Daylighting Our Lives


Homes are our safety fort, the sanctuary that allows us to escape daily life tensions. However, with the increasing rise of building heights, getting enough natural light is becoming more and more difficult. In many areas, where tall buildings are crowded together, the Sun plays a short game of peek-a-boo with those who live in these buildings; instead of relying during the day on natural light, they have to turn on electric lights. By using more electricity, people end up with bigger bills, in addition to the negative effect it has on people’s wellbeing. This, of course, requires close attention from urban planners to allocate appropriate plots for buildings that would allow them enough natural light.

While people are increasingly spending more time cooped up inside, architects have been trying to find appropriate solutions to provide us with the natural light we need. Daylighting—a method applied by architects nowadays—is the controlled admission of natural light into the space within a building.

This design technique is important to provide good illumination during the day, and if natural light is used to its maximum potential, it can reduce the dependence on artificial light, making buildings more sustainable and energy-efficient. In commercial buildings, electric lighting accounts for 35-50% of the total electrical energy consumption; strategic use of daylight can reduce this energy demand, in addition to improving people’s comfort and productivity.

Though getting sunlight into one’s space is great, it can cause glare and rooms can become too bright that it can lead to discomfort. This is why there are certain systems designed to harvest the maximum sunlight in a controlled manner that avoids unwanted glare and increase in temperature.

One way to avoid glare is through installing light shelves, which perform two jobs: bouncing light upward into the space for better light distribution and penetration, and shading windows from excessive glare. Light shelves can be installed inside or outside the building and can be made from various materials; they are most effective when installed on walls facing the Sun.

Another daylighting design is the use of skylights. You guessed it; these are installed in the roof and are often made from a clear or diffusing material that allows natural light to enter the building. Since they are placed in a crucial spot, they are usually made from double layers for added protection, as well as better insulation. They do not always have to depend on direct sunlight to illuminate the interior, since diffuse light from overcast skies can also light up an interior.

While architects try to create designs that use daylight to create a visually appealing space, they have reason to do so because researchers have found that natural light is key to our wellbeing. A research that has been conducted on the daylight effect in hospitals indicate that it is greatly beneficial for patients, as it is better to recover in a room with a window that not only lets natural light in, but also has a view of nature.

Not only is daylighting important in hospitals, but in schools and education facilities as well. A 1999 study entitled “Daylighting in Schools: An Investigation into the Relationship between Daylighting and Human Performance”, found a high correlation between schools that reported improvements in student test scores—upwards of 10%—and those that reported increased daylight in the classroom.

Working in a space that is well-lit by natural light increases productivity and helps promote a feeling of well-being; that is why it is important for architects to bear that in mind while designing buildings.


Top image: Photo by form PxHere

This article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Summer 2015 Issue.

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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