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The Daylight Dynamic: Striking a Balance Between Natural and Artificial Light

Sept. 8, 2022
Light is a dance with architecture—and daylight is perhaps the best place to start.

By Clifton Stanley Lemon

Almost everyone prefers beautifully balanced daylight in buildings, especially when it comes from windows that also provide great views. But access to views of the outdoors goes beyond simply preference; there are measurable, negative outcomes for those who lack access to daylight in interior spaces.

“Those without access to daylight and views have been shown to be less productive and less creative, and to take more sick days—at a significant expense to their communities and the companies for which they work,” the AIA reported in its Framework for Design Excellence series.

Yet for many reasons, much of our current built environment simply doesn’t provide these daylight and views. What’s a designer to do, especially if you don’t have anything to say about the building siting, massing, skin and fenestration in the first place?

It’s certainly very hard to change buildings after they’re built. To use a medical analogy, we often treat the symptoms of an ailing building with technology—replicating sunlight with electric light and developing ever more complex lighting systems—rather than the underlying cause, which is lack of natural light. Traditionally, daylighting design has not been the purview of the lighting designer, but this is changing, as innovative firms take a more holistic approach to lighting and daylighting design that includes close integration with architecture and other building systems.

A Conversation on the Daylighting Dynamic

At LightSPEC West in Los Angeles on September 21, Teal Brogden and Venna Resurreccion of HLB Lighting Design, will present a talk entitled, Experiencing the Daylight Dynamic. HLB is one of the few lighting firms in the U.S. with a deep and robust practice in daylighting design, and they’ve developed an exemplary practice in integrating daylight with electric light. Their talk will focus on the design process and the many health and wellness benefits of daylight and views through a series of exemplary case studies.

Teal and Venna will also describe ways in which regenerative lighting design uses daylight first before considering electric light, and how the two can be balanced. They will present data on the impact of views and daylight on real estate value, productivity and other metrics from studies of schools and daylight, and health outcomes from hospital rooms with access to views and daylight. Additionally, they will evaluate specific qualities and forms of architecture that provide optimal views and daylight and how these can be put to best use for electric light as well.

Their talk will further discuss the possibilities for lighting designers to evolve their professional practices by capturing important daylight and window treatment scope, collaborating directly with architects, engineers and building owners. This is an important new area for many lighting designers and will present challenges, as it’s outside the traditional scope of designers and specifiers who are typically only concerned with electric light and controls.

Even if most lighting designers don’t plan on expanding their scope into daylighting design anytime soon, learning about it can greatly improve understanding of design with electric light. Light is a dance with architecture, regardless of its source—and daylight is perhaps the best place to start.

About the Author: In addition to his role as program director for LightSPEC West conferences, Clifton Stanley Lemon is a contributor to LEDs Magazine, a sister publication to i+s under the Endeavor Business Media brand, and CEO of Clifton Lemon Associates, a consultancy providing strategy, marketing, and education services to the lighting and energy industries.

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