Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Swiss Windows

This summer I’ve been working in Switzerland. The hot and humid weather over the past month or so is starting to get rather unbearable, particularly because Zurich has almost no air-conditioned buildings. (I could talk about their desire to be energy-efficient at the expense of intellectual productivity between June and August, but we’ll leave that for another day.) However, there’s one thing in particular that really irks about my living situation here in Zurich.

None of the buildings seem to have screens.

This is especially problematic, since opening the windows is a refreshing and energy-efficient way to keep a living space cool, particularly at night. In the US I do this on a nightly basis in the summer months. However, here in Switzerland it seems that every night I am faced with a choice of keeping the windows closed and turning my room into a close approximation of a sauna, or opening the window and inviting every insect in the vicinity to join me in my brightly-lit room.

As if this weren’t bad enough, I recently had a conversation with someone at the office who remarked (somewhat derisively) how unbelievable it was that buildings in North America don’t have double-pane glass windows. The Swiss apparently put these windows in by default any time they get a new window, and it’s supposed to be much more energy-efficient due to the better insulation. While I’m inclined to agree with this idea, I find it unbelievable that the Swiss don’t put screens in their windows. It’s not energy-inefficient to do so, and it’s not even that difficult to do. Yet somehow they criticize Americans for not using double-pane windows, while they lack window screens in almost every building in the country.

Now I’ll get back to writing my paper in the cool of the night, all the while fending off mosquitoes, moths, and other creatures that could be easily kept out with a simple screen…

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