The View from Your Office Window–What’s it Worth?

Balancing a desire for density with the need to preserve views and daylight is a common challenge facing urban development. On one hand, a cluster of tall buildings can provide enough tenant space to meet a project’s financial goals. On the other hand, if tenants can’t get a good look outside or feel the sun on their backs, they might not be willing to lease the space for quite as much — or at all.

The question of just what daylight or a view is worth is therefore an important one for developers considering how to make this tradeoff. It’s also helpful information for cities aiming to protect view access for as many residents and workers as possible. A new study provides the first measure of the value of views for commercial office tenants in cities, building on 2020 research measuring the value of daylight.

The new research by MIT [co-authored by Irmak Turan, Andrea Chegut, Daniel Fink and Christoph Reinhart], was published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, and finds that office spaces with high view access have about a 6 percent premium over those with low view access. That figure is a smidge higher than the premium for office spaces with high daylight access, which is about 5 percent. Taken together, the findings not only provide a financial incentive for developers to optimize for daylight and views, they can also help cities develop more equitable building codes.

“By measuring that tenants are paying more for daylight and views, we show that these attributes are valued in financial terms,” Irmak Turan, first author of the new study, tells Sidewalk Talk via email. “How can we ensure that everyone has access to such qualities in the workplace? While this research does not lead to a direct policy answer, it suggests that there may be economic mechanisms by which to push for equitable workplace settings.”