Tracey Jackson, business development manager for Howells Patent Glazing urges installers to prepare for the ‘new normal’ as homeowners re-evaluate their lives and wellbeing needs during coronavirus lockdown
01:00 on Sunday, March 29 marked the start of British Summer Time, with the clocks going forward an hour. Ordinarily, this leads to frustrations with clock-changing, tantrums at bedtime (it’s too early / light!) and a joyous feeling, knowing we will now see something of the daylight hours, outside of work. Yet, this is no ordinary year.
The clocks jumped forward but who cared, or indeed, noticed? In the grip of coronavirus lockdown, time has started to lose meaning. Those extra hours of daylight just go towards the added tedium of another day; one much the same as the day before.
Yet, while the extra time may go unappreciated, the additional hour of natural light couldn’t have come at a better time.
Importance of natural light
Speaking to family, friends and colleagues, many have commented on the good weather and what a difference it has made to their mental and physical wellbeing during lockdown. But it’s not just about temperature; it’s the amount of light these blue skies have afforded us.
At a time when our movements are restricted, access to the outdoors is limited and routines have been obliterated, natural light is playing an even greater role in maintaining our equilibrium. It is important for our immune systems; it boosts our Vitamin D levels and maintains the daily cycle of activity and sleep – our circadian rhythm. It is hugely beneficial for our physical and psychological well-being, and it helps us to focus and generally lead a happier and healthier life.
With so many of us stuck indoors, it’s no surprise that concerns have been raised over the nation’s mental health. We have never before encountered such intimacy with our homes, and many are left wanting. Design flaws are abundant. In our haste to build more houses, often rooms sizes have decreased, and daylight, ventilation and air quality are frequently compromised, while open plan living/dining spaces are testing the patience of many home-workers and their families.
In her housing column for Building Design, head of housing research at Levitt Bernstein, Julia Park ‘…considered what architects and policymakers should learn from the coronavirus crisis about housing design’. “Many of my colleagues mentioned windows – not just for the obvious benefits of daylight and sunlight but also their ability to connect us to the wider world and remind us we’re not alone. In fact, windows seem to be second only to outdoor space in the what-really-matters-list. This is further evidence that our wellbeing, and mental health in particular, needs to be taken more seriously, and that mostly it doesn’t require anything new or complicated; it simply means doing things better.”
Park talks in relation to home-working and how, once the crisis abates, many people will struggle to return to 40+ office-based hours, daily commutes and reduced family time. Instead, we will look to strike a better work/life balance. This ultimately will impact our design choices and housing requirements. While we may want everything to return to normal, when it comes to housing design, normal will no longer be good enough.
Windows, and more generally, glazed products will play a critical role in meeting this demand for better quality homes. With this in mind, it would be reasonable to assume that an increase in glazing would be an easy way to boost occupant wellbeing. However, installation companies must be mindful of some common misconceptions – just because a room has a window, it doesn’t mean it is the best solution for the space.
Letting in around twice as much light than vertical glazing, and up to three times as much as dormer windows, rooflights are a popular alternative, offering flexibility.
Rooflights are particularly beneficial when designing a new-build extension where the vertical windows have been removed. Rooflights allow daylight to penetrate further into the building, illuminating areas that would otherwise be gloomy.
Rooflight rules OK!
The National Association of Rooflight Manufacturers (NARM) states that ‘…the glazing is pointing directly at the light source with very little diffused or reflected light. Consequently, rooflights and roof windows can supply a great deal more daylight into the heart of the home thereby illuminating areas that might otherwise be quite dark.’
Making a room feel bright and airy, rooflights can help cut the cost of energy bills by reducing the demand for electric lighting. And of course, the greater the rooflight area, the greater the potential savings.
NARM reports that ‘the amount of energy needed to light a building artificially is often much greater than the amount of energy used to heat it and is often the greatest single energy use in operating the building.’ The impact is both financial and environmental with ‘…electricity used for lighting being more expensive in terms of CO2 than gas used for heating.
While many considered the mental and physical wellbeing trend to be exactly that, there will be those, post-coronavirus who will take the time to change and invest in themselves. For installers, it will be about far more than popping in a few new windows. Homeowners will demand more.
Use this time to make your product portfolio the very best it can possibly be and be prepared for the new normal!