How to optimize the benefits of windows and the use of space around them.
It begins with light, as it often does. In real estate, natural light is considered to be one of the greatest price-determining factors. Nobody could ever imagine inhabiting a house without windows and today, small windows are considered non–existent. Maximising natural light and fresh air is an essential component in every house. Large windows are not only an aesthetic solution but also a practical solution to numerous problems that affect not only the real estate value of space itself but the inhabitants’ physical and mental well-being as well as their economy and our ecology. In this article, after exploring the benefits of windows and the natural light and fresh air they provide, we will share a few tips to optimize the use of our spaces in relation to windows.
Mental and Physical Health
The aesthetic benefits of a sunny house full of natural light are evident. Natural light communicates a vibe of never-ending summer (no matter the season), a refreshing energy and a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. However, the effect of natural light as well as fresh clean air on the physical and mental health is often taken for granted. Exposure to natural light helps the body synthesize the very valuable vitamin D, which is essential for the proper functioning of many vital organs. It is no coincidence that whenever there is Vitamin D deficiency, people seem tired, listless and their psychology is affected significantly. Unfortunately, this could lead to neurological diseases, autoimmune diseases and also psychiatric diseases and clinical depression.
At the same time, natural light and fresh air create the ideal environment for plants that in turn help with creating a cleaner and livelier atmosphere. Fresh air helps avoid mold and humidity – both of which can cause allergies, can radically destroy a property and are difficult and costly to eliminate. Furthermore, fresh air guarantees better sleep and natural light stimulates an easier and more energetic wake up.
Last but not least on fresh air, are the positive effects on our concentration abilities. Concentration is not only crucial for school kids and college students, but also for most adults as most now work from home frequently.
Economy and Ecology
Apart from mold and the high expense of its removal process, another important issue is the ever-worsening climate crisis and its aftermath on the economy which deeply affect households. Large windows in the main rooms provide lots of light but also a natural warmth during the day and inhabitants are able to reduce their electricity use, the extent of which depends on the region of the world of course.
Optimizing the use of space around windows
Another major aspect that is often overlooked, is the way we interact with windows, the way we use the space around them and the furniture we choose to place in front and under them. Low arrangements, such as console tables and small buffets, can be placed in the spot under a window. A cozy sofa, along with books and newspapers in small storage furniture can also be placed against the window. Reading next to windows – especially if north oriented – can be very beneficial because of the light as well as the view to the outside. Another possibility is to have the desk next to the window. Alternatively, you can consider a custom built bench that would fit perfectly under your windows and allow you to sit on a few soft cushions, put your feet up and lean your side against the window. This would be a perfect spot for your morning coffee, you afternoon reading or daydreaming, any time of day. This configuration for the area under windows can be a simple wood construction made of a simple bench with open of closed shelves under it. It is a type of configuration that is aesthetically pleasing and at the same time utilizes the space very functionally. It can be used not only in the living room but also in bedrooms or even in the kitchen area if windows allow.
To sum up, the health, aesthetic and economic benefits of having large windows that provide fresh air and natural light are undisputed. When you are looking for a new house, make sure to take that into consideration. Every house has its unique potential and windows combined with clever design solutions can bring out the best in each one, adding a unique feel of light, air and space.
If you are considering buying a new house or optimizing the windows or the space around them in your current house, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.
Why working with contractors only (no architect) may not end up saving you money on your renovation project.
When exploring solutions to make your renovation project as cost-efficient as possible, you may find yourself inclined towards hiring a general contractor directly, and doing without an architect. Surely cutting the expense of an architect would significantly reduce the overall cost of the project, right? Although we cannot dismiss our evident bias towards the benefits of architects, in this article we aim to disclose a reality based on years of experience in the industry. This is not to discredit the contractors’ profession in any way, instead it is to illustrate the crucial aspects in which the work of architects and contractors are highly complementary. This article explores the potential risks of pursing a renovation project without the foundational support of this complementary relationship.
The following two testimonials come from clients who approached AKKA Architects after having initially opted to work with contractors only on their home renovation projects.
