The Benefits of Natural Light in Architectural Design

Over the past few decades, electricity-powered lighting solutions have replaced natural light as the main source of light in buildings. However, the recent focus on the environment and the need to save energy has brought the focus back to natural light, making it a key factor in architectural design. One of the most common architectural complaints is a lack of “natural lighting.” It’s not an exaggeration to argue that modern building designs have become gloomy, with only artificial fluorescent and LED lighting providing all the illumination.

Again, lighting, both natural and artificial, is a crucial part of any building’s design. However, designers and architects should allow more and more natural light due to the benefits it provides to the occupants. In addition to improving occupant health, natural light is a fantastic and versatile resource that may dramatically alter a building’s aesthetic.

Types of Natural Light in Architecture

Types of Natural Light in Architecture

There are different types of natural light that enter a building; here are a few examples:

Diffuse and uniform light from larger and more regular openings, such as strip windows around a room.

Direct sunlight onto the floor or other surface at the desired place.

Zenith light from the ceiling, similar to a skylight.

Reflected light from any surface.

Because