In praise of tall windows
Windows should be designed to provide more light, but less of tropical heat
Between a wall and a window, which one claims greater importance in a green building? The answer would depend on the person questioned, but for us as eco-friendly designers, while the wall becomes a concern for its materiality, window matters for its design. Multiple factors like air, view, privacy, light, scale and composition are factored by the window, hence play a pivotal role. Incidentally, these factors are often contradictory.
Windows should be designed to provide more light, but less of tropical heat. Even the light should be just right without glare. They need to bring in air, simultaneously taking it out as well. Of course they are three times costlier than wall, hence should not be overdone. Whatever we may do for eco benefit, should not trouble the furniture placements. Oh yes, the outside elevation as an attraction cannot be compromised with for being green!
In essence, providing for one need should not create one problem. So, what should we do? In such confusion, just repeating the standard window pattern is the safest, simply because no one would question us! However, seeking the alternative, over the years, we have found a simple solution, applicable in most cases.
Corner tall windows
Windows are designed tall to touch the slab or beam bottom. There is no RCC lintel beam at 7 feet level, instead the roof beam or simply supported slab takes care of structural issues. As such, both cost and time due to lintels are reduced. Bigger the window, the better wood we need to ensure they do not warp. With preferably 3′ wide windows which demand short length sections, mid-cost range options like saal, matthi, honne, nandi, jack, padouk or such others as locally available can be used. With a few tall features, we tend to perceive the room also as tall, just like someone wearing a dress with vertical stripes appears taller.
Locate them in the corners, so more wall area is available for wall hangings or floor furniture. Light and air fall upon the corner wall and roof, bouncing them for greater interior effects.
From outside, two narrow and tall windows at two ends mostly provide good proportion for an attractive elevation. The opening being at the edge of the room, the glare factor reduces considerably, since mostly we are not sitting in front of the opening.
These windows have three separate parts: lower shutter that can be opened for view and body level air, the upper fixed glass for un-curtained light, and the top foul air vent slit with mosquito mesh. Light, view, air and vent — the four essential roles of openings — are simply ensured. For privacy, provide translucent glass in toilets and upper parts of bedroom windows.
Place the window frame level with inside wall, with beading or plaster groove, such that the frame gets better protection from rain and sun.
A window is a practical challenge of design, though for philosophers, it is a metaphor. However, if we want to become philosophers, try placing a tall window starting at floor and ending at roof. We get to see both the earth and the sky, to start contemplating.