Every so often I'm struck by how bad design dictates how we live our lives, and how it gets perpetuated because people accept it as "the way things are". These design issues can be anything from malfunctioning perfume sprayers and uncomfortable clothing to bad urban planning and building design. Here's the first in what might grow to be a series on how design affects our lifestyles.
Part 1: Windows
Nisqually earthquake when the whole building was shaking like crazy at about a magnitude 7.
At first I didn’t understand what was wrong, since my laptop with its battery was working just fine, and there was plenty of light coming from my window. However, once I went out in the hall, I was reminded that most of the building is windowless. The only rooms that have windows are those around the outside of the building, and there’s an entire core and basement that depends entirely on electrical power for light, even during the day. To make matters worse, I learned that almost everyone in the building uses desktop PCs that won’t run unless they’re plugged into a power source, so crowds of students, faculty, and staff were suddenly plunged into complete darkness without so much as the glow from a battery-powered computer screen.
Next to all of the light switches in the building are placards admonishing us to “save energy – turn off the lights when you leave the room”. That’s all very well and good if we’re working at night, but the real question is why some mid-20th-century architects thought it was a good idea to make everyone turn the lights on during the day. This building is by no means ususual. Everywhere in the world there are public buildings, shopping malls, and even rooms in people’s private houses where there is no source of natural light. It’s ironic that when daylight saving time rolls around, people just go to work an hour earlier, turn on the lights, and burn them for the same number of hours that they would if they were in their normal time zone. I thought the idea was to save energy by not having to use artificial light in the early morning?
[Supermarket and bunker photos from Wikimedia. The cat is mine.]