Operable Windows — International Style

This is the 1958 Logan Building at the corner of 5th and Union, and I like it. It was built with a complete air-conditioning system, which was an ultra-modern feature at the time. And no, your eyes do not deceive you: it has windows that open. Perhaps in 1958 people still had enough self-respect and/or common sense to not be willing to put up with a sealed building.

Today we need encouragement: green building rating programs such as LEED give points toward certification for operable windows.

10 Responses to “Operable Windows — International Style”

  1. Matt the Engineer

    Keep in mind this has to be done intellegently, or you’re just dumping cool air outside. Buildings are generally positively pressurized, so an open window not only wastes air-conditioned air but also has no benefit for the person sitting next to the open window (since air is flowing out, not in).

    There are at least two ways of dealing with this. You could use window sensors to turn off the A/C when a window is open, but in an office it’s tough to make sure everyone’s window is closed at once. The preferred method is to have a green/amber light system letting everyone know when the A/C is off and it’s ok to open their windows.

    Of course the best way to do this is to not install A/C, and naturally ventillate the building. But this also has to be done carefully to make sure the building remains comfortable.

  2. Cow

    My office building — built in 1912, and now a heritage building — doesn’t have A/C. We do, however, have windows that open. Even the hottest days this summer have been fine; I open the patio door (yeah, we have a 9th floor patio), the door to the outer hallway, and we get some cross-breeze and it’s nice and cool inside.

    This is even at a tech startup, so we have lots of computers and things running. It’s made me appreciate how often pointless A/C is, at least in our climate here in the Northwest. (If it’s 95 and humid, well, that changes things.)

  3. serial catowner

    Back in about 1981 Harborview opened a new north tower, since absorbed by subsequent growth. To save money, they didn’t install the A/C system. The windows opened (a mistake corrected when a patient crawled out and fell to his death) but that building was HOT in a way Puget Sounders can’t recognize. The ice machines would just pack it in about 3 in the afternoon- finally they just stopped running at all.

    One night- I think I may have been the first person in Seattle to do this- I came to work in white Bermuda shorts. The nursing supervisor came around, did a double take and weighed in her mind what an appropriate uniform would be in that heat, and didn’t say a word.

    Any large building needs to have the air circulated and changed for health reasons. Because the amounts are so large, you can’t just throw away any heating or cooling you’ve done of the air. People with their desks by the windows may differ, but any building engineer can explain it.

  4. Matt the Engineer

    How can [cow] and [cat] have such different experiences? Simple: good building design versus bad building design. A naturally ventilated building should be skinny, high mass (brick or concrete), well shaded, and have appropriately sized window openings. There are dozens of ways to make them even better, but without those four elements it’s tough to make them comfortable.

    Designing a good naturally ventilated building is a skill that we were getting quite good at before the invention of air conditioning. After decades of ignoring previous knowlege we’ve figured it out again – and have improved designs with modern computational tools.

    Actually, most architects in this area would love to design more naturally ventilated buildings. Spending less money on air conditioning means spending more on a good building design, which is what they live for. The problem is usually the owner. We try to convince them that we can design buildings nearly as comfortable (or sometimes more so) as an air conditioned building, but there are enough Harborview north tower type failures to make them nervous.

    This being said, about half of the buildings I design for these days have at least mixed-mode systems (operable windows + AC).

  5. Dan Staley

    And let’s not forget houses too. The modern vaulted ceiling, designed to instill a thrill in the potential buyer, then a thrill in the new owner when they get their utility bill. And here on the Front Range, our house doesn’t cross-breeze well upstairs thanx a lot.

    I learned a lot in an Arch studio Dan’l shoulda went to in Montana, where we designed and built a straw-bale building. I learned so much that eventually I’m going to design and build my own d*mn house because I know what is a great home now. My friends in Wenatchee were similarly inspired and built their house out of Durisol and well-placed overhangs shading double-hung winders.

  6. Santon

    Tssk Tskk. Yes, the LEED rating system may “encourage” operable windows. But (as best i can recall, don’t have all my LEED reference material handy) it also defacto encourages AC by offering points for certain types of AC systems, while offering no points for non-AC buildings in that catagory.

    This is just one small example. LEED = worthless IMHO. if a 30,000 sq. ft. single family home with a 8 mil. budget can achieve LEED platinum then the metric absolutely does not in any way work. Take those commissioning dollars and buy some PV.

    Anyway, hooray for operable windows!

  7. Matt the Engineer

    //Take those commissioning dollars and buy some PV.//

    What an awful idea. Commissioning is one of the most cost-effective ways of saving energy, whereas PV won’t pay back over their life cycle. I’d rather save $1000 a year in energy from running my systems the way they were designed than generate $200 a year in electricity.

  8. Santon

    FYI, I was referring to LEED commissioning, not mechanical commissioning…..

  9. Broken Windows | hugeasscity

    [...] was the first LEED Platinum certified project in Washington State.  In addition to operable windows, there are other common sense features such as lots of white paint to enhance natural daylighting, [...]

  10. Fat Pat

    Keep in mind this has to be done intellegently, or you’re just dumping cool air outside. Buildings are generally positively pressurized, so an open window not only wastes air-conditioned air but also has no benefit for the person sitting next to the open window (since air is flowing out, not in).

    There are at least two ways of dealing with this. You could use window sensors to turn off the A/C when a window is open, but in an office it’s tough to make sure everyone’s window is closed at once. The preferred method is to have a green/amber light system letting everyone know when the A/C is off and it’s ok to open their windows.

    Of course the best way to do this is to not install A/C, and naturally ventillate the building. But this also has to be done carefully to make sure the building remains comfortable.

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