Fundamentals of Daylight Design

Designing Spaces with Light in Mind

Daylight is dynamic. Daylight design plays a vital role in reducing glare, improving energy efficiency, and providing human-centric benefits. Lighting and light control impact almost every aspect of a building’s design. It can easily enhance and have a positive impact on a building’s environment or be a distraction and somewhat of a nuisance.

Designing a space to allow the right amount of light at the right time of day must take into account the size, number, and location of apertures within a space as well as daylight sufficiency. Daylight sufficiency considers light intensity, floor area and time. The idea is to assess the amount of daylight, the amount of space, and seasonal changes. Depending on the needs of the building’s occupants, daylight sufficiency can be adjusted appropriately.

Here are a few things that our designers zone in on when it comes to creating interior space with healthy daylighting

Glare Avoidance

Glare occurs when light levels are distracting and uncomfortable, and it can be influenced by a variety of factors. It is typically classified as two subtypes: discomfort glare and disability glare.

  • Discomfort glare

 occurs when visibility is reduced and you have the instinctive need to look away. It normally happens when a strong light source enters your field of vision before you can look away.

  • Disability glare

 happens when visibility is reduced but without the desire to look away. This glare usually occurs when light reflects off a screen and text becomes difficult to read.

In both cases, the problem is not having the right amount of light. There are exterior solutions such as awnings and overhangs and interior solutions such as curtains, sheers, blinds, louvers, and roller shades. Glass can also be tinted to absorb a specific amount of light energy or treated with a reflective mirror-like coating to redirect solar energy away from the building.

The Spectrum of Light – Illumination

The spectrum of light used in a space is just as important as glare. There are many non-visual effects associated with light occurring along different spectrums that can impact peoples’ health and wellbeing. To complete the daylighting design successfully, you need to consider how different spectrums of light at different times of day impact people. The proper spectrum is time-dependent and should match up with our circadian rhythm.

Find more insight in this TED presentation about the importance of light for illuminated building design.

  • Subjective Preference 

There is no single solution to quality daylight design. It is subjective and must be determined by the occupants of the building and their needs. For some people “quality daylight” based on metrics and models may feel too dim, too bright, or even full of glare. The goal with daylight design is to create a space where perceived quality matches the real-world response of the people using the space.

  • Interior Surfaces 

The color of your interior surfaces can have a large impact on your daylight intensity. To increase the amount of daylight in a dark space, you can design interior surfaces with highly reflective materials. However, if you choose surfaces that are too shiny and bright you can cause glare. At the same time, matte colors can improve visual comfort when it comes to glare but make a room feel darker. Every interior design decision will have an impact on how daylight affects space.

Learn more about interior design color trends.

  • Effective Aperture 

Effective aperture (EA) is the result of visible light transmittance (VT) and window-to-wall ratio (WWR). Basically, it is the relationship between visible light and window size. Typically, with north and south elevations, you want to start with an EA of .30.

As for glazing, for the appropriate EA, larger windows should use darker glazing while smaller windows should use clearer glazing. As for window location, north facing windows should have clearer glazing while the south, east, and west facades typically require darker glazing.

  • Layout 

Daylight should be considered when it comes to laying out the floor plan, particularly when designing perimeter spaces. For example, open spaces should be adjacent to windows. However, if perimeter spaces must be used as offices, glass walls and partitions should be considered to open private offices for daylight distributions.

Daylight design is not a new concept and it is not solely related to windows. It is an integrated design concept that factors in the whole building from its location to climate, orientation, floor plan, interior design, and more. The key is to make sure the building design follows the fundamentals of daylighting design for both health and performance.

Looking for more? Here are trends in workplace design.


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