in choices of materials, and would probably included questions about why such choices were made in the primary research with architects and designers. More research should be done concerning materials used in framing, since it has been shown that these are as critical as the glazing choices made.


G.F. Menzies, J.R. Wherrett / Energy and Buildings 37 (2005) 623–630

Conbere, Susan 2007. 2007 Reed Business Information, Inc. (US). PATH Partners. Smarter Products, Easier Building, Greener Living

Mattingly, Cheryl, and Mary Lawlor. “Learning from Stories: Narrative Interviewing in Cross-cultural Research.” Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy 7, no. 1 (2000): 4-14.

Climo, Dael. See-through tops. (glass roofs). 2005 Reed Business Information Ltd. Article A137781831 Appliance Design, Sept 2005 v53 i9 p44(6)

Ekıcı, Betül Bektaş, and Teoman Aksoy. “Investigation of the Effects of Orientation and Window Usage on External Walls in Terms of Heating and Cooling Energy.” Turkish Journal of Engineering & Environmental Sciences 32, no. 1 (2008): 23-33

Akira Ogiharaa, M. Kamal Gueyeb, Peter N. Kingc, and Hideyuki Morid. 2007. Policies to Ease the Transition to a Post-Fossil Fuel Era. International Review for Environmental Strategies. Best Practice on Environmental Policy in Asia and the Pacific: Chapter 4.Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 63 – 80, 2007

Glass Age. 2005. GGF licensed for TrustMark. The Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF). Article A138557007.

Easier Building, Greener Living

Reed Business Information Ltd.. 2006. A clear winner.(architectural design and energy efficiency). The pressures of climate change and energy legislation are driving innovation in the glazed cladding market

WIRELESS NEWS-(C)1999-2007. Research and Markets Offers Frost & Sullivan Report That Finds Technological Advancements Are Expected to Have an Impact on the Development of Novel Applications for Glass. Wireless News.

Sources Not specifically Cited, but provided understanding of the issues Advanced Buildings. 2010.

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