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More than Glass: A Guide to Window Types and Their Innovative Applications

There is so much more to a window than just a pane of glass. Believe it or not, windows serve many purposes aside from simply letting in light.

They provide ventilation to cool a building in summer and aid heating systems by admitting solar rays in winter.  Windows can frame a gorgeous view, or in some cases, screen a not-so-gorgeous view while simultaneously illuminating interior spaces.

A room can be radically transformed through the precise manipulation of a building’s glazed openings. There are numerous types of windows for any and every purpose, not to mention vast amounts of innovation on what used to be just humble panes of glass.

So how can one truly dissect the many complex applications of the window?

Well, to start, window types can be categorized according to function.  The three fundamental functions are: light (including solar radiation), air (ventilation), and view (both in and out).

Firstly, there are window types intended to be completely multipurpose; these windows admit light, air and views.  For example, most windows in a home lend themselves to this category, such as picture, casement, and double-hung.

The second category includes windows intended to let in light and air.  An example of this type of window is the operable transom.  A transom window is typically placed above a door and offers privacy, but allows light and air to penetrate the space.

A third type contributes both light and view.  Any fixed, eye-level window will fit into this category (think of the typical skyscraper – although some are now incorporating operable windows).

Montreal skyscraper
Source: Emily Struzik (Pen and Simple)

Lastly, there is a family of windows that concentrates on primarily on light.  Skylights, inoperable transoms and clerestory windows all fit into this category.  It could be argued that they provide views to the sky, but, in general, they are installed high above eye-level with the main objective of introducing additional light into a space.

Recently, there have been some impressive innovations in window design.  With pollution and sustainability in the forefront of the consumer’s mind, designers and engineers-alike are searching for new ways to integrate solar technologies with windows.

One particular company EnSol AS is developing a spray-on solar film that will directly adhere to a glass substrate.  What if every window was a solar panel?

Nano solar film
Source: Prof. Chris Binns, University of Leicester (EnSol)

There are finally some solutions for people who run into problems with exposed, interior blinds.  Instead of contending with messy-looking, crooked, crumpled, and dusty blinds, explore options for fully integrated blinds or even better, integrated louvers that can be digitally controlled.  These shading devices are located within the window’s glass panes and still offer protection from the sun as well as privacy, without being a choking-hazard or dust collector.

The vertical shade has been majorly updated since the days of the textured, cream-colored, thin slices of plastic with the dangling gold chain.  Try a streamlined panel system (tip: it can also be used as a room divider).

Vertical shades on windows
Source: The Shade Store

The straightforward, functional concept of the window-as-an-opening remains; however, new innovations are transforming its articulation and adornment.

Aside from the basic functions of light, air and view – can windows also function as energy generators? What other ways are there to manipulate its construction and coverings for increasing efficiency and quality of life?  Keep your eyes on the technologies yet to come and continue exploring the thrilling world of windows.

By Emily Struzik



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