Building Technology
Can we do without windows?
From my little knowledge of building systems, the way buildings function, it is clear mostly in the tropics that windows form an essential part of the building. Most services engineers argue and I quite agree that whatever the window produces they can to. (ventilation, lighting and list goes on). They argue that we(architects) cannot do without windows and I think they are winning. So I roll the dice do we really need these openings called windows apart from ventilation, lighting and of course the more obvious reason -- aesthetics? I am waiting for your response. Have a nice day.
Nicholas Musa
Can we do without windows?
What's this thing about winning!!! It seems quite illogical to me...

Yes, windows are needed for ventilation, lighting, aesthetics, etc., as you pointed out. But, comparing it with the services your engineer friends shall provide us with ARTIFICIALLY, windows do it naturally without putting undue pressure on our already dwindling resources. And, really, there is no comparison between the quality of natural light or air with their artificial counterparts. As an architect, I think it would be really illogical to design a building such that first I block light and ventilation to the insides (with no openings) and then make extra provisions to supply the same to its users, at an extra cost!!!
Shubhru Gupta
Can we do without windows?
Hello Mr. Nicholas,

Well, what I would like to contribute is that windows are one of the most essential elements in the structure.

The engineers can device many new things which can work as the windows and other openings can but they can't be as windows. Well, in our college, Rizvi College of Architecture, we in second year have an exercise of studying natural light through openings & have realised that windows or the screens are really important elements in the building. They can be built easily and use natural sources for lighting or as far as ventilition is concerned. So, we really don't need those artificial elements when nature can help us.
Himanshu Choudhary
Can we do without windows?
It is extremely vital to understand that openings: the 'windows' serve as elements of visual transition besides the otherwise 'functions' listed by the others.

In so doing they serve to connect the space enclosed with the greater realm enclosing, and that too through different modes, at different times of the day, with change in seasons, and a change in their basic 'type'.

They thus assume the designation of a typology that establishes relations and strengthens the same. The 'context' decides its type as much as the inherent nature of space and its use, for which the same is being designed. it is high time the engineers made a more profound argument.
Kush Patel
Can we do without windows?
If any animal can do without eyes, buildings can do without windows. Well, logic and absurdity can go any length to assume and argue, but some basic are basics. Windows are very very assential like eyes to human beings... I quit to argue.
Dushyant Nathwani
Can we do without windows?
Hello friends,

Yes, the answer to this topic is but a natural "yes, they are essential and integral parts of buildings, as they cater to the basic requirements of life and health."

But friends, have we ever observed that the current trends of commercial and office buildings have all curtain glazing, not designed to intake natural ventilation... And most of them are tinted to reduce glare and AC loads.

Well, I'm not making any statement but thn this might become a sign of the coming future, where idealism is won over by like for aesthetics and experimentism... By dissolving the "windows" from buildings, then we may have integrated the artificial world too much into our lives.

I can't predict that when or whether it will happen. But this possibility cannot be denied all together...

The CAVE technology, applied with other technological advancement in virtual reality, through which humans altogether create a virtual world... which will take care of every sense of ours, and the experiments are already going on. This is not mere a theory.

Any comments?
Vidhu Saxena
Can we do without windows?
The window is another shape of door. A space without door to reach it! it is what? It is sure that there are spaces thus. It is necessary that their doors are discovered to them. And it is that to make architecture. Thus, it is the door which creates space. It is the window which creates, with another things, space. Then, it should not be forgotten that in a space one is directed by his openings. The window is thus, the orientation of space. The man cannot live without orientation. A space without window, so that it is directed, it is necessary for another thing to him that the illumination. Television and Internet could help. Spirituality too. The prayer of Islam with its orientation gives to space a true orientation even if it is with window. Salam
Jalel Almawla
Can we do without windows?
With due respect to all the views, I beg to differ that why even as a wilder for of imagination we give a thought to a new "virtual" world... where due to problems related to the availability of space, we are forced to make rooms with minimum or even no fenestration. (And, hey, that's already a reality in any megapolis of the world). So, out of these limitations, windows die out, but not their functions...

Let's talk about them one by one:

1. Light... Well, we have ample examples how even the natural light is imaginatively brought indoors thru AI controlled sunscoops etc..

2. Ventilation... Well, it's a bitter reality that with empowering economies, forced artificial ventilation with ACs etc. is takin over the natural ones.

3. Orientation... Now, for that the virtual simulation systems are the key. They have moved a long way from just being a helping hand for training purposes to their implementation in day-to-day architecture with technologies like CAVE, etc.

So, I believe that the coming future might pose this question, not out of wild imagination, but as a hard reality. So, we must gear up for this.
Vidhu Saxena
Can we do without windows?
No we cannot do without MANUALLY OPENNABLE windows. There are various issues here:-

Already being discussed by various forum members:-
1. NATURAL lighting & ventillation.

Additional but very important point:-
2. ESCAPE route in case of fire or any other hazards (Firemen normally get-in & get-out through windows)

which is why even in 1st Basement of a building skylight for natural lighting, ventillation & also `escape' routes are necesary.

It is in extreme climates where temparatures run over 50degC Hot deserts) or below 0degC (cold deserts) that Windows remain closed perpetually. So what do you do? You think about a crisis situation & then design. A/c is not yet 100% healthy.

For labs you still need windows which can be manually opennable (what if A/c & backup fails?)

One needs to understand that we design for crisis situations & not for normal situations. Aesthetics can be designed alongwith or at a later date.
Chitradeep Sengupta
Can we do without windows?
Me, as a human being, can't live without a window!
Architecture talks with nature: wind, light, darkness, sight, water...
Alia Himmat
Can we do without windows?
Hi all,

Vidhu has touched upon a very futuristic issue, which we do need to explore. None of us can deny the utility and context of windos in architecture for the present socio-techno-cultural scenario.

Windows have become a part of our perception about a built habitable space. They are functional, aesthetic, cost-effective and have emotional connotations... perfectly true.

As this debate is perfectly about opinions and really holds no practical purpose for the prevalent design practices, we should welcome all kinds of opinions including futuristic ones.

In VR environments, can we do without 'hard (/real)'windows? Yes we can! But a human nature will probably tend to create a virtual window there that provides with light, ventilation,view etc.

Imagine a house on the moon, say, some 200 years down the line. We might have to simulate a perfectly controlled, simulated environment which might not have windows. Probably VR systems can help men feel at home with virtual windows which may be able to fulfill many more functions than real windows are doing today.

P Das
Can we do without windows?
Hello Prashant,

Housing in Moon or hostile environment is a totally different topic.

I am however sure, that in future, if such housing is to come, it will:-

1. Either come with natural windows INSIDE a controlled environment, or,

2. It will come with artificially controlled lighting & ventillation (depending upon the day-cycle of the planet/satellite) to conserve the rare atmosphere & environment so created.

I think we are discussing planet Earth right now.
Chitradeep Sengupta
Can we do without windows?
Hi there,

Sengupta, your arguement about discussion of planet earth was reasonable enough, except for the fact that, you seemed more bent towards criticism than comprehending the issue holistically.

I am sure that being in India, you can convince yourself on the fact that many dwelling units available in densely populated settlements of the country lack or struggle to sustain the presence of basic needs of a complete built environment which include ventilation, light penetration, resonalble roof height, privacy etc.

The shrinking plots, row housing concept, encroachment, the lal doras(the settlements immune of any planning regulations) aggravate the situation. And within no time an Architect has to begin coming up with variants of a window in a house ( at least partially, if not wholly). Already while designing a middle class unit one often comes up with inhabitable spaces having no window outlets except for a lone split unit hanging on top. Its a big task to enliven such spaces.

Hope such issues are addressed as well, because like it or not, they are the hard truths of modern urban architecture.

Abhay R. Ambati
Can we do without windows?
Hello Abhay & Prashant,

I think one needs to define the environment first (as Abhay you did in your post about row houses in Urban India).

I was reacting to Prashant's post of housing in Moon.

I still feel (not being aggressive please.) that these are two totally different issues.
1. What climatic or geological zone are we talking about -Sahara desert like or Antarctica like.
2. What kind of habitation (as Abhay you pointed out) - Urban-dense (eg row housing, lets take EWS housing) or rural-...natural-open-habitat.

The original post just questions the service engineers' logic.
That they can design such a building is very good for us. But where do we ned them? Under what conditions.... And well in India like any 3rd World country .. what is the cost to the end user? What artificial energy will it take up.. or not? Can we afford that?

Please correct me if I am on the wrong track.

Chitradeep Sengupta
Can we do without windows?
Hi all,

I'm glad that the discussion is becoming more pragmatic.

As Chitradeep has rightly pointed out that the original intention of the originator revolved around the tropics and services. However, I would like to state the conditions mentioned by Prashant sir, and Abhay sir, are but going to be normal in our very own country in the coming times. For who would have thought few years back that use of AC's and curtain walls will become so common in our country, not even multinational corporations but every nook and corner will fashion such flashy styles...

I think we must wake up to the reality of global equality. The style, the tastes and the problems all are becomin similar. And whether we like it or not, so are becoming the solutions.

With the fact that India is becoming a spearheading power in technologies, becoming a germinating ground for new innovations everyday, no doubt they will reflect in architecture, too. And maybe the solutions to the global problems of housing as stated by Abhay sir may be first found out in our very country, so why run away from this reality?

And, yes. what we talk about are the present days' specialized conditions. But they may not remain special in the coming times. The population burst and the increasingly shrinking land may really cause this much much more earlier than what we actually presume.
Vidhu Saxena
Can we do without windows?
Hulo to all,

ChitraDeep, we seem to be heading towards some consensus now (Nicholas has disappeared from the scene though!)

To sum up the panelists' opinions so far:

1. Some service engineers feel that windows are architects' weak point. Their services can remove the very concept of windows from buildings.

2. The utility and context of windows cannot at all be questioned for normal, most prevalent conditions

3. Apart from functionality, windows serve several other purposes.

4. Why at all should we (or can we)
conceive an architecture without windows? Can we explore / visualise situations where windows can be substituted by something else?

[... Now the discussion drifts towards exploring the situations and solutions to the conditions where we have to do/can do without windows]

5. Virtual Reality can help us have spaces without windows for very odd extreme conditions. Say, when we build housing on moon [are we discussing something similar to "Total Recall" thing?]

6. Another possibility: In urban situations with very tightly packed row houses, an architect has got to conceive buildings without the formal windows.

Please append if something important is left out.

P Das
Can we do without windows?
Hi Vidhu & Prashant,

Thanks for the posts.

I wanted to add a very common situation to Prashant's last post. This occurs in almost every place.

1. Basements of offices & commercial complexes which are much below ground level (not the UG or semi-basement or the first basement level which is 2-6' above ground). A lot of services areas are placed in it. Plus provision of underground parking also is there. Unless it has a courtyard/atrium(open) kind of a situation, it cannot have natural ventillation/lighting.

2. Standard Consultancy or Service provider office running with a maze of computers or high-tech research labs of physics/chemistry.biology/medical/... etc., where strictly controlled conditions are required. Here, however we still require operable windows for emergency.

Chitradeep Sengupta
Can we do without windows?
I think that windows are so important in that case though the work should be done by a group. Thanks,
Magyda Cherradi
Can we do without windows?
Hey, can we have openings fashioned like periscopes in submarines... like this one? Just like a middle path?

Imagine the skyline with a harmonious compositions of such colourful elements!
Vidhu Saxena
Can we do without windows?
Vidhu that was a very good suggestion. This way we can have either light & scenery from outside! or air in a natural way.
Chitradeep Sengupta
Can we do without windows?
Thanks Chitradeep, and apart from catering to our basic needs, as you have mentioned, it will also be an aesthetic novelty...
Vidhu Saxena
Can we do without windows?
Hi Vidhu,

In case you are a student, then this could be a very nice topic to research on. Aesthetics can be worked out no doubt. (Form follows function).
Chitradeep Sengupta
Can we do without windows?
Definitely, we can do without windows.

Have you seen laurie baker's works? In a house at Kouchullor, Trivandrum, he has placed a toilet in the middle of dining, kitchen, bed and living!!! How could one provide ventilation? He has achieved it by using gable and level difference. It is possible...
Hari Sudhan
Can we do without windows?
Hello Hari,

Any sketches/ photos/ drawings that you could upload for us to see.

That is interesting. Has it been done naturally?
Chitradeep Sengupta
Can we do without windows?
We can definitely go for a building without windows. Also, the least number of punctures in the building makes the building more resistant to earthquakes, no doubt we can always go for lots of alternatives for light and ventilation and also create visual scenaries in a building without windows.
Manritpaul Singh Ubhi
Can we do without windows?
Thank you, Musa, for putting forward this subject. It is of extreme importance in design.

It is interesting to see how each member has reponded to the subject. Windows bring light to buildings. This is their major task. Without light buildings would be graves. But windows spoil the facades of buildings. If we can light buildings in some other ways that will be more meaningful.

Windows violate the purity of the forms. They attract attention to themselves. The works of Louis Khan in the Indian Subcontinent are remarkable achivements of bringing light inside without windows. In Islamic and Mughal architecture there are no windows, but there are numerous means of lighting and ventilating buildings. It might be hard to convince the public by this fact as a result of the commercialism of present building practices. Therefore windows will remain always present in today's visually unpleasent built environment.

It is my deep convection that windows are signs of weakness in design.
Hani Alqahtani
Can we do without windows?
it is not the sign of any weakness,as it connects live in we need void not solid.the void needs to be connected to out side to complit the whole.buldings has polarities like inside-outside and windows do balance that.why do we have windows in plane/submarine/car/space shuttle/space station? to connect inside-out,to balance inside-out,to be half buldings may not have windows.
Dushyant Nathwani
Can we do without windows?
For landscape architects, a building without windows is a box sealed from life.

I guess we all need to go to Firefly, Jamaica, to the summer residence of Noel Coward, where he wrote A Room With A View, and you will see his point.

I been there,and I will forever need windows in my life.
Maria Ayub
Can we do without windows?
It is important to understand that sometimes we compromise on design and space to just give window, this is true especially for small houses where many small houses are joined together to form a row of houses, especially in the subcontinent. In this case people sometimes have to provide a central courtyard or a backyard for light and ventilation.

But I think that it would be better if we go for other options in these situations, such as sun pipes or wind catchers. Ventilation provided by these methods is enough for bathrooms, and light provided by these methods can light up more than 230 sq ft. It can also be used in prisons.

It is being used in many buildings in the West.
Munaza Mubashir


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