Windows and controls

Windows provide visual links to the world outside as well as daylight and ventilation to the inside.

Window shading should be under the control of building users to so that they can limit glare and overheating.

Visual access with the outside is important for wellness. Views through windows from both inside and outside a building when sitting or standing should be incorporated into the building design.

From the inside, windows help building users know where they are. From the outside, they can give confidence to visitors to know what is on the inside (for instance, identifying the Reception desk).

Direct sun through windows can cause air temperatures to rise internally and create glare for building users.

Windows positioned behind where someone is speaking puts their face in shadow, making lip reading difficult and reducing visibility. Consequently Reception desks should not have windows behind them.

Electronic displays such as those at airport departure gates are sometimes installed in front of glazing. People with low vision may not be able to read these displays because of the ambient light conditions behind the display.

Windows can present security, safety, noise and privacy issues which need to be addressed in the design.

Window controls

Openings in windows need to be effective and where practicable be under control of the occupants. In accessible bedrooms for instance, this may mean that furniture allows access by a wheelchair user to window controls, and people who are blind or have low vision are able to find and operate the controls.

Window controls need to be easy to identify, reach and require little force to operate. Ideally controls should be operable with a closed fist, wrist or arm. Controls that require gripping and turning may cause problems for a variety of building users.

Powered window systems should be installed where there will be difficulty opening and closing windows manually.

Windows and their controls should be maintained regularly to ensure their effective operation.

All fixtures and fittings should be colour contrasted with their immediate background. Controls should be logical, easy to locate and use.

Design considerations

  • Avoid positioning Reception desks and electronic displays in locations where there is glazing behind.
  • Consider security, safety, noise and privacy issues when designing windows.
  • Ensure that controls for windows and window treatments are easy to identify, reach and operate.
  • Install powered window controls where there will be difficulty or restrictions in controlling windows manually.
  • Ensure that maintenance of windows and controls is scheduled in the Building Manual and carried out regularly.
  • Periodically review the effectiveness of window treatments to ensure they meet the needs of occupants.

Building Code requirement

Building Code clause G4 Ventilation:

G4.3.1 Spaces within buildings shall have means of ventilation with outdoor air that will provide an adequate number of air changes to maintain air purity.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: