Between 80 and 85 percent of our impressions of the world are visual, and with Americans spending a large amount of their time indoors, most lighting is therefore electric/created. A study done by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) determined that 68 percent of employees complain about the light in their offices. In windowless offices, workers tend to experience stress and feelings of being cooped up.
Day lighting is a technique that can help combat these feelings; it directs, diffuses or reflects daylight to provide general or supplemental lighting. Reasons for the renewed interest in day lighting are, the high cost of fossil fuels and more important are the less tangible aspects of day lighting, which relate more to the human spirit, the quality of life. Day lighting is believed to be essential in providing a pleasant visual environment, contributing to a feeling of well-being.
Connecting with the great outdoors is so important in Europe that in some countries, building codes require that all occupants have access to daylight, greatly impacting the architectural landscape with longer, thinner buildings. For example, Germany and the Netherlands, have regulations determining that in a work situation, the staff must not be located further than six meters from a window.
The psychological benefits of day lighting include:
- Sensory variability
- Visual pleasantness
- Connection to nature
- Potential reduction in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Time/Weather information
- Perceived as healthier than electric light
The following are a few design tips you can incorporate into any living or working space.
- Use light-transmitting materials for partitions where possible. Use clear or translucent materials in the upper portion of full-height partitions. If this approach is taken in corridor walls, corridors may be adequately lighted just by this spill of light.
- Don’t use large areas of dark colors. Generally avoid all dark colors except as accents, and keep them away from windows. Dark surfaces impede daylight penetration and cause glare when seen beside bright surfaces. For good distribution throughout the room, it is especially important that the wall facing the window be light colored.
- Choose matte over glossy surface finishes. Matt finishes are recommended for good distribution of daylight and no reflected glare.
- Supply window coverings that allow individual control to accommodate different glare tolerances. Interior window shading should be light colored for best cooling load reduction.
- Choose colors under the right light. Choose interior colors and finishes under daylight and under the proposed electric lamps to avoid surprises in color rendering.
SARAH BARNARD is a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), is certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and is recognized by the International Institute for Bau-Biologie & Ecology as a Building Biology Practitioner (BBP) and by the United States Green Building Council as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). She serves on the Santa Monica Conservancy’s board of directors and specializes in green interior design and historic preservation. For more information about Sarah and her practice visit www.sarahbarnard.com
Nashua Alfaro (guest blogger) is a recent graduate of California State University Northridge and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design. She has completed pro-bono design work for the Cohasset Elementary School in Van Nuys, CA and in her free time enjoys reading, hiking and preparing Nicaraguan cuisine.
Fontoynont, Marc. Daylighting Performance of Buildings: 60 European Case Studies. Right Light 4. 1997. Volume 2. P. 61-68.
Phillips, Derek. . Natural Light in Architecture. Day and Light. www.cibse.org