The ever-changing nature of daylight

Daylight is different, every moment of every day. Time, location, orientation, climate and the surrounding environment are just a few elements that play a role in how much daylight we are exposed to each day. And as this daylight changes so does its effects on our biological functions.

Our bodies require this variety of daylight in the right quantities and at the right times to function properly. That is why it is important to create buildings that mitigate visual discomfort, inconsistent light exposure and poor thermal regulation all year round.

Controlling the effects of daylight

Even with its myriad benefits, when uncontrolled, excessive daylight has the potential to make internal spaces visually uncomfortable and overheated – causing annoyance, eye damage, skin damage and heat exhaustion, and even affecting concentration.

When settling on a daylighting strategy, it is essential to take into account every variable to ensure visual and thermal comfort is maintained. Each element of the system – from shading and tree coverage to layout – needs to work together to ensure light levels, glare, contrast and distribution are effectively controlled throughout the building, whether it is a bright summer’s day or a cloudy winter’s morning.

Different solutions for different daylighting and ventilation needs

Different spaces have different daylighting and ventilation needs and it is important to choose strategies and layouts that provide the best solution for each space – from function to visual appeal, required impact to available space.

Using the most appropriate window layout, an architect has the power to improve overall light exposure, lower energy costs and provide a high-quality indoor environment that answers both the occupants’ activity and biological needs. It’s all about getting the right type of light, in the right quantities, where you need it.

Daylighting in different spaces Andrew Bissell discusses designing for daylight in different spaces

Classrooms, offices and studios

In classrooms, offices and studios, light should to cater for the needs of the activity taking place. These areas benefit from clear glazing and combination of light and shade, with activity needing a good amount of focussed light without too much contrast for visual comfort.

Roof windows can help maintain levels of light coming into any part of the building all year round. Even in winter, they ensure spaces feel well lit during daylight hours, whilst in the summer they can be opened to allow fresh air in.

In the case of early learning centres, movable blinds and shutters can also provide darkness during the day to allow children to sleep.

Understanding daylight requirements in offices Andrew Bissell discusses daylight requirements in offices

Sports and leisure facilities

Sports and leisure facilities differ in lighting quality and quantity to classrooms – requiring more diffused light and glare-free opaque materials. Here light levels need to be fairly even throughout to help maintain a broad field of vision.

Due to the high level of physical activity taking place in these spaces, heat can build up. The ventilation provided by roof windows allows this heat to rise up and out of the building.

Corridors, hallways and transition spaces

In corridors and hallways, where the main purpose is wayfinding, light should be both diffused and wide-reaching. These areas are about connecting other areas of the building together, so connect them with light.

These spaces should generally be open and well-ventilated to allow fresh air to circulate around a building and from space to space.

Interior and windowless spaces

For spaces where views are not of a priority windows are impractical due to the nature of the space, a sun tunnel could be an effective alternative. It can bring daylight into spaces generally not thought possible, such as interior rooms, storage rooms and windowless bathrooms.

Common areas

Common areas should be bright, airy and have a strong connection to the outside.

A well thought out space can bring in a lot of daylight and even improve the amount of daylight received by the rest of the building. This can be achieved by strategically combining features such as open layouts, light from multiple sources, plenty of glazing and complementary façade colours – helping daylight penetrate deeper into the interior of a building for a much longer period of the day ensuring the whole space feel brighter, larger and more welcoming.

Effective daylighting and ventilation

Daylight and ventilation has the power to make classrooms better for learning, offices more productive, care facilities better for healing, and every building in between brighter, healthier, more economical and more comfortable.

However, developing an effective daylight and ventilation strategy is not just about letting daylight and fresh air in. It is about harnessing it to provide the maximum impact for the location, defined function and visual appeal, both psychologically and economically.

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