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And, always avoid obstructing sunlight along south-facing walls and windows. Search for:.

Daylighting: Natural Light in Architecture

Recent Posts. September 18, April Is Architecture Month May 13, An American in Paris February 15, It was not until the energy crisis, and the realization that our reliance on fossil fuels had limitations, that people started to question this high energy approach, and began to look at ways to reduce the electricity load in buildings, and one of the more obvious ways was to return to an understanding of the natural resource of daylight. Clearly daylight is not cost free, and factors such as the control of sunlight, heat gain and loss, the association of windows with ventilation and the question of whether the windows should open or the building be sealed, are all problems which need to be addressed; but these need to be equated with the human desire for association with the natural environment, as well as the possible savings in electricity and cost.

It is useful to state some of the reasons why the association with the natural environment has been important, seen through the hindsight of history. First there is the question of light for seeing in order to function within a space. This must vary according to the type of building, whether 3 Lighting in Architectural Design. USA 4 Prof. Alex Hardy. If it is possible for daylight to provide this, then we expect it to do so. The natural appearance of a space, where the overall experience, the objects and surfaces, are modelled in daylight together with the addition of sunlight at certain times of day.

Energy 101: Daylighting

The cyclical change from morning to evening, changes which are varied still further with the weather and the season of the year. Man has an innate desire for variety and change in his environment, and changes in the appearance of a space from time to time provide this.

The orientation which comes with the knowledge of a person's whereabouts in relation to the outside world. In a totally artificial environment, a person has difficulty in finding his way inside a building, a problem which was evident in some of the early artificially lit shopping centres, where people became disoriented, having problems in finding their way around the building.


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The experience of the world beyond the building, by the view to the outside, whilst this is associated with the factor of orientation, it has the added aspect of content. What is important is not only the content but also the experience of something at a distance as a rest centre for the eye.

Daylight is clearly crucial.

Passive Daylighting Systems Could Transform the Architecture of Natural Light

The experience of natural colour; for whilst the physical colour of our world as experienced in daylight changes from morning to night, the changes are a part of our experience; we compensate automatically, a white wall appears a white wall even if in the evening it may be warmer, or is coloured by sunlight, or altered by cloud formations Although perhaps not essential, it is a part of the experience of the natural world that we should be able to receive natural ventilation, by opening windows.

This is a part of the human desire for control of his environment, whether this be the light on his work, or the air that he breathes. On the whole architects had not submitted easily to the tendency towards the totally artificial environment leading inevitably toward air- conditioning in larger projects; but tended to be overruled by engineers; however research work carried out in Britain by Prof.

The concept behind this research was that provided daylight at the side of the room closest to the window was adequate, the fall-off of light furthest from the window could be supplemented by electric sources. This provided for the historic advantages of daylight listed earlier, most particularly in providing the impression that the whole room was daylit, although it was not, permitting the concept of the 'well lit room'.

Whilst this did not have the immediate effect of reinstating daylight as a primary source it was left to other outside influences to reinforce the architect's renewed interest in the subject. The outside influences were to some extent political, the sharp increase in oil prices and the fuel crisis, the gradual realization that the fossil fuels 5 Paper by Ralph Hopkinson and James Longmore.

No doubt this would have been ignored apart from the further factor of a greater understanding of the greenhouse effect due to the release of carbon dioxide by the burning of those same fossil fuels.

Daylighting : natural light in architecture in SearchWorks catalog

Finally there was the destruction of the ozone layer and the increasing danger of global warming. For these reasons some nations took account of the need for an intense look at alternative means of energy, by means of wind and wave, and the use of hydroelectric power where this was possible. This was all taking place at a time when the amount of energy in buildings was increasing, by means of the greater introduction of air- conditioning to a point when it was apparent that buildings had become the greatest single form of atmospheric pollution.

Whilst this was clearly the prime mover in calling a pause to the rise in the use of energy in buildings, the role of the historic advantages of daylight were not insignificant, the human factors demanding a closer look. The historic result of this was that buildings, analysed as the greatest cause of the problem, came under intense scrutiny; the words 'passive building' and 'sustainable architecture' became of greater importance. People began to seek ways to reduce the use of energy in buildings, and the prime suspect became the energy used for lighting.