“We bought a house around 3-years ago and there were many things that needed fixing. We went ahead fixing but only working with contractors since we had a limited budget. However, the thing got out of control and there are multiple problems surfacing in need of attention. We found your approach to architecture pretty interesting and would love to see if you can help us fix this mess. However, I think it’s important to highlight that we already spent a lot of money and energy on all these problems, so we are considering either fixing things properly (hence why we are contacting you) or selling the house.”
“After our chat last year and after months of delays, we have finally started with the renovation. I decided to do everything myself – with a contactor, and I regret that most days. It’s a lot of work and you were completely right that an architect would be a huge asset. But here we are…I am now contacting you as I really need your advice.”
How are architects and general contractors complementary?
Firstly it is important to understand the role of contractors. They are responsible for the construction work on site, overseeing and coordinating the crew of builders who are physically executing the construction of the project. An architect on the other hand is responsible for creating the design plans which the contractor traditionally follows for the build. Creating the design plans includes planning, looking for the most suitable solutions and evaluating alternatives before taking a hammer to the walls. Architects are also usually the point of communication between the contractor and the client.
It is important to note that if you only need to have a simple procedure carried out in your home (such as moving a boiler, or opening up one partition) it may be perfectly ok to work with a contractor only. When it comes to standard home improvements, general contractors are a great option for fast and cost-efficient results.
3 reasons why working with contractors only (without an architect) may not actually end up saving you money on your renovation project.
1. Contractors tend to work without drawings
One major disadvantage of working with a contractor only is that some do not use plans or drawings, preferring to do the work directly on ground. An architect would usually be responsible for creating the detailed, thoroughly-checked drawings that a contractor would work from. There are three main issues with this scenario of working with no drawings. No drawings means that:
- contractors can only see the things obvious to the naked eye, it is probable they will miss hidden but critical elements.
- the best solution may not be reached. Drawings encourage creativity and innovation, revisions and refinements in an iterative process. Working without drawings may lead not to the best solution, but instead to the most obvious solution, or the first one that came to mind.
- The contractor’s intentions and thinking may not be easily communicated to the client. With a lack of visual aid, misunderstandings and potentially unexpected or undesirable results are likely.
2. Deviations in the renovation budget
Although they may start from a budget, or a cost estimate, contractors tend to operate by carrying out the work first and sending you an invoice afterwards. Therefore clients are likely to be faced with an element of financial surprise.
Generally, contractors work with a budget that includes their labour and the cost of materials. It is then their responsibility to acquire said materials and carry out the work. When the material and labour estimates fall short of reality, and contactors need to do more work than expected or materials are more expensive, they will likely ask the clients for additional budget. However, if materials can be acquired cheaper than anticipated, few contractors would revise their budget to reduce them and give the difference back to clients. While there are many honest contractors that may not subscribe to this practice, there may be a tendency towards pocketing the difference in opting for cheaper materials and cutting corners. Architects on the other hand have no incentive to cut corners, their interest is in seeing a beautifully finished long-lasting project. Therefore architects be incredibly useful for keeping an eye on the actual materials purchased and their quality in relation to the price that clients are willing to pay.
3. Client not consulted on technical matters
One the biggest issues when it comes to working with contractors alone is the lack of communication between the client and the contractors themselves. The client is usually not knowledgeable about building technicalities, therefore contractors tend to make technical decisions without consulting the client beforehand, or without even informing the client of the potential consequences of such decisions. Acting upon their own accord in this manner may result in significant mistakes or unwanted choices that the client will later have to pay additional costs to amend.
The scenarios described above are most relevant to renovations or new builds which are more holistic; involving elaborate designs, new materials and structural changes. If you are undertaking a more elaborate project, the potential mistakes described in this article may be highly undesirable. As a client, you want to be well-informed about cost and design decisions. Architects are an ideal partner to have in order to plan well, search for the best solutions before beginning, and coordinate between clients and contractors. Architects understand the ins-and-outs of your design vision, therefore they can actively participate in the decision-making processes to ensure the effects are achieved whilst adhering as closely to the budget as possible.
If you are still unsure about whether working with a contractor only is the right choice for your renovation project or not, we recommend reading our article Do I Really Need To Hire An Architect?
If you need advice on working with contractors or you are planning on designing or renovating your home and would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.