Why Put a Window in a Car Roof or A Healthcare Facility?
The sky affects us every moment we are exposed to it. It conveys the weather, time of day, time of year, passage of time, and our location both on earth and in the universe.
Health caregivers know the benefits of the sky, natural light, and patients’ need for a direct connection with nature. Scientific research has proven that this connection is significant not only in promoting healing in patients, but also with the ability to ease stress in everyone.
We want the built environment of healthcare to be more energy efficient, improve infection control, and provide comfortable patient privacy. Unfortunately, in doing so we create physical obstacles that often eliminate even the visual connection with the sky, nature, and the outside world.
Such physical obstacles have existed in other interior environments. Take the car, for example. Charles William Nash, a carmaker in Kenosha, Wisconsin in the first half of the 20th century, was the first to put a sky window in an automobile.
Known for introducing cutting-edge advancements not only in automobile production, and mechanical operation, The Nash Motors Company regularly incorporated creative safety, comfort, and convenience systems into its new models.
As modern sedans became more weatherproof, they also became more of a stuffy, hot/cold sealed metal container. Windows actually became smaller for safety reasons, and provided little in the way of ventilation, especially at slow speeds.
Nash saw the need, and introduced the first electric fresh air ventilation system – a design is still in use today. Nash later incorporated a heat exchanger to warm the fresh air, along with creative temperature controls. The fully integrated air-conditioning system was to follow.
The first operating sunroof was in the Nash 1937 sedan. Recognizing the downside of what had become a closed, dark, built environment on wheels, Nash considered the sunroof a remarkably effective window providing not only ventilation, but a direct connection to the sky.
The sunroof option created such a powerful, subconscious impact on test drivers that every other car model they evaluated seemed to be somehow disconnected from the outside world. And, of course, they were.
Nash knew his sunroof was not just a gimmick. Though he did increase sales by including the sky with every car, to Nash this was just another idea to increase the user’s overall enjoyment of the automobile. It was a brilliant idea, which like most of his innovations, is still popular today.
The modern healthcare facility has all the necessary environmental control systems to maintain ideal temperature, humidity, air quality, and lighting levels for optimum comfort and efficiency. However, as Nash discovered, the more sealed and controlled an environment becomes, the more isolated it becomes.
While sunroofs are not practical in healthcare facilities, there are several effective solutions available to designers to enable the human connection with the benefits of the sky, nature, and the outside world.
Quote of the Week
“The land has good sky” — Ron Swanson, Character from “Parks and Recreation”
Photo Credit: By Lars-Göran Lindgren Sweden – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0