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Daylighting the Modern Office

Is daylighting on your list of LEED improvements during your next office remodel? San Diego is definitely one area of the country where business owners can expect to see substantial energy savings by inviting more natural light into the workspace. According to Gregg D. Ander, FAIA, “daylighting helps create a visually stimulating and productive environment for building occupants, while reducing as much as one-third of total building energy costs.”

Natural light doesn’t just lift moods during the workday. Exposure to sunlight during the day also helps the body regulate melatonin, giving employees a better chance to enjoy restful sleep and show up at the office ready to work. Windows that provide outdoor views of natural settings may also reduce stress and improve cognition.

Windows Alone Aren’t Enough

Simply having walls made of plate glass isn’t necessarily the best solution. As Ander points out, the location of windows must take into consideration whether direct sunlight will strike worksurfaces or employees. The glare can be distracting, and UV exposure (even through glass) can be uncomfortably warm. He suggests the use of blinds or shades to give workers the ability to regulate the amount of sunlight in the office. Or, redirection devices can be used for higher windows. In many instances, indirect or diffuse sunlight provides optimal illumination without making the office interior too bright or too warm.

Don’t Pay Double for Lighting

Having the sun and the fluorescents both going full blast is like leaving the windows open while the air conditioner is running. The overall goal of a daylighting program is to ensure that overhead lights are not being used at full capacity when daylight is available. A daylighting system won’t save any energy if there are no changes to the traditional lighting infrastructure.

A daylight-responsive lighting control system that automatically adjusts to the amount of natural light is a smart solution. Overhead lighting is best controlled by facility management rather than by individual employees to avoid differences of opinion over the optimal lighting level. Task lighting at the workstation level may provide supplemental illumination as needed at a low cost.

Have you daylighted your office? What kind of savings have you experienced? Share your story in the comments.


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