Windows and doors

Posted on: 9th March, 2018

Category: Architecture 101

Contributor: Gareth Ryan

Gareth Ryan (MCIAT) is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists. Contact him at 023 8821807 or 087 7444568.

The architectural principle outlined in this month’s column involves the use of windows and doors on a building. If you have read the previous articles in this series, then this month’s advice should seem natural and apparent, relatively quickly. A lot of my design advise so far has been based around achieving natural light in a building, with the benefits of this having been mentioned. The primary access for this natural light into a building is through glass windows and doors.

In the first and second columns of this series the benefits of getting natural light into a house were indicated with a window giving you light in the morning and the orientation of the house and rooms within the house achieving 30 per cent energy saving if facing in the right direction. If you are designing a new or renovating an existing house inline with what I have written, then you might deduce that what I am suggesting is that the main living spaces of kitchen and living room on the southern side of the building have big windows with the secondary rooms of bedrooms and bathrooms to the north having smaller windows. This is a natural alignment of use of spaces and size of windows, as people spend more time in the kitchen or living room than they do in the bedrooms or bathroom; so having bigger windows to the south making the rooms benefit more from solar gain is important to a well-designed house, which is enjoyable to live in.  The reverse happens in the rooms to the north of the house, as these rooms have less heat loss on the colder side of the building through smaller windows. This principle can be taken even further if one considers full height doors or windows, as with their lower height, the rooms can benefit more from the lower angle of the sun in the winter, as more light gets into the room; this is when solar gain can be of best value to a house. The slight negative characteristic of solar gain can be that a house can get excessive sunlight into it during the summer months, but to counteract this, shading techniques can be used on a building. The latter is not a crucial characteristic in Ireland and is the realm of trying to achieve a certified Passive House, which is not necessarily everyone’s desire, given the stringent nature of the building process to achieve this. The view out from a window is also a characteristic of using them in the right location. I suggest that capturing a view through a window of a significant feature like a spire of a church or the sea or a favourite tree can be much nicer if used once in a building, as the purpose for the window to magnify the sense of enjoyment of looking at the feature; this can often be achieved through a smaller window in the right location rather than a larger one. The use of windows for view purposes should never surpass the reasoning for use of windows for solar gain purposes and the proper orientation and location of them on a house.

The overall objective of what I write about here is to achieve better energy saving in a house, through understanding the benefits, which can be gained by the natural phenomena of sun light. The use of larger windows might seem at odds for some people concerned about energy loss but today’s standards in window glazing and frame construction negate this effect. When one is deciding on the type of windows for a house, I recommend to go for the best energy rate you can afford, with triple glazed passive house certified windows being the best. The proper fitting of these windows during construction is of paramount importance though, so that none of the value that is trying to be achieved and finances spent using them is being lost. In the context of doing renovation work on a house, I have recently heard of the availability of double glazed windows with the same energy rating as triple glazed, which can be retrofitted into existing windows, so there are many options available when considering the purchase of windows and doors or glazing for a house.

The energy saving achieved by the right orientation and selection of windows and doors correlates with the energy rating, which your walls need to achieved through the use of insulation. In next month’s column I will review the use of insulation in a house, as there are several different options available with some determined by the method of wall construction which you choose such as standard block walls or timber frame or steel frames construction with variations thereof also. In a few months time, I will also review the palate of material, which can be used to achieve a modern look for a building, which will refer back to windows and doors, again with advice on the materials they are made from and colour choices available.

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