Ventilation and housewives

I was walking down the street in our neighborhood this morning and watched many of the houses' windows being open for ventilation - some a "crack", some widely.

I know why that is.

In New Zealand, especially on the South Island, when the temperatures drop, houses get a build-up of moisture on the inside. It manifests itself in the form of "crying" windows - window panes getting covered in water on the inside - and when temperatures drop even further into freezing during winter, the panes may even end up covered in ice.

By opening windows to let in fresh air, houses get rid of excess moisture. It's how traditional New Zealand "ventilation" works. It's why - in all of the houses I have so far lived in in New Zealand, before this one, which is... 6 - I have always opened a window the first thing I have stepped in from a trip to the shop, or pool, or work, because houses without ventilation tend to get that very stale smell very, very quickly.

Fortunately, more and more of New Zealand's houses are getting passive and active ventilation systems retro-fitted, and so this daily ritual of opening windows to let some fresh air in is starting to get less and less prevalent.

Our current house is one of them - each room has an outlet of a DVS fan, and so there is fresh air constantly forced in from the outside.

(In winter mornings it will manifest itself in freezing temperatures being blown in, but since houses with more modern systems where outlets are fitted with heating elements to take off the chill are out of my financial capacity at the moment, I will take that above a house with mould, to be honest.)

But... something insightful struck me this morning as I was watching the windows cracked open for air on my street.

I had listened to Kim Hill interview Marilyn Waring about feminism on the radio and they discussed the culture of stay-at-home housewives and how women, by entering the workforce, pretty much handed the capitalism a silver plate by driving down payrates, and I suddenly went... "Hey, I think I know why New Zealand and Britain have traditionally built houses to such poor ventilation standards!"

Because both Britain and New Zealand have traditionally had housewives to take care of opening the windows during the day.

In Scandinavia, Baltics and certainly Estonia, a stay-at-home mom is an unusual occurrence. There's many factors driving such a difference, and I won't go into discussing them, but one of the end results of such a culture is that houses need ventilation built in because most of the time, there isn't anyone home during the day to "crack open" windows. The houses need to "breathe" by design, passively, or otherwise they would all be mould-ridden during winter.

In New Zealand - and Britain, where New Zealand's house design stems from - a housewife has been there to take care of that. Houses have been built without air vents because housewives have been opening windows instead.

And when I thought about that, I kind of went... "Ahem."

A culture of housewives to ventilation standards. Interesting.


  1. You're probably completely right on that, I know my grandmother didn't work once she married grandad. Mum stayed home till I was 15 and she considered that my brother and I could probably survive while she was gone after school. You'd always have to check the whole house before going out to make sure all the windows were shut and mum and my grandmothers were often wiping windows down to dry them too.

  2. Proper double glazing would solve the sweaty window problem :) The windows come with the special air vent which lets fresh air in. So nowadays moms don't have to stay at home anymore in order to air the house :)