The History of Daylighting and Its Importance To Sustainable Lighting Today

By Jeff Brain | March 04, 2015

From the time of the earliest primitive cave dwellings to the development of evermore staggering cathedrals in the medieval Gothic era, humans have used natural light to enrich interior spaces. Daylighting and window design has always been central to the functioning of an indoor environment.

A Brief History of Daylighting

The development of technology that has enabled us to build openings into the roof and walls of a structure has advanced over time. Glass was first developed by the Egyptians as early as 3000 BCE, but it was not used to fill an opening in a building until much later, during the first century BCE in Imperial Rome, when small panes of glass were used to simultaneously admit the warmth of sunlight indoors while protecting building occupants from the elements. During the medieval Gothic period, small panes of stained glass were used in cathedral architecture, and new innovative window frames and buttresses supported these small panes all the way up to the roofs--which continued to grow in height.

It was not until the seventeenth century AD in England that large panes of glass were manufactured and installed in buildings. During England’s industrial revolution, glass walls and wrap-around windows at the corners of buildings were used to achieve higher levels of light in workplaces, but eventually the pressure for a more economical use of space led to the lowering of roof heights and the reduced penetration of daylight within buildings.

The Rise of Electric Lighting

Utility companies and electrical lighting manufacturers took advantage of this and encouraged the widespread use of light bulbs throughout the 19th and 20th century. By the 1960s, it was believed that artificial, electrical light ought to become the sole source of illumination, and the need for high quality interior lighting made electrical lamps appear to be an inevitable necessity. Daylighting was no longer seen as a functional technique for indoor lighting, and new, windowless factories and schools were constructed.

The energy crisis of the 1970s motivated people to find new approaches to lighting that did not strain the already limited and irreplaceable supply of fossil fuels. Since then, manufacturers of daylighting devices re-entered the field of mainstream lighting, and have increased production to accommodate the growing need for cost-efficient, natural light sources. While daylighting is not cost-free, since it can lead to heat gain and loss as well as further issues that necessitate the use of controls for glare and ventilation, there are significant savings that result from the use of sustainable daylighting devices.

A Return To Sustainable Design

The natural environment affects humans in everyday life; it has been found to be an important and positive influence on the healthy development and overall wellbeing of men and women alike. Natural light has been linked to the prevention of multiple sclerosis, rickets, hypertension, seasonal affective disorder, and certain autoimmune diseases. Studies also show that direct exposure to sunlight acts as a natural de-stressor.

Passive architecture, which relies on the natural environment for lighting, heating, and cooling, and which  reduces the need for artificial lighting and air conditioning systems, has become one of the leading trends in sustainable design. New innovations in passive architecture harness natural and renewable resources in a way that balances the benefits for present-day building occupants with the needs of future generations. Daylighting has become more sophisticated than simple openings in a building structure. New materials and technologies have led to advances in design, which can enhance or control interior light levels through the use of GPS units, specialized lens coatings, photovoltaic energy, mirrors, and blind systems.

The Ciralight SunTracker is an innovative, sustainable daylighting device. It uses a combination of solar power and GPS technology to precisely align a set of mirrors with the position of the sun, so that these mirrors direct the sunlight downwards into a building interior for up to 10+ hours a day. This pioneering design is more efficient that traditional or tubular skylights, and offers a return on its investment in 2.5-4 years.

If you are interested in Ciralight’s innovative SunTracker technology, visit our website or contact our sales team today. Together we can light the future naturally!


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