July 2, 2014

Architectural Daylighting

Sustainable building design is officially defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.”

Architectural daylighting is an important element of sustainable design; rather than relying solely on electric lighting during the day, daylighting brings indirect natural light into the building. This specific type of lighting design engineering is the practice of placing windows, skylights, light shelves or other openings and reflective surfaces so that during the day natural light provides effective internal lighting. Beyond that, though, the science of architectural daylighting design involves how to do so without any undesirable side effects by carefully balancing heat gain and loss, glare control, and variations in daylight availability.

Good architectural daylighting creates beautiful, appropriately lit spaces while reducing the need for electric lighting, providing pleasing illumination at a fraction of the cost of the most efficient electric lights. This type of sustainable design is a viable option for most building types and locations. It can be a viable, energy savings strategy in almost any climate, including traditionally overcast climates such as those found in parts of the Pacific Northwest. By connecting building occupants to the outdoors, daylight provides health, performance and well-being benefits while enhancing the general appearance of a space. Consider that an outside view may play a role in helping individuals relax their eyes by allowing them to occasionally focus on objects that are at large distances.

By including lighting design issues from the beginning of a project, especially when seeking a LEED certification, sustainable design goals can be best met. During each phase of the design process, lighting design engineering concerns can help guide overall building performance considerations.

Corporate facility engineering presents a unique and specific set of engineering challenges. For example, one company’s preference may be another company’s rule to avoid as well as one person’s experiences may be in direct contrast to another’s experiences with the same installation.

An effectively day lit building is the product of a combination of architecture and engineering and requires an integrated design approach to be successful. Decisions about the building form, siting, climate, building components, lighting controls and lighting design criteria all have to be taken into consideration.

Our philosophy at KMB is first to understand, then provide appropriate solutions and designs, not born out of our personal preferences, but incorporating experience from previous successful projects, that align with our clients’ desires.