How Natural Lighting Enhances Every Element of Architectural Design

By Jeff Brain | December 29, 2015

Natural light can be used to highlight and enhance the architectural design of a building, improving the aesthetics of the space. Buildings illuminated by natural light are more visually appealing and appear more comfortable and spacious that those lit with artificial lighting.

More Visually Appealing  

It is scientifically proven that lighting quality effects the visual appeal of a space. The high color rendition provided by natural lighting enhances the look of the room and the objects in the space. Under commonly used fluorescent bulbs, the human eye can only differentiate around eight shades of each color. In the broad spectrum light of the sun, they are able to recognize as many as 50,000 different shades. Elements of architectural design are shown at their best under natural light.

“Expands” Spaces

The effects of lighting on how we perceive a space are often subconscious. Most people can tell you that naturally lit spaces appear larger, but they often have trouble explaining why. This phenomenon is caused by sunlight diffusing throughout the space and eliminating shadows which can make a room appear smaller or more closed off and can distort the appearance of architectural elements that are essential to the overall design.

Better Quality Light

One of the most commonly used methods for determining the quality of a light source is by testing its Color Rendering Index (CRI), which we talked about earlier. Another important measure of lighting quality is the color correlated temperature, which is the specification of the appearance of a particular spectrum of light. Many artificial lights produce high levels of blue spectrum light, while natural light covers the full spectrum. In addition to enhancing the visual appeal of spaces, this light is literally easy on the eyes, reducing eye strain that is common with artificial lights and increasing visual clarity. Clear, well-lit spaces have been statistically shown to be more comfortable, and many building inhabitants report “non-specific positive environmental feelings” about spaces illuminated with natural light.  

Entry to Biophilic Design

Another key benefit of natural lighting is that it acts as a gateway to moving your facility toward a more visually appealing biophilic design. Biophilia hinges on human’s affinity for nature, incorporating natural elements such as running water, plants, and sunlight into a building design. While there are technical benefits to this, it also acts to create a more lush, beautiful space. Plants and water features break up the monotony of featureless walls, while natural light enhances the existing architecture as well as other biophilic elements. Using more natural light is a simple way to move toward more biophilic design and helps incorporate and maintain other beautiful biophilic elements such as plant installations and green walls.

Download our eBook, A Comprehensive Guide to Sustainable Lighting, to learn more about incorporating natural light into your building’s architectural design.

(Photo: Kay Gaensler, CC.)

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