Passive architecture, is where the structure of the building is designed in such a manner as to reduce the need for mechanical controls of heat, light and sound to a minimum: the term 'Net Zero Energy Demand' or a situation where 'the energy consumed equals the energy harvested. First they enter the building through openings as 'light' to the interior spaces and second they impact with the exterior building surfaces, and can be translated into energy by means of solar conversion.

What it does mean is that daylight must be at the centre of the architect's strategy by the orientation of the building, by the nature of the apertures, indeed the whole structure of the building. This brings us back to the question of the infill of the apertures, at the building's perimeter. It is in such ways that the amount of energy used for lighting can be substantially reduced, contributing towards the ideal suggested of 'net zero energy demand'.

It is clear that daylighting is at the heart of the equation, requiring a holistic approach to design, in which the human factors outlined above can now be placed in the correct order of priority; it is no longer true if it ever was that daylight is a luxury concerned with the view out of the window, although the view out of the window is an essential part of the role that daylight must play. In David Lloyd Jones's thoughtful book Architecture and the Environment, he defines sustainability in architecture as 'development that meets the needs of the present, and is at least as valuable to future generations as the value of the environmental exploitation that results Sustainable architecture is associated with minimizing all the different aspects of energy consumption associated with the production of a building from materials to construction methods and transportation, together with the continuing operation of the building throughout its life; but it is with the energy used for artificial lighting and the possible economies associated with sunlight and daylight that we are concerned with here.

If we ignore the demands made upon a 'passive' structure, by aspects of ventilation, air pollution, and the artificial lighting system, it is possible to outline a simple four-point strategy for daylighting design, bearing in mind that all the other factors need to be borne in mind to complete a holistic approach towards the building design. A decision needs to be made on the siting of the building, differing as to its location and site characteristics; in a green field or urban situation; taking into account the orientation, sun path and location of existing buildings or landscape.

The building function may determine the room dimensions, heights, and subdivisions, bearing in mind the present and future needs of occupation. Room height is a key decision, having a bearing on daylight penetration and the desirable overall room depth as well as building costs. The window size and disposition. This is clearly the most complicated design decision, since it must incorporate all the human factors mentioned earlier, such as the provision of view, control of heat gain and loss and the elimination of glare, as well as the more obvious needs of functional vision.

The combined windows should provide an average 5 per cent daylight factor for a substantial part of the floor space. From the architect's viewpoint, this may well appear as the most important decision, since it will determine the appearance of the building elevations from the exterior; but from a strategic point of view it will determine the success of the daylighting approach. It will be advisable to prepare a specification for the windows to include the nature of the glass, its transmission value and other characteristics. The types of glass are discussed in some detail under the subject of energy later, but it is at this point that the needs of other disciplines must be integrated, such as ventilation, sound attenuation and energy conversion PVs.


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  • Finally control systems are a consideration, first, those controls which relate to the outside condition, the control of sunlight and the avoidance of glare; and second, those of the interior, the relationship with daylight and the artificial lighting system, to facilitate 'daylight linking'; this will be crucial to effect the possible savings in energy. Whilst the four-fold decisions outlined are a necessary start, they must at each point be related to the other criteria for building design, not least of which will be the question of structural possibility, durability and its relationship to overall building costs, both initial and running costs, which relate to overall sustainability.

    Change is at the heart of daylighting, the human body has a capacity for adaptation, particularly in vision, and the need to exercise this response. Perception reacts to a degree of change; it is the natural order of things that the appearance of interior spaces alter with time; and if we have confidence in their continuing reality, it is because change in their lit appearance allows us to continue an exploration of the spaces we inhabit; an entirely different measure of experience to the static qualities of spaces lit entirely by artificial sources of light during the day; or where there is no access to the daylight outside.

    There is a natural process of renewal in the photochemical processes of the eye as it adapts to accommodate changes in daylight First there is the natural change from day to night, from first light until dark and the need for artificial sources to take over when daylight fades. Then there are the changes associated with changes of the weather; from bright sunny days to dark and cloudy or rainy days, there is little doubt that the human spirit soars when rising in the morning on a bright day, an experience which is less likely to happen when it is dark and gloomy outside.

    Closely associated with changes in the weather are those of the changes of season, from the winter snows to summer sunlight; each season will have its own character, which as human beings we accommodate to in our own way; but what is important is that the world outside, as experienced through the window, provides necessary information of the variety of the exterior world; whilst leading to subtle changes in the appearance of the interior.

    This is referred to as its modelling and when this derives from daylight or sunlight, giving light from a single direction, this provides a form which is perceived by the eye as having meaning, unambiguous. This is a different experience again from the form of an object or space resulting from a room lit by artificial light, where the overall light may be received from a multitude of light sources. The most usual daylight modelling is that derived from vertical windows at the side of a room, giving light from a single direction; this may be helped by windows from an adjacent wall which adds to the modelling; as the light will still be from the same overall direction, but adding to the total modelling.

    Two examples might be used to emphasize this, the first, a Greek Doric column where the light of day gives modelling to the entasis on the rounded surfaces of the column; light which emphasizes its particular rounded quality together with its verticality. The second example is the original David statue by Michelangelo seen in its setting in the art gallery in Florence, lit from daylight above, where the form changes in time as the day goes by.

    A more modern example of the use of overhead daylight to light a statue is the Charioteer in Delphi Case Study pp. Daylight by its nature gives meaning and aids our understanding of a shape or space by its directional flow; a meaning which is emphasized even further by the addition of direct sunlight.

    Interior spaces are judged to be pleasant, bright or gloomy as a result of the effects of modelling and interiors are judged by the way in which the spaces and the objects within them are seen during the day to be natural, or accord to our experience of the natural world. The charioteer statue at Delphi, daylit See Case Study pp.

    There may of course be severe restrictions where the building is set into a rigid street pattern, or where there are severe external obstructions; but even in these circumstances the best use of the daylighting available should be considered. The architect will have the greatest flexibility to get the building orientation right on a greenfield site, where he can plan the site layout to take advantage of the sun path and the availability of the daylight. Taking an example from residential buildings in the northern hemi- sphere, and using the simple fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, it would be normal to ensure that those rooms which might benefit most from early morning light, such as a kitchen, morning room or even bedrooms, are placed on the east side, whilst those more likely to be used in the afternoon or evening such as living rooms face south or west.

    There will of course be debate about the desirability of selecting a specific orientation for a particular use of room and it will be up to the Environment I I architect to discuss this with his client, and there may also be conflict with the orientation of a room when associated with the ability to enjoy a particular view. As with all architecture a compromise will need to be established which best fits the needs of the interior function. What is essential is that the orientation of a building and the interior layout takes most advantage of the daylight available and is a factor taken into consideration at the outset of the building design.

    Each architectural programme whether an office, school or church, will have its own specific needs of orientation, and this is of special significance where the interior function is one requiring the inhabitants to sit in fixed positions, often the case in offices or classrooms. Another aspect of orientation and one where the mere presence of daylighting is reassuring, is the subconscious desire of people when inside a building to keep in touch with the outside world, whether to know the time of day or the nature of the weather.

    An example of this might be taken from the modern shopping centre. The Victorians had got it right when they introduced overhead daylighting from domes or barrel vaults to their shopping arcades. But in the s many of our early shopping centres cut out daylight altogether, leading to people finding it difficult to negotiate their way around or to find the exits. City Plaza, Hong Kong In one large shopping centre built in Hong Kong in the s where daylight had been eliminated, visitors felt so disorientated that extreme measures had to be taken; whilst at City Plaza, another shopping centre of similar size where daylight had been provided over much of the multistorey space, it was an immediate success.

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    There is little likelihood that any shopping centre built now would not be daylit, there is a public demand for natural light in large open areas used by the public during the day and whilst the individual shop may be lit with artificial light to enhance the goods on sale, the public areas will assist orientation by the provision of daylight. At night the whole atmosphere will change, contributing to the variety we associate with the high street shop with artificial light taking over after dark. The Sun: Problem or Opportunity?