Inward Opening Windows

Whilst sweltering in our loft office during this unusual spell of summer heat, we’ve been discussing window design in the office. This is the kind of chat you can expect during tea break if, like me, you work in an office of 12 building designers.

With summer holidays in Mediterranean villas on our mind, rather inevitably sparked by an envious look at a colleague’s holiday snaps, we began talking about inward opening windows. If you’ve been away to a country with a warmer climate than the UK’s then you’ve probably encountered these. They are a standard fitting on the continent yet buildings of all types here tend to have outwardly opening windows. We started to wonder why and what the benefits and drawbacks of each would be.

After a little consideration, we established the main reason for inwardly opening windows in warmer climes is so the opening can accommodate both a shutter and a window allowing for natural temperature control and ventilation. It makes sense: in summer light and heat from the sun can’t penetrate the closed or louvered shutters but the room is still ventilated by cool air entering through the open windows. In winter the sun can shine through open shutters and closed windows generating warmth inside the room.

Outwardly opening windows are inherently more secure because it’s much easier to push with force than it is to pull. They are also much more effective at keeping the wind and rain out — a major reason why they are more popular in Northern Europe and the main consideration for projects considering which to opt for here in the UK.

Windows which open outwards also have interior cills which can then be used to store items, place plants or display ornamental things adding to the decor and interior aesthetic. More practically blinds and curtains are much easier to place around these windows which also play a part in excluding drafts and keeping warmth in. Plus net curtains are tricky to install on an inward opening window, where would that leave us?

Given that outward opening windows are better at keeping out the rain and intruders how are we Brits responding to the increased use of inward opening windows? Demand is currently driven by health and safety guidance for safe-to-clean windows and trends towards high performance (European designed) inward opening Passivhaus standard windows. Will the end of the outward opening window mean the end of the net curtain? Is this simply a homage to hygge or Brexit backlash?

Either way, we all agreed that looking out of an inwards opener allows for a full, interrupted contemplation of the outlook. The clutter of the window fittings are behind you so only the life around you, the valley or streets, cows or buses can be observed without blockage. Just you and the view. The simple pleasure of taking in your surroundings, drinking the sights and smells, shouldn’t be underestimated. We can debate the merits of Passivhaus, health and safety accreditations, security considerations, cleaning benefits, weatherproofing and design aesthetics all we want. Windows are for looking out of. If you can enjoy what you look at, you win.