The Benefits of Daylighting

10 June 2019 Kingspan Light + Air

The importance of daylighting 

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“Daylighting” is the intentional and controlled use of natural light in a space to allow consistent and appropriate amounts of light throughout a space through the placement of windows, skylights and other building openings. 

There are many reasons why daylighting should be a part of building design. Research shows measurable benefits for people who are living, studying, or working in environments with greater natural light.

This short guide explains how daylighting can improve: 

  • Health 
  • Productivity 
  • Learning 
  • Energy efficiency 
  • Sustainability 
  • A personal sense of well-being

​All this makes for a compelling case to maximize natural light in building design. Here is a look at the benefits of daylighting and how to improve daylighting design in any type of building. 

Lighting the way to well-being

People thrive on natural daylight, yet we have constructed our homes, workplaces and schools to restrict sunlight. But being inside doesn’t mean missing out on daylight. Building designs featuring daylighting products are on the rise to enhance the lives of the building occupants. 
 
Research has found that natural light is vital for our well-being and can make us feel happier and more content.   
 
Well-being is not just about feeling good, it is also about being healthy and functioning well. Evidence shows that these experiences are connected. Happier people are more energetic, more creative, better problem-solvers and interact with others more effectively. Exposure to natural daylight increases these qualities. 
 
Historically, people have been drawn to nature and the outdoors. While we spend more and more time indoors in the busy, modern world; deep down our fundamental nature is unchanged. We do not just enjoy natural light, we need it. As living beings, we are linked to the natural environment, and our physical and mental responses to daylight are expressions of that connection. 

The daylighting productivity connection

In addition to creating an elevated sense of well-being, a firm link has been established between daylighting and productivity across a range of settings, from the workplace to the classroom. 
 
Exposure to natural daylight has been shown to increase concentration, short-term memory, and general cognitive performance, all of which have obvious benefits for work and study. 
 
Research shows that worker productivity can increase by up to 20% when companies move to buildings with improved natural light. This is further supported by employee survey results, where “access to natural light & views” is shown as one of the most desired amenities. Absenteeism tends to fall in organizations that understand and act on the importance of daylighting. 
 
There are many possible reasons for the connection between natural light and human performance. One is that exposure to light and dark regulates the body clock, improving mood and attention at key points of the day. Bright, natural light triggers alertness, priming the brain to perform, while dim light or darkness have the opposite effect. 
 

More daylighting means lower energy costs

These days, environmental concerns are high. Daylighting as an energy efficient and sustainable lighting solution can be a go-to option for environmentally aware households and businesses. 
 
Natural light is the most sustainable lighting available and a free renewable resource. One of the largest energy expenses for any company is artificial lighting, making daylighting a smart decision for businesses.  
 
Daylit companies can win twice -- through people productivity gains and through energy cost savings.  
 

Shining a natural light on health

There are a number of health benefits associated with natural light. Workers in offices with natural daylight suffer fewer headaches, and less drowsiness than those more reliant on artificial light. In another example, hospital patients with greater access to sunlight were found to require less pain medication. 
 
Increased exposure to natural light boosts vitamin D, linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Natural light also increases melatonin levels in the evening, supporting healthier sleeping patterns.  
 
Daylight has also been used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition that causes feelings of sadness and hopelessness in times of the year with longer hours of darkness and when poor weather keeps us indoors. This can be caused by an increased production of serotonin in the brain, which affects human mood when people are exposed to blue skies and sunlight. This happens regardless of the outdoor temperature. Doctors treating such patients have found that exposure to natural light, called “bright light therapy,” can make a difference.  
 

Natural light makes for brighter sparks

Research has found a connection between natural light and improved academic performance among young people. This has drawn attention to school design and making these spaces as learning-friendly as possible. 
 
A 2015 study published in the UK showed that physical characteristics of classrooms accounted for a 16% variation in learning progress among more than 3,500 students over one year. 
 
Researchers reported that “naturalness” (lighting, air quality, and temperature) was the most influential category, accounting for 50% of design-related learning impact with light being the most important factor. 
 
They pointed to the sense of physical and mental comfort brought by natural light, stressing that the benefits go beyond just aiding sight. Natural light shifts in value and color throughout the day which resonates with humans more than artificial light.  
 
Similarly, a report by the US-based Eneref Institute makes the connection between exposure to natural light and the human brain. The study notes that daylight is linked to better melatonin regulation, which in turn improves cognition and learning-related tasks.  
 
As with the UK report, the US-based researchers urge school planners to incorporate daylighting solutions into their designs to support alertness, mood, and cognitive function. 
 

Put ideas to practice 

We’ve looked at the benefits of daylight in building design, but what about actually doing it? 
 
There are many possibilities to explore when considering daylight for building design. Daylight can be used in the design of almost any physical space, including homes, apartment complexes, schools, medical facilities, office buildings, warehouses, and factories. 
 
To maximize natural daylight, the solution depends on the project. Start by exploring a wide range of options, and then determine what the best solution is for a given project.  
 
Skylights and roof lights are the most versatile because they can be used on any building. Depending on the scale, they can be built into or form the entire roof area. Their function is to allow natural light from above to enter and disseminate into the interior space. The building exterior or facade can also benefit from translucent daylighting products, to bring additional light into the building at all levels without creating glare. 
 
In all daylighting applications, there are performance, regulatory and sustainability factors to consider when designing buildings for optimal use. 
 
Designs with more natural light can create more productive working environments, better learning spaces, more effective therapeutic settings, and pleasant places to live. 
 
Supported by a growing body of research, why shouldn't we try to maximize those benefits wherever possible? 
 
The ideas begin here. We can help you ask more questions and explore further.  
 
At Kingspan Light + Air we are passionate about championing the benefits of daylight and how this natural element can enhance the health, well-being and productivity for the occupants of any building while saving energy. The possibilities of daylight drive our passion for continuous innovation and are central to our commitment to manufacturing and supplying daylighting products which deliver increased natural light and simply, make buildings better places to work, rest, learn or play. 
 
If you would like to discuss how to incorporate natural light into a new or existing space, contact us today. 
 

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