Sunlight: it’s often something we take for granted. With alternative light sources integrated so deeply into our lives, it’s easy to forget the great importance and benefits from daylight exposure.
If you’ve ever lived somewhere with short winter days, you will know that humans respond well to sunlight. It is an essential part of our well-being. It has huge effects on our health and can offer great ways to orchestrate sustainable relationships with our environment. The effect daylight can have within architecture is monumental. Despite well documented research into its effect on us and the important role it plays in architecture, it remains somewhat ignored in architecture education.
Luckily, the industry has risen to save the daylight. Multiple awards have emerged as a form of encouragement to designers of all ages. Such competitions have brought some interesting techniques and perspectives to light, so to speak.
Omar Gandhi, name one of the top 20 Young Architects in the World by Wallpaper Magazine, urges designers to think about lighting the same way you would think about a song; with high points and low points and crescendos. Rather than lighting up a whole room, highlighting and focusing on certain areas can create a powerful contrast. In this sense the light permitted into a room can be a tool used to create a narrative throughout the interior design.
Another way in which daylight is being utilized is as a way of positively affecting the inhabitants of a building. The natural cycle of light and darkness is essential for our biological clock as well as our circadian rhythm, both of which have a huge effect on our general health and wellbeing.
The Green Solutions House in Denmark is a conference center which has daylight at the forefront of its design. The center is built as a space to focus on environmentally-friendly solutions, whilst also providing a healthy indoor space for the people that visit it. Using the daylight factor method, a recognized performance indicator used to measure the available amount of daylight in a room, the center was designed to maximise daylight exposure. Fitted with large glazed facades and many skylights, the building is visually stunning and provides clear lighting for conferences.
The building is also very efficient, with skylights that are equipped with control systems programmed to automatically open windows for ventilation, as well as adjusting sun screening for thermal comfort and energy balance.
Such innovations in lighting have been promoted by experts in the industry, such as the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), who hold an annual design award acknowledging excellent use of daylight in architecture. The International Velux award for students of architecture is also encouraging the use of daylight in design. It’s fantastic to see architects across the board being prompted for such innovations.
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