Spending significant time in windowless rooms

As the days lengthen and the sun and warmer weather is more common at this time of year, I recently thought about the time I have spent in windowless rooms. Three instances came to mind:

Photo by Jacob Morch on Pexels.com

-I worked for years at WETN, the radio station at Wheaton College, which was located in the middle of the basement of the Billy Graham Center. Outside of the ends of the basement which open into parking lots, there are no windows in any of the rooms along this long basement. Going into the studios for hours at a time, putting on headphones, and working with audio software left little time for thinking about natural light. However, when I would emerge from the building, the contrast was jarring, whether I had entered on a winter afternoon and came out for dinner at 5 PM and it was dark or entered on a sunny Sunday morning and came out five hours later. (The studios had large windows between them but this just offered a view of a hallway with florescent lights.)

-For a trip to London, we ended up booking several hotel nights in a windowless room. This cost us less than a room with windows – we could have paid more for this luxury – and we had limited options for hotels due to a busy time of the year. On one hand, we were not planning to spend much time in a hotel while on vacation. How much time do people stare out the window while on vacation in a city? On the other hand, it was strange to return to and wake up in a windowless place.

-During college, I lived in our basement when at home for summer and breaks. I had a little natural light from two window wells but not much and I was often gone during the day at work. I think I noticed the temperature difference more than the lack of light; the cool setting was much appreciated during the summer. Of course, I could go upstairs when needed to get light.

Perhaps this is not actually that much time in windowless spaces. Many offices or dwellings likely have rooms with no windows. I have been in such spaces for temporary situations and my current dwelling and office have plenty of windows.

I can see how many people find natural light necessary. Should it be required in all dwellings? While I can survive in spaces without it, it makes a big difference to have natural light. I would prefer to have natural light than use artificial light, particularly the whiter institutional light.

A boom in “mega basements” in London draw ire

The London neighborhood of Kensington is discussing rules to ban “mega basements” being constructed under the home and property of the wealthy:

The “iceberg home” mega basements dug three or four storeys into the ground with private cinemas, spas and swimming pools are set to be banned in one of London’s most affluent areas.

New draft rules that will limit basements to a single storey and impose much tighter limits on how far they can extend under a garden were today published by Kensington and Chelsea council.

The move follows a huge surge in applications for basements over recent years as wealthy owners have sought to by-pass planning restrictions on changes to their homes above ground by massively extending their living space underneath.

The subterranean extensions have often outraged local residents because of the noise, dust and disruption caused by digging them out, which can last for up to two years…

One of the most notorious applications was by former Foxtons estate agency owner Jon Hunt who successfully submitted plans for a cavernous basement under his home in Kensington Palace Gardens that included a tennis court and a showroom for his collection of Ferraris.

This sounds very similar to anti-McMansion ordinances with outcry over the disturbance to the neighborhood and restrictions on how big these basements can be. But, on the other hand, there is a big difference: these underground basements are hidden out of view and theoretically shouldn’t change the visible character of the neighborhood much. In some ways, the basements are genius: why not make use of underground space that is less disruptive and doesn’t alter the neighborhood’s appearance? I wonder if this is really just about construction inconvenience or it is more of a reaction to rich newcomers making changes.