I'm not going to defend anyone who designs an entire building without windows, but being as most posts have been adamant about requiring natural light and ventilation in each habitable room, I suggest that we lobby to get the building codes changed.
Under the IRC, one and two family dwellings are required to have emergency escape and egress windows in all bedrooms, habitable attics and basements; but multi-family dwellings do not have the same requirement. (A windowless door from a bedroom onto an exterior corridor or balcony may comply with this requirement.)
But, since an apartment building is not a one- or two- family structure, the IRC is typically the applicable code, and does not require "emergency escape", since the more stringent IBC requirements for means of egress apply.
The 2012 IBC states : HABITABLE SPACE. A space in a building for living, sleeping, eating or cooking. Bathrooms, toilet rooms, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces and similar areas are not considered habitable spaces.
And; 1203.1 General. Buildings shall be provided with natural ventilation in accordance with Section 1203.4, or mechanical ventilation in accordance with the International Mechanical Code.
Every space intended for human occupancy shall be provided with natural light by means of exterior glazed openings in accordance with Section 1205.2 or shall be provided with artificial light in accordance with Section 1205.3.
As offensive as this may seem from an aesthetic standpoint, the code does currently allow mechanical ventilation and light. Mechanical light and ventilation is optional, not mandatory, and leaves the design decision to the judgment of the design professional. Aesthetic considerations aside, what one person may deem an abomination, another architect may see as a code-compliant, creative solution to a difficult design problem.
Moreover, as distasteful as this all seems, unless we work to change the code, you cannot (even in this narrow sense) legislate aesthetics.
So I suggest that rather than state the obvious, that is, that we all know that in most circumstances natural light and ventilation is preferable to mechanical light and ventilation, we need to become actively involved in changing the code so it no longer allows mechanical ventilation and light in each habitable room in lieu of natural light and ventilation.
And next time we find ourselves with no choice but to create a windowless room (for instance, a kitchen, which is considered habitable space under the code), even when it opens directly onto another room with plenty of windows, we remember that we got what we asked for. (Doesn't a skylight that you cannot see anything other than the sky above provide natural light? I would hope this would be a baseline criteria for any architect, but nothing in the code currently requires that you provide a view from a window.)
By the way, next time you're in an office building with plenty of fixed windows (natural light, but no natural ventilation) in each habitable space, ask yourself where the ventilation is coming from before you ask that code section 1203.1 be changed.
David Del Vecchio AIA
David Del Vecchio, Architect, LLC
Show Original Message
Be the first person to recommend this.