[Architecture Filter] How much natural light is ideal?
April 18, 2014 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to research the effect of natural light availability on apartment price, i.e. Does a south-facing apartment rent for more than a north facing apartment, and if so by how much? Along with a corollary of how much natural light would be considered ideal vs. the minimum. I found some rules on minimums through various city regulations, but I haven't found anything that talks about ideals, or price differentials based on desirability. Any pointers on research papers, books, organizations that may have information (I'm going to contact the AIA, but are there others?) would be extremely helpful.
posted by gofargogo to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't have a specific answer for you, but you might be interested in looking at comparative time-on-market data for apartment listings that note a south-facing design vs north-facing or no reference at all: Does an apartment that is advertised as being south-facing rent faster than one that does not? Anecdotally, it seems like apartments with south-facing designs rent faster and are more desirable, but that's based just on my own apartment searches and condo purchase.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:02 PM on April 18, 2014

well you should also take into consideration other aspects that could effect light - are there overhangs at the windows? what about light shelves? how big are the windows, how many per room, how spaced apart? single or doubled paned? is there a special glazing on the window? are there neighboring buildings that leave your building in their shadow thus rendering the south facing windows moot for most of the day? all of these factors could contribute to whether or not the south facing apartment would be desirable. i think it's a personal preference and that some people don't even notice these things until there is a problem with overheating, or unless they have plants that specifically need lots of sun.

anyway... i guess talk to realtors and see what their experiences are. they probably have several ways to spin either type of apartment.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 12:30 PM on April 18, 2014

I don't think the AIA will really have any information for you, but it wouldn't hurt to call either.

cristina3 makes good points - I'd much rather have a lot of large windows on the north side than on the south side, but as windows get smaller, putting them on the south side is preferable, and there are always ways to block sunlight on the south side. It's much more difficult to block direct sunlight on a western exposure.

The reason why is that people generally prefer indirect sunlight to direct, although having some direct light can be nice in colder climates. Indirect light means less glare and less heat gain, so larger windows and skylights on buildings will normally face north.
posted by LionIndex at 1:30 PM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The AIA probably won't have this data. There's a good book, Sun, Wind, and Light, which explores how buildings can be built to take advantage of the natural environment in ways that are most pleasing to people. I found that what most developers and realtors know is that people aren't very rational about what they will buy. Many people have no idea about the orientation of their home or how that affects their livability and happiness.

North light is even and cool. You can have very large openings on the north but you won't gain heat there. South windows are hotter but potentially easier to shade. East light it cooler than West light (northern hem) -- west light can be undesirable in the high heat of summer and welcome in the cold of winter. And on and on and on.

However, I'd guess the majority of people when homebuying look at the color of the countertops more that the orientation of their home or apartment.

One of my old professors did a study that showed retail areas under skylights sold more product. There have been studies about worker productivity and green building practices. I imagine views more than orientation would account for greater price differentials in apartments.
posted by amanda at 8:49 PM on April 18, 2014

Daylighting is a more complicated architectural and interior-design process than just having a window; there's shading and awnings and light-shelves, and how trees interact with view and solar angle in summer and winter, and UV and IR films, and thermal curtains. An improperly planned south-facing window can me a nightmare, while north-facing is (in the northern hemisphere) guaranteed indirect lighting year-round, and perceived as very pleasant. South-facing is great if you want to grow plants, but unless you've got shading (interior and/or exterior) under control, the solar gain can throw your AC cooling needs all out of whack. Many people prefer south-facing because of the vibrant "lots of sun" feeling; many people prefer north-facing and say the south has too much glare. About the only constant is that east- and west- facing windows are not very popular. (Though some people even seek out east-facing bedrooms to get the most light out of winter mornings, or west-facing bedrooms to get the most ability to sleep in on summer mornings; or the same kind of criteria for breakfast rooms or sunset dinners) It's not quite "every fella to his notion", there are trends; but there's not a universally preferred direction.
posted by aimedwander at 4:22 PM on April 20, 2014

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