What is daylighting and how does it improve your overall well-being?

Among multiple benefits, daylighting can curb energy consumption, improve working conditions and enhance workers’ productivity and overall well-being.

The recently-concluded COP27 Summit has once again highlighted the significance of energy efficiency in mitigating climate change consequences. In context, the efficient use of lighting in commercial spaces can help contribute towards these objectives, including the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

One way to curb electricity consumption in commercial complexes is via daylighting. This denotes the design concept of using natural light to minimise dependence on electric or artificial lighting. In essence, daylighting is an energy-saving strategy that uses a combination of a structure’s orientation, windows and angles to harness or mimic the natural illumination of sunlight to brighten the interiors. Usage of right fenestration solutions, together with proper alignment of windows and doors can maximise the penetration of natural light inside the commercial spaces.

Creating Conducive Indoor Environments

what is daylighting energy efficiency natural light mental health
what is daylighting energy efficiency natural light mental health

In this way, windows, skylights and other openings and reflective surfaces are used to harness direct and indirect sunlight to ensure effective indoor lighting. Structural designs deployed strategically then enhance the natural light without generating glare or overheating issues.

As per the Whole Building Design Guide, electric lighting consumes almost 50% of the total energy consumption in commercial structures. Therefore, by limiting the use of electric lights, buildings can reduce nearly a third of their energy usage and costs, simultaneously creating a visually stimulating and aesthetically pleasing environment.

However, multiple elements should be considered for the efficient use of natural light. This includes the orientation of the sun, the average amount of sunlight per day and the deployment of proper fenestration solutions.

The first element that comes into play is the proper placement of windows. When positioned properly, both skylights and windows permit maximum natural lighting. Since the sun’s position keeps changing throughout the day, architects should take into account how sunlight will stream indoors at different points in time. For optimal results, a commercial structure should mirror the natural rise and drop in sunlight to help workers and other occupants stay in sync with the circadian cycle. These days, sleek and slim uPVC and aluminium window and door frames are gaining popularity due to their capability of increasing the daylighting.

Significance of Daylighting in Commercial Complexes

Readers may be wondering whether daylighting has any importance or role in commercial buildings. This brings one back to the circadian rhythm – a natural cycle of physical, mental and behavioural changes the body undergoes throughout a 24-hour cycle. Typically, circadian rhythms are controlled by a small area in the centre of the brain and are affected by light and darkness. Circadian cycles impact sleep, appetite, hormones, body temperature and other bodily functions. As a result, abnormal circadian rhythms are associated with diabetes, depression, obesity, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders such as insomnia and other ailments.

Consequently, excess white light in commercial spaces can upset workers’ moods and sleep patterns. In turn, inadequate sleep affects both the body and brain, leading to tiredness and slower reactions, lowering general productivity. This is why natural light is deemed so vital for human health. In fact, Cornell University researchers reveal that natural light in workplaces ensures workers report greater satisfaction levels and 10% extra efficiency when working in places with more windows.

Top Tips to Promote Daylighting

Here are three top guidelines to enhance daylighting in commercial buildings:

Build more windows: Although a simple solution, it is generally overlooked when making plans for commercial spaces. Having more windows is an excellent way to enhance energy efficiency and allow the ingress of more natural light. The type of windows and their placement must be determined by the degree of light required, the kind of workspace being built, privacy needs and the building’s design. Once these elements are managed, daylighting is a good means to lower energy usage and boost a project’s sustainability quotient.

Choose uPVC and aluminium windows and doors

New age fenestration materials like uPVC and aluminium are ideal solutions for enhancing daylighting in commercial spaces. They are not only aesthetically appealing, but also eco-friendly and sustainable options. Aluminium windows and doors come with a host of beneifts with the ability to permit maximum glass area, which allows abundance of sunlight to enter, and offers an unobstructed view of the outside. Aluminium fenestration solutions come in a wide array of styles like slider, tilt and turn or casement windows and doors. Sleek slider doors come with minimally visible aluminium sight lines, in order to offer a maximised view of the outside world. A well-lit interior space appear larger and improves the concentration and productivity of the people working in the building. uPVC windows and doors are more than beautifully designed gateaway to the outside world. They have unmatchable qualities of strength and security as well.

Design reflective interiors: Spreading natural and artificial light across a broad expanse ascertains the daylighting technique works throughout the structure. Architects and interior designers seeking to disperse light across commercial premises must utilise reflective surfaces to good advantage. The simplest strategy to achieve this is by installing a few mirrors. But if this is not possible, specific glosses and paint finishes can transform the quantum of light reflected by the ceiling, floor, shelves, etc.

The choice of colours also impacts the level of available light. Lighter hues on the walls will create a more open and brighter feel indoors. For instance, white walls, panels and ceilings reflect more natural light, increasing the work area’s total brightness. In cafeterias and other casual zones, light hues help people relax, even when workstations have low-light environments and darker shades. Glass-partitioned doors and walls are also great for fostering a feeling of openness in the work environment as they reflect more light.

Utilise human-centric lights: In some areas, such as storerooms, it may not be practical to have many windows and skylights. Here, human-centric artificial lights could plug the gap between natural light and unnatural colour temperatures. Such mechanisms regulate how yellow or blue lights appear, imitating the shift of the sun’s angle throughout the day. Thereby, the colour changes help in keeping workers’ circadian cycles stable, promoting healthy sleep patterns to augment productivity. Besides, human-centric lights aid in controlling the impact of depression and headaches due to eyestrain as well as back or neck pain. Utilising such lights judiciously in commercial spaces can offer benefits similar to that of natural light during different shifts.

The Need for Expert Supervision

Nonetheless, when incorporating the above elements in a commercial building, note that creating numerous windows should be done under expert supervision. This is necessary because traditional glass cannot control heat or glare, which could generate discomfort among occupants and impact the energy-efficiency goals negatively.

Yet, this aspect can be resolved by using window and glass coverings. Rather than bulky blinds and shades, however, tinted windows or dynamic glass can be an excellent option that permits occupants of the building to benefit from daylighting without extra glare or heat.

In summation, it is apparent that natural light through daylighting is imperative to minimise energy consumption, improve the working environment of occupants and augment their productivity levels.

This story first appeared on Architecture+Design.

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