A Portal to the Outdoors, Productivity and Overall HealthOctober 14th, 2022 by Travis Rains
The Façade Tectonics Institute 2022 World Congress continued Thursday, Oct. 13 in Los Angeles with keynote speaker Lisa Heschong, author of “Visual Delight in Architecture: Daylight, Vision and View.” She addressed the many benefits of providing structure occupants with window views. At a time when more and more people are working from home, the benefits of window views extend to the residential door and window industry.
In the mid-1990s, Heschong studied human reactions as well as energy savings for structures in Los Angeles that had received incentives to improve daylighting. In doing so, she found that the workers in a particular factory were less concerned about the additions of skylights but thrilled with the facility’s new 15-foot-by-15-foot windows.
“I went to go interview the workers and tried to get them to talk about the light quality,” Heschong says. “But all they wanted to do was talk about the windows and the view, and how important windows and views are. I just couldn’t get them off the topic.”
And for good reason. She cited a 2019 study by Won He Ko at UC Berkeley in which 86 individuals worked for one hour without access to window views and then one hour with access to window views. The study found a 6% increase in working memory and a 5% increase in concentration for the period incorporating window views.
“When people were working next to a window with a view off to the side, they had better working memory, they had better concentration, and interestingly, they reported they were cooler,” Heschong says. “So there was an interaction between comfort and having a view. People were feeling happier and more motivated for just one hour of working next to a window versus being in the same room without a window.”
After explaining the manner in which the eye responds to light and dark conditions over the course of a 24-hour cycle, she noted that nothing beats a walk outdoors when it comes to positive stimulation. However, having a view out of a clear window is the next best thing. Window views equate to being a magnitude greater with respect to stimulus than having interior daylight illumination, and two orders of magnitude greater than a structure with only electric lighting.
Furthermore, the Neuropsin photoreceptor protein is “severely understimulated” when exposed only to artificial light, as the latter produces almost no violet light.
“In the case of one human disease, myopia, it is now clear that the absence of violet light inside of buildings is part of disease causation,” she continues, noting that the percentage of myopic individuals has risen drastically when compared to 100 years ago, and could continue to rise.
Continuing on the theme of biology, Heschong says structures themselves have micro-biomes similar to the body with its bacteria, fungi, viruses and more. The more humans in that building, the more the structure’s micro-biome resembles that of a human. However, natural ventilation through an open window sees the structure’s micro-biome begin to resemble an outdoors micro-biome. That, too, results in health benefits as Heschong says the good “bugs,” those that benefit humans, prefer to be in the daylight.
So what makes a “good view” through a window? Heschong says a good window view encompasses three factors. Those include having views of the sky, horizon and ground plane.
“If you can see the sky, you are getting those wavelengths,” she says, noting that applying simple logic can result in workable solutions.