The benefits of natural light in office spaces are many. Studies have shown that natural light boosts mood, helps regulate the wake/sleep cycle (circadian rhythm), improves productivity and reduces eye strain. On average, people spend 90% of the days inside either at home, at the office, shopping or traveling in car/public transit, so incorporating natural light into office spaces is vitally important for creating a happy and healthy workspace.
To maximize natural light in offices spaces, builders and architects have to take a series of decisions about the building form, siting, lighting components and lighting design criteria. Many daylighting designs will employ skylights for top-lighting, or admitting daylight from above. This is an ideal option if you have an open office plan with multiple cubicles or desks located at the center of the room where the light from side windows can’t reach – a very common office layout. Based on the project and the structure of the building, there are endless ways skylights can be used to truly bring natural light deeper into office spaces: from inserting multiple rows of skylight modules connected to create a large glass roof, to opening up whole sections of the roof with modular skylights.
Beyond adding windows or skylights to a space, daylighting involves carefully balancing heat gain and loss, glare control, and variations in daylight availability. This is why building materials are also important to increase daylight contribution. Thanks to their unique properties, glass and plastics are the main ones that builders and architect choose to employ in their design projects. While glass is most often used when exposure to direct sunlight or daylight views is desired, plastic is used when trying to maximize the usable daylight footprint in a building without glare or heat gain. Additionally, some skylight systems can be designed to include operable shades to control light and temperature inside the building.
The Evolution of Daylighting
Throughout the years, architects and builders have changed their approach to daylighting strategies. In the past, they used to incorporate daylighting for mostly energy savings potential. But more recently, the implementation of daylighting has evolved to a much larger focus, shifting the attention on the impact of daylight to the building and its occupants.
Employers have in fact recognized the benefits to worker morale and health from a working environment that provides ample daylight and connections to the outdoors. For companies retrofitting older industrial buildings converted into modern workspaces, skylight atriums running down the center of the building have become a go-to daylighting feature because it allows sunlight to penetrate the entire building to the benefit of all workers.
Although the creative and tech industries seem to be main players who have embraced the idea of wellness in the workplace, there are other segments who have chosen to design in ample natural light. Some advanced manufacturing companies understand the need for well-lit workspaces and have added skylights, not only in lobbies and desk areas, but also in their manufacturing spaces.
From creating a more productive working environment, to more effective therapeutic settings and pleasant spaces to live and work, the importance of daylighting will only continue to grow with the years to come.
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