In the architecture world, glass is in. The skyscraper of the future is transparent. From the Burj Khalifa to the soon-to-be-completed Freedom Tower to the so-called “Invisible Tower” to the latest and greatest condos in New York City, the towering glass facade has become the norm. People must be loving all those views, right?
Well, not exactly. According to a study from the Urban Green Council, practically no one looks out the windows. The group surveyed 55 glassy buildings around New York City and found that across the board, most of the occupants had drawn the shades. Regardless of the time of day, the direction the windows faced, or whether the space was an office or a home, buildings across the city covered an average of 59% of their window area. More than 75% of buildings had shades drawn on more than half their window space. The report notes that this analysis “isn’t conclusive since our sample size was relatively small, but the consistency of the results strongly suggests common patterns of tenant behavior.”
So why aren’t those who’ve shelled out what’s presumably serious dough for views taking advantage? Lack of privacy, for one. The Standard Hotel’s expansive windows allow pedestrians walking below to see into one of the hotel’s restrooms, and developers of other glassy buildings near the popular High Line park have struggled to figure out a way to give residents views without letting tourists peek in.
There’s also comfort. Depending on the type of glazing used on the glass, sky-high windows can become unbearably hot as the sun beats down during the summer, and they can leach warmth in the winter.
As the Urban Green Council notes, this is a design issue as much as it is about people being unprepared to live in glass boxes, and it’s something to take into account before breaking ground on the next shiny new building. Lovely as natural light may be, no one wants to hang out in a building that feels like a terrarium under a heat lamp.