People seem to value having a window in their office or living room, more so than in a stairwell, closet or storage. It would be efficient and simple to design the floorplans to maximise the total benefit derived from windows. However, in both commercial and residential buildings, the corners (with the best window access) sometimes have stairwells or elevators instead of offices or living rooms. For example, in the MIT economics department (building E52), the seminar rooms have the biggest windows with the best view, and one corner of the building is a stairwell. In seminar and teaching rooms, people are supposed to look at the slidescreen or speaker, not out of the window, so the benefit of windows is little. Sometimes a window even adds negative value if the sun shines in people’s eyes and they have to spend a small amount of time closing the blinds.
If building regulations require a stairwell to have windows, thus be adjacent to an outside wall, then it would still be welfare-improving to locate offices at the corners, relegating the stairwell to the middle of a side of the building. Specifically, the side with the worst view or the side most prone to undesirable glare. Another way to comply with window requirements is to construct a shaft in the middle of the building (as in some New York highrises) and put the stairwells next to the shaft.