Post Originally Written By Mike Plaster
Sunlight is an abundant resource across the planet. Factored into building design, ‘daylighting’ not only boosts aesthetics but brings health, productivity, sustainability, and cost benefits to users.
Shuttling to and from work in near darkness during the colder months of the year. It’s a familiar and frustrating feeling for many. It’s equally frustrating when you can’t break away for a quick walk in the summer sun. All year round, that vital dose of sun-inspired, mood-boosting serotonin seems just out of reach – unless we’re lucky enough to work where the light can get unobstructed. Without a good dose of sunlight in our lives helping regulate our circadian rhythms, the dark-filled days can be detrimental to our health and well-being.
More than Just “Sunshine”
Buildings that put natural daylight to work with well-executed daylighting design have been shown to provide a range of important enhancements: improved occupant wellbeing, increased organizational productivity, energy savings on lighting, and aesthetics that inspire.
MIT building scientist Christoph Reinhart believes that light plays a part in “shaping architecture “ and should influence every step of the design process – from the optimum design of a lobby letting light in, to which direction the building should face to draw in the right (not necessarily the most) amount of light. Placing daylighting among a building’s primary objectives is at most a near-unprecedented move, but with Reinhart’s goals in clear view, the advantages are obvious.
It is a daylit building’s uncommon aesthetics and the enhanced emotional wellbeing of its users that combine to boost organizational productivity, says Reinhart. But daylighting’s energy savings should also interest any company that flexes its sustainability muscle for business benefits.
With the potential for energy-efficient siting of a building comes the potential for greatly cutting energy costs. With properly oriented solar panels that take full advantage of the available light, for example, you could see your energy needs met – or even surpassed. The choice of smart lighting over conventional can also contribute to a saving in energy consumption. The Solatube™ passive tubular daylighting system, for instance, fine-tunes its output to give the medically recommended lux measurement at desk level for good visibility and trims the need for electric lighting.
The Beauty of Natural Lighting
In commercial design there is an appetite for angled windows. Sloping glass frontage makes a striking addition with the potential for drawing daylight into large interior spaces.
Another design element, clerestory windows which bring in more light from their position higher than the typical window placement, are an attractive solution for solving one of the movement’s biggest misconceptions – that daylighting necessitates “sunlighting”.
If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere flooded with abundant direct sunlight, you’ll still find any excess glare a distraction and maybe even a cause of eye strain. Daylit rooms should be designed such that full-on sunlight is kept in check while the right amount of overall natural light is let into the space.
There’s traction in Reinhart’s assertions that exterior and interior features of a building can pull their own considerable heft in achieving the health/productivity/sustainability/cost savings of daylighting. It’s up to designers and their clients to decide which daylighting elements carry the most significant gains for them.
Solatube is a trademark of Solatube Daylighting Systems
This article is adapted from Mike Plaster’s “Daylighting – Why Natural is Best” blog post at Marshalls.co.uk. For more information on designing with natural light pick up a copy of Christoph Reinhart’s Daylighting Handbook I: Fundamentals; Design with the Sun.