How to Maximize the Natural Lighting in Your Building Designs

By Jeff Brain | August 03, 2015

Whether you are aiming for more LEED points, trying to reduce energy usage, or simply want to create the best possible experience for building occupants, maximizing natural lighting is an important component of good design. Strategic placement and selection of windows, doors, and skylights to optimize natural lighting has been shown to improve sales in retail environments, reduce absenteeism in offices, and improve performance in schools. 

In addition to these benefits, properly implemented natural lighting will cost the building owner less in the long run than electric lighting. Being able to turn off electric lighting for long periods during the day not only reduces lighting-related costs, but it will also reduce HVAC use. Maintenance expenses for both electric lighting and HVAC systems are therefore also lower.

The benefits of natural lighting are clear, but designers are not always able to take all of the steps necessary to maximize it. With new technologies emerging all the time, it is important to stay informed about the latest cutting-edge lighting solutions.

Maximizing Natural Lighting in Building Designs

More and more developers are looking for sustainable solutions for offices, retail buildings, schools, and other commercial enterprises, and lighting is an important component of sustainable design. When designing a new structure or renovating an older one, consider the following ways to maximize natural lighting:

Proper glazing

A building with a lot of windows will allow a lot of light in. However, when sunlight comes directly through windows that don’t have the right type of glazing, it can create unpleasant glare or hotspots that are too bright. When this happens, building occupants typically draw the shades and turn on electric lights, defeating the purpose of your daylighting solution. However, windows with the right type of glazing and shading can reduce this glare and prevent solar heat gain while still allowing natural light to pass through.

Building layout

In a multi-story building that uses windows for natural lighting on lower levels, the amount of light that enters a space can be limited, so it’s important to consider how the space will be used. For example, placing offices and common spaces around the perimeter nearest the windows, and transitional spaces like bathrooms and supply rooms in the center of the space will allow occupants to get the most from the natural light.

Smart skylights

For upper floors or single-story structures, skylights can provide some of the best natural light throughout the entire area. However, there are some important considerations when selecting an industrial skylight. Just as a window with poor glazing will defeat the purpose of your natural lighting strategy, so will a poorly selected skylight. Traditional skylights create hotspots and can create solar heat gain, impacting the cooling load of the building. While more advanced skylights, such as tubular and prismatic, have some benefits, they only provide natural lighting for a limited period of time during the day. Solar tracking skylights deliver the most light and can recoup the costs in two and a half to four years, offering the quickest return on investment of any skylight model available.

Ciralight SunTrackers are designed to capture natural light throughout the entire day. With a solar-powered GPS controller and a dynamic mirror array that harnesses sunlight no matter where the sun is in the sky, SunTrackers can deliver more than ten hours of natural lighting per day.

For more information about Ciralight SunTrackers and how they can help you maximize natural lighting in your building designs, download our Architect’s Guide today.   

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