August 23rd, 2022
Why Windows Matter – Windows, Mental Health, and the Fenestration Industry
Ironically, writing this blog post has been trickier than the others because it’s the topic with the most research behind it. It also makes the most sense since no one gets excited about the idea of sitting in a windowless room for any time –barring those requiring it, of course, like movie theaters.
But while we all understand the importance of windows on mental health, we can’t assume that the public recognizes how important access to daylight, views, and ventilation/fresh air are. A new mental health threat is also being researched – the anxiety generated by the growing threat of climate change and catastrophic events.
So many research studies have been conducted on the benefits of views, daylight, fresh air, etc. that they are summarized in numerous articles. The National Research Council of Canada published “The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Windows, Daylight, and View at Home: Review and Research Agenda,” which summarizes the research done in 2012 and points out areas for additional research.
This research is also referenced in other articles on the topic. I will list some of the more recent at the end.
It’s Getting Bigger
But here, I’m going to take a left turn. Rather than focus on how the industry can educate consumers for their benefit, I’d like to look at how the industry can address aspects of societal concerns.
Psychologists and psychiatrists are increasingly seeing patients with more generalized concerns – anxiety that comes with changes due to climate change. Possible names to describe this include climate anxiety, “solastalgia,” and eco-anger. Areas that are increasingly affected by events related to climate are, of course, the first to experience these mental health challenges. The Seattle area, for example, is seeing increases in climate anxiety due to wildfire smoke in summer, heatwaves for populations largely without air conditioning, and increases in flooding in winter.
“When we either experience a loss or project into the future a loss, in terms of our environment, in terms of our security, in terms of what options that we or family or human beings or other species are going to have in the future, we feel sad about that, because it’s something we care about being taken away,” said Andrew Bryant, a Seattle-based therapist.
And the problem is only going to grow as catastrophic events occur in more places and affect more people. According to Floodlist.com, at least 14 states have had flooding since January 2022. Meanwhile, the National Interagency Fire Center notes that 5,897,114 acres have burned so far this year. Seventeen states are currently battling fires. (These numbers were captured on August 12, 2022.)
The anxiety isn’t always based on global disasters either. Fears about needing to relocate, isolation, food shortages, and changes to finances can all be attributed to fears about climate change.
And That Affects This Industry? How?
There are ways to address both the micro concerns (“I want my home to be more efficient”) and the macro concerns (“We all need to work together to fight climate change and address catastrophic weather events”). Everything discussed this year with the #WhyWindowsMatter campaign, and the benefits of efficient windows provide support for the former concern. Industry efforts to develop more sustainable manufacturing practices – and bragging about those efforts – can help to address the latter.
Being a louder voice in the building industry and pushing for more efficient buildings will ultimately benefit all. As more focus is placed on how efficient windows and newer window technologies improve whole building performance, greater opportunities for funding on product development, manufacturing conversion to greener practices, and public opinion may grow.
It’s time for windows to be seen, not just seen through.
Articles of Interest: