Window views in the built environment: preferences and behaviours

Batool, Ayesha (2021) Window views in the built environment: preferences and behaviours. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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With 90% of our time spent indoors, and an estimated 75% of the world population living in cities by 2050, the challenge of designing habitats for people is of primary importance. From an evolutionary perspective, humans have only recently started to occupy buildings for the majority of their day. When inside buildings, windows are favoured by building occupants due to the view and connection to the outside that they afford, which positively affect their environmental satisfaction. Accordingly, based on the scientific literature, building guidelines have started to include specific criteria for designing window views – e.g., providing natural and long-distance views, containing various layers of information, etc. – to enhance appreciation and preference. However, there are still research gaps to be filled, particularly for designing window views in an urban context. Multi-layered natural views are improbable in dense urban settings. Also, existing studies are built upon subjective appraisals of different stimuli with results that are difficult to reproduce due to the inherent complexity and variability of the view out of a window. Even when the views hold specific environmental qualities, we still do not know how they would affect the observer’s perception and their resultant behaviour; that is how the occupants would engage with the window view. What features of views will encourage them to look out of the window? What will drive their gaze away from a task and towards the outside?

To address some of these questions, the aim of this Ph.D. research was to provide robust evidence on the relationship between window views and the associated preferences and behaviours. Through holistic and objective analysis of what observers engage with when looking out of a window, this study embraced a subject-centred and multi-method approach to triangulate findings extrapolated from different measures. First, within controlled laboratory experiments, physiological measures of involuntary gaze response (eye-tracking) to views, subjective preference ratings, and reasons for preferences were collected and analysed to reach a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. Then, in real-life built environment, surveys were designed to investigate and identify attributes of window views that were liked and disliked, leading to a more thorough characterisation of responses to the view out.

Among the findings of this work is the association between gaze behaviour and subjective preference. That is, those elements in an urban view that were not preferred, or needed more deciphering, effectively attracted gaze for longer with longer fixation durations. Views with natural content elicited similar oculomotor behaviour. This link demonstrates a personal engagement with the view out of the window, either when the view is not appreciated – e.g., due to an incongruent element – or when the view affords a connection with natural features. Further interest in the view out of a window can also be ensured through dynamic features, including transient, daily, and seasonal changes in the view. This link between window view preference and gaze behaviour offers a better insight into why an interesting or dynamic view might be noticed more often by humans.

These results have relevant design implications. Among these, the suggestion that, to notice the view out of a window and look at it more often, it does not necessarily need to be preferred, but rather it needs to be dynamic. Since building occupants, their subjective preferences, and attention mechanisms might shift over time, a review of design guidelines might be required to enable a more adaptable design of windows and their settings over the multiple lives of a building.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Rutherford, Peter
Ledgeway, Timothy
McGraw, Paul
Altomonte, Sergio
Keywords: Window views, View preference, Gaze behaviour, Eye-tracking measures, Built Environment, Window design
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 67063
Depositing User: Batool, Ayesha
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2021 04:40
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2023 04:30

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