Presentations Shed Some Light on the Daylighting Design Process
April 14, 2010

Daylighting designs have seen increasing interest in recent years. Several presenters during the BEST 2 conference, which is taking place this week in Portland, Ore. (CLICK HERE for related article), talked about different aspects of daylighting design.

Taking a look at the daylighting design process, Keith Yancey with Lam Partners in Cambridge, Mass., pointed out, “It’s just that: a process; one that’s sometimes not quite as linear as others, but a process, nonetheless.”

Yancey’s presentation covered some of the daylighting tools and techniques commonly used during the design process.

“It wasn’t that long ago that sunlight and daylight were the primary sources of light in architecture,” Yancey said. “[Light] was carefully introduced into the design.” He added that the way the light was introduced provided more than just useful light for performing tasks; it also made for a comfortable place to be.

“Why are we providing light in the first place?” he asked. “The buildings don’t need it. We need it as human beings.”

Yancey explained that what differentiates daylight architecture from just another building with windows is that the daylight building is designed to manipulate space, reduce energy consumption, enhance visual and spatial environment and provide useful, comfortable illumination.

In addition, he also talked about some of the tools and technologies available that can be used in the daylighting design process. For example, sun-path diagrams can be used to allow a client to see where the sun will be in the building over the course of a year. Other programs can allow the designer to show a client whether a light shelf or overhang would be a cost-effective selection.

Models and animation have also seen advancements.

“These can show the client the dynamic qualities of the space … as well as other issues, such as shading,” said Yancey. “Physical models are helpful for qualitative decisions.”

He added, “[The design] is not only about daylighting and how it comes in, but also how you control it,” said Yancey.

In addition to a focus on the daylighting design process, another presentation covered net-zero requirements and daylighting/efficient lighting design. James Benya with Benya Lighting Design told his audience that the real issue is no longer designing for sustainability; it’s now about net-zero designs.

“We need to change our sources of energy,” Benya said. With daylighting, “many climate change issues could be stabilized, if not improved.”

He continued, “Those involved with lighting and daylighting realize there’s been a promise of lighting: the sun is there all day and it’s free; we just have to learn to use it properly.”

When designing a net-zero building, one thing to take into consideration is that the amount of electric light used must be reduced. Realizing how, where and how much is being used is also important.

To create these structures, he advised becoming a daylight designer.

“Learn to make it part of the design process. Learn to design for dynamic light levels because light levels vary,” said Benya.

Benya explained there are a number of ways to bring daylight into the structure. These can include skylights, linear skylights, clerestories, tubular daylighting devices and sidelites.

Likewise, he pointed out that building integrated photovoltaics are being used more and more.

Benya added, “We can reduce indoor lighting significantly. If you want to get to net-zero, one of the first things you need to do is stop turning the lights on during the day.”

And in terms of LEED, he said, “Daylighting is probably one of the most powerful tools we can use.”

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