November 8, 2010 | bfeldman | Projects, Sustainability

Importance of Daylight, Views

Architects love windows.  There’s no harder thing that to have to compose an elevation for a building that has no windows.  We get somewhat lost in these situations.  There’s a good reason architects love windows, and it’s the same reason why people love windows – daylight and views to the outdoors are a powerful draw.  While most people spend the majority of their life indoors, we crave that connection to the natural world that sunlight brings.  It’s more than just vitamin D – the pull of a view outside and access to daylight is built into our psyche.

I recently had the pleasure of attending Stinson Morrison Hecker’s open house for their new St. Louis offices.   During the design process for this project Fox was focused on access to daylight and views for office staff.  This can be challenging for an attorney’s office – mostly because the glass area around the perimeter equates to total number of attorneys.  Many attorney offices ring the perimeter with offices and have a large interior, windowless zone for the support staff.  Stinson’s first design objective was to open the space with views for everyone.  Fox used a system of keeping key axis open along the floorplate, so from almost any point you can see out, as the diagram below indicates:

floorplan diagram showing daylight/views strategy
floorplan diagram showing daylight/views strategy

Each attorney office includes a 3′ wide sidelight that brings in daylight.  Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the space is the large amount of window area given over to the cafe/lounge area.  This room faces north, and has great, indirect light.  This space connects to their multi-purpose conference room.  A folding wall opens the space into one very large room.

The conference rooms and waiting area face east, with a spetacular view across Forest Park to downtown St. Louis.  The conference room walls are floor to ceiling glass to maximize this view.

Conference Room Corridor
Conference Room Corridor

The most frequent comment I received from people at Stinson’s open house was how great the views were, and how “open” the space felt.

There is some research to back up the importance of daylight and views.  Lisa Heschong, writing in the ASHRAE Journal, June 2002 notes a study conducted on 3 public school districts in California, Washington State and Colorado.  From the study:

Students in classrooms with the most window area or daylighting were found to have 7% to 18% higher scores on the standardized tests than those with the least window area or daylighting.

Our experience with our own clients leads us to the same conclusion – people are more productive and happier in buildings with daylight and views.  We moved Monsanto‘s data center from a windowless bunker to a light-filled space in 2007.  Monsanto’s experience correlates to the school district’s

“In the first nine months of occupancy we have seen what I equate to a 33% increase in production with zero churn and no near misses, the same people are working longer, more efficiently and want to be there”.

Mr. Robert L. Koogler

Vice President, Enterprise IT Infrastructure, Monsanto

A photo from the inside shows the results of our emphasis on daylight and views.

View from Data Center floor towards outside
View from Data Center floor towards outside

Perhaps our best example of the power of daylight is our own offices.  As I write this, I’m sitting next to a 20′ tall window facing south with a view of downtown St. Louis.  I think these windows are one of the most powerful draws for new hires to Fox.  I couldn’t see the office moving anywhere with a view as unique as the one we have.

Daylight and views to the outdoors – powerful tools for an architect.  Of all the things you can incorporate into a project to improve sustainability, perhaps access to daylight is the most important.

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