5 Design Considerations When Using Daylighting Solutions
By Torrin Greathouse | May 28, 2015
When using or installing a daylighting solution in your building, there are a few major elements of building design to consider. It is easy to install the wrong option for your facility if you do not understand your building’s design requirements. Here are the top five elements to consider when using daylighting solutions in your facility:
1. Building Envelope
The most common form of daylighting is skylights, followed by windows with lighting controls, and both of these solutions disrupt the thermal barrier provided by the building envelope. Installing skylights requires cutting multiple holes in the roof and ceiling and removing insulation wherever the skylights will be placed. Because of this, it is important to find a system that protects your building against heat loss and gain.
The National Fenestration Rating Council, a non-profit organization that provides statistical ratings for daylighting products, provides heat loss and heat gain ratings for different daylighting systems available on its website. You can offset the change in your building’s envelope by finding a system with a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient and U-Value as close to zero as possible and by minimizing the number of devices that pierce the building envelope.
2. Weatherproof Construction
Weatherproofing your building will prevent leaks and improve energy efficiency. If improperly installed, daylighting systems can collect condensation which eventually leads to mold or structural damage. Not only that, but some daylighting products can degrade over time with exposure to the sun and other harsh elements. Make sure before installing a daylighting system that it has been thoroughly tested for resistance to rain, high winds, and damage from extreme temperatures. In areas with tall trees and high winds, additional testing for impact resistance is especially important.
3. Light Level Requirement
The optimal light level of a building varies according to how the building is used. For example, mechanic shops require bright lighting, which increases visibility when doing detailed work, while office buildings require less light, because bright light generates glare which causes eyestrain in workers who look at computer screens all day.
The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America provides guidelines for the recommended light level based upon the tasks performed in a facility. Install a system that helps maintain optimal lighting level so your facility will not need to add supplemental electric lighting that raises energy costs.
4. Facility Location
One of the most overlooked elements of lighting design is the facility’s location. Differing angles of light and weather patterns affect the light quality inside of a building. In North America, south facing skylights generate the highest heat gain, driving up the HVAC costs of a facility, while east and west facing skylights provide higher quality light during the morning and evening respectively. Creating a design that works with the geographical constraints of your building requires researching products that can provide quality light despite climate or location based issues, because finding the right system will maximize savings.
5. Return on Investment
All of these design factors contribute toward a lighting system’s Return on Investment, or ROI. This is the projected amount of time it takes for an investment to pay itself off with savings. The ROIs of daylighting systems vary according to how well the system reduces electric lighting and HVAC use. Research which devices have the shortest ROI periods and ensure that the investment will be worth it.
The Ciralight SunTracker™ is a solar-tracking skylight that uses a combination of solar power and GPS technology to provide natural sunlight for up to 10+ hours per day, rain or shine, completely free and off-the-grid. SunTrackers™ also offer an ROI of between 2.5 – 4 years. See how effective Ciralight’s daylighting solution will be in your building by requesting a free design plan today.
(Photo: Derek Steen, CC.)
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