How Natural Lighting Should Fit Into Your LEED Certification Strategy

By Jeff Brain | June 09, 2015

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program has stringent standards for achieving certification. Lighting plans are one of the many factors that are evaluated during the certification process. One reason for this is that electric lighting makes up about 40% of energy use for the average business. In addition to this, removing heat-generating electric bulbs can reduce HVAC costs, leading to an estimated 75 - 80% savings, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program estimated to be between 75-80%.

Using low-energy fixtures and as much natural lighting as possible will help increase your chances of meeting the sustainability requirements for LEED certification. When done right, natural lighting also helps reduce HVAC costs because less heat is wasted with daylighting products than when it is generated by electric light fixtures. However, it is important to know that there are different types of natural lighting products, and some traditional solutions can actually contribute to solar heat gain and increase HVAC use.

Although it is only one component of an overall LEED strategy, natural lighting can help you achieve certification in a number of ways.

Natural Lighting and LEED Certification

The USGBC calculates the number of points your project receives, which will determine which of the four levels of certification it will receive: Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. Some of the categories that are evaluated with daylighting systems include:

  • Energy and atmosphere - Your project will receive points for improving energy performance with innovative strategies. It is estimated that a building designed to optimize natural lighting can reduce lighting energy use between 50% and 80%.

  • Indoor environmental quality - LEED takes a holistic approach that takes the health of the building’s occupants into consideration. This category includes both indoor air quality and access to views and natural daylight. In addition to reducing energy costs, natural lighting helps improve occupant productivity and reduce absenteeism. Natural daylight has a positive impact on both physical and psychological health, which is why your project will get more points for maximizing natural lighting.

  • Innovation and design process - You can receive one LEED point for creating an educational program to teach the building occupants why natural lighting is so important.

  • Materials and resources - LEED points are awarded for using materials that were manufactured within 500 miles of the project location. Depending on your location and the natural lighting solution provider you choose, you might be able to get LEED credits in this category. In the case of Ciralight’s products, certain areas of Texas, Arizona, and California meet these criteria.

Depending on your project and the LEED rating system you use, you can gain up to 10 points by adding natural lighting to the design. Once you consider that the lowest level of LEED certification requires a minimum of 40 points, you can see that implementing a natural lighting solution can have a major impact on energy efficiency and the overall environmental impact of your building.

As a proud member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Ciralight is committed to helping you find the best natural lighting solution for your project. We have worked with retail stores, schools, grocery stores, warehouses, and many businesses who have incorporated SunTrackers into LEED projects. Contact us today to learn more about SunTrackers and how they can help you achieve LEED certification.  

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