A Guide to Daylighting

What is Daylighting?

Daylighting is the name for when natural light is manipulated to help light a building in order to reduce energy use. Windows, skylights, and reflective surfaces are used to channel natural light to create a sustainable light source for the building. Generally these are designed to be used in conjunction with a traditional lighting system (this is the UK after all, the sun doesn’t shine all the time!), often using photosensor detection and automated dimming/switching, so that a constant level of light is maintained. These systems are known as daylight harvesting.

Why does Daylighting need special analysis?

It may seem obvious to say that if you want more natural light, you should add more windows. Daylighting is much more advanced and complex than that. A Daylighting analysis uses simulation and computer software to provide insight into how a given natural light design will affect the building in practice. For example, in an office you want the light focused in a way that avoids it shining directly onto computer screens or in the eyes. It’s not just about getting as much natural light as possible into the building, it’s about optimising it to work alongside the design, occupants, and usage of the building.

What kind of buildings can benefit from Daylighting analysis?

Daylighting analysis is generally carried out at the design stage of a new build. A Daylighting analysis can use basic plans and work with the architect to create a Daylighting design. 

It is possible to retrofit Daylighting in an existing structure, but results are unlikely to be as powerful as those integrated into the original design. When analysing the Daylighting opportunities of an existing building, it is important to take into account a lot of elements; the roof pitch, ceiling height, interior layout, and existing mechanical system (eg air vents, pipes, etc) all need to be factored in. Since these were not considered for Daylighting purposes during the original design, it may be necessary to make certain alternations in order to achieve a fully functioning Daylighting system.

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