It is commonly known that we spend 90% of our time indoors. But since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, many of us have spent even more time indoors and limited our social interactions as much as possible. Windows then remain our primary way to connect with the outside world, and this is even more relevant when stuck at home as during this crisis.
Interestingly, researchers at University of Nottingham (UK) published in January the results of a study comparing the perception of windows before and after the Covid-19 outbreak. The study was based on data collected from 44 countries through surveys deployed between October 2019 and January 2020, and in April 2020, when lockdown measures were in place in many regions.
Main Results of the Study
The study finds the following differences in people’s window appraisal after the lockdown period:
- Significantly higher satisfaction with, and appreciation of, the view out of the window
- Increased importance given to window features such as viewing out, allowing fresh air in the space, and allowing one to look away from a task
- Higher frequency and/or duration of blinds/curtains opening, mainly for providing a view out and looking away from a task
- Reduced negative perception of windows – negative thoughts being usually due to draughts, glare, overheating, noise from outside, etc.
- Higher frequency of looking out of the window
- Regular breaks from the task at hand by looking out of the window even if it required walking up to the window
- Increased awareness of the sounds outside the window
- Higher appreciation of having daylight through the window
Another interesting finding was the tendency during the lockdown period of many people to place their work desk closer to a window, mainly to get daylight, a view of the outdoors, fresh air and to connect with people outside.
Window Views as Social Connector
The study also mentions examples of creative ways initiated by some participants to engage socially with their external world through the mean of windows. One that struck my attention was the movement initiated by a photographer sharing daily photos of the views from her window, along with the story around it, and inviting others to do the same on social media. Barbara Duriau, creator of the 2.2 million member Facebook group View from my window, explains the motivation at the origin of this movement, “We are all going to be confined, at home, with only one and same view from our window, during many long weeks. Which is that view on the other side of the world? What if I suggested to internauts to take a picture of it and to share it with others that are as well confined throughout a Facebook group? This would enable to connect ourselves and to escape safely.”
Example of window views shared throughout the world as a way to connect and support mental well-being (Source: View from my window Facebook group)
This example, along with others cited in the study, is a perfect illustration of the social values of windows, and reveals the power of window views to support psychological well-being during the toughest times.
This study reveals that post-Covid, people have placed an increased importance on window views. Although the authors recognize the need for further investigation, the findings are well in line with past research on the benefits of window views to our visual and psychological well-being1. Whether at home or at work, we need window views to be able to look out, to relieve our eyes, to mentally escape, to help us to recharge our cognitive resources and recover from stress. And we need window views to keep connected with the outside world and “stay in touch with the dynamic, social life and the course of nature”2.
We need window views to feel we belong to this world and to feel alive, and even more at times when we are craving to be outdoors and with our loved ones and peers. As a consequence, as well stated in the conclusion of the study, “windows should not be designed only to admit daylight but also to enable a view out.”
You can read the full paper here.
Eloïse Sok is Concept Creator in the SageGlass Europe & Middle-East Team. She holds a Double-Degree in the Engineering field from Ecole Centrale (France) and Tsinghua University (China). Her main interests include sustainable architecture, daylighting and occupant’s comfort. Her motto: “Passion is our best strength!”.
- The psychological aspects of windows and window design, Heerwagen, 1990
- The significance of the window - a qualitative, anthropological study of what the window means to people, B. Hauge, 2013