How to Design With Natural Light

By Torrin Greathouse | May 10, 2016

Because of the convenience of electrical lighting, many facilities rely on this alone for illumination despite the elevated electrical costs, heat generation, and lost workplace efficiency that come along with it. Integrating natural light into your building, however, is becoming more affordable and efficient every day. Yet many people are not sure where to begin when designing a naturally lit facility.Here are four simple steps to design a facility that makes full use of the available natural daylight.

Determine Target Light Level

The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America provides lighting guidelines for many different workplaces to help ensure that workers receive the optimal level of lighting for their tasks. Large industrial facilities require much more illumination to ensure safety. In the case of office buildings, overly bright light can cause eyestrain during long hours at a computer. Maintaining the proper light level will increase employee health and productivity, while creating a more comfortable work environment.

Map Out Design Limitations

Is your building single or multi-story? Will this be a new building or a retrofit project? Does your facility consist of multiple smaller areas, or is it a large, open floor plan? All of these scenarios create distinct limitations, which must be taken into consideration to maximize natural light in your building. Multi-story buildings will have to utilize windows and light shelves to bring in light, while retrofit projects are limited to installing new skylights which fit the existing roof and ceiling structure.

Consider the Building Envelope

While incorporating natural light into your design can save a huge amount on lighting, design that ignores your building envelope can cost even more in elevated HVAC costs. Because skylights and other daylighting products create a breach in your building exterior, they can be a source of heat gain or loss. Make sure that when you purchase a system it has a low u-value and solar heat gain coefficient; this will help guarantee that you are saving on lighting while minimizing additional HVAC usage.

Select the Best Systems for Your Building

Taking all of this into account, you can begin searching for the best system or systems to bring natural light into your building. Oftentimes a combination of skylights and other daylighting such as smart windows, shades, and light shelves will help to provide the recommended light level at the least cost.

To learn more about optimizing your building’s lighting design, download our eBook a Guide to Selecting the Best Skylight Solution for Commercial Buildings.

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