Fenestration design is an extremely important element of architecture
Meena Murthy Kakkar, Design Head and Partner, Envisage speaks on the placement, material choices and other elements of door and window design.
When constructing or designing a home, what are some of the points to be noted as far as the placement of doors and windows is concerned?
Fenestration design has evolved as an extremely important element of architecture in recent times. They act as a thermostat, a light fixture and as a means to extend your indoor space visually. The location, size and design of doors and windows play a great role in the sustainability and livability quotient of a space.
Location direction: The position of doors and windows is usually dependent on the geographical location of the site. But in general, it’s preferable to have windows facing the east. This allows the morning sun in for a good start to the day. If the views permit, then windows in the north direction allow for bigger openings as there is only indirect light coming in from that direction. For those who prefer a sunny home, south/south-east windows work the best, but with good shading devices such as louvers, sun-shades or an awning. West openings are the least preferred as the evening sun comes in at a low angle straight into the homes, and at a time when the earth is emitting its day heat as well. This combination tends to increase indoor temperatures. However, if the house has no or few options, then plants/greenery outside the window can help combat this issue to a certain extent.
Skylights are also a wonderful option for letting the light in into central spaces. But, the similar principle of the direction of the window needs to be adhered to when constructing shades for the skylight; so as to create a pleasing ambience inside the connected area.
Position: Where to place the windows? In a kitchen, it is better to have a window near the sink rather than the hob. Most windows in India have a bug mesh, which makes the greasy fumes clog the screen. The sink, on the other hand, needs to be kept dry and thus makes sense to locate it near a window near.
In the bathrooms, it’s advisable to keep the height of the window over the WC. This ensures a well-ventilated and an odour-free washroom. For doors, it’s usually the flow of the layout that decides the perfect location. Contemporary hardware and material allow us to opt for bigger sizes now than before. An increased width demands more clear swing space inside, thus the preference is now for taller doors rather than wider ones.
Material, Size and Design: Initially, wood was the preferred material for doors and windows. Alternatives like ivory coast, champ, steem beach, oak etc come into play here. The choice of wood and the cost play a big role while deciding the size of the window and the details. The windows were primarily a 4’X4’ or a 4’X5’ size. Contemporary materials such as UPVC and aluminum allowed for bigger sections without compromising on the strength of the section. Thus, it is plausible to have huge picture windows framing the best of views and also letting in more natural light.
These extruded sections also give us the option of having double glazed windows, which reduce the heat build-up inside and cut down on the outside noise levels to a great extent. They also have an added advantage of being maintenance free in terms of painting and polishing. The new-age materials are extremely weather resistant as well and sustainable.
Bug Mesh: In a country like India, most homes still prefer natural ventilation to air conditioning – most of the year. Thus, comes the need to keep our windows open for cross ventilation. To avoid insects from flying in, it’s imperative that we use a bug mesh. Traditional wooden windows have always had a twin shutter design, one with a glass panel and one with a bug mesh.
UPVC comes with a wider channel to accommodate a bug mesh profile. For aluminium sections, products like McCoy fly screen are available that can be fitted seamlessly onto the sections from inside.
In heritage structures and spaces designed for royalty the doors and windows evoke a charm of their own, what do you feel? Can you cite an example?
Climate responsive design was imperative in traditional architecture buildings. Today, additional artificial heating and cooling methodologies have made us move away from that sensitivity which was an innate part of our building systems.
These windows and doors were turned into a symbol of pride and the level of detailing and intricacies on them represented the affluence of the owner. A prime example would be the Chettinadu homes in Tamil Nadu. The mansions, comprising of 60-70 rooms belong to the Chettiar business community of Tamil Nadu. These are primarily courtyard homes, which demanded a careful planning of the huge network of doors and windows. Since there are a number of these doors, they form an integral part of the façade and each is crafted as a masterpiece.
The doors and windows from some of the derelict ones get auctioned and adorn the houses of the rich and famous now. A visit to the town of Karaikudi will allow one to witness this beautiful world of intricately detailed homes. Some of them have been converted into hotels and homestays as well for people to understand and bond with the culture and architecture on a deeper level.
In the contemporary mode where minimalism has set it, what choices do we have, how can door and windows add to the aesthetics of the overall design scheme?
At homes, people would like to minimize the dependency on artificial lighting and HVAC systems for creating a comfortable environment. Thus, the importance of the right size and placement of doors and windows comes into play. Bigger windows placed intelligently with the right shading devices can help minimse the requirement of artificial systems. The right location and size combination can help capture and define the views of our internal spaces.
Intricate windows have been replaced by simple profiles – since we now live in densely populated areas where sunlight and views both come at a premium.
When it comes to selecting doors and windows for residential vs commercial vs office spaces, how does it differ?
As opposed to homes, large offices and commercial spaces need to have a controlled environment for better productivity. Thus, artificial systems of heating cooling and lighting are necessary for the same. However, for the innate longing to be connected to the outside, windows are an important part of our offices. Commercial spaces are usually designed for entertainment and the time spent there is short and more leisurely. Hence, inward looking designs have been preferred till now. However, a change is in the offing and we can see shopping and entertainment zones opting for a mixed new age setting of semi-covered areas.
In the post-Covid situation, it’s been proven that natural ventilation is of utmost importance for the good health of a building and to keep it germ free. We, therefore, hope that we as a community take a conscious step forward in that direction and maybe a couple of steps back into our past to take notes on sustainable living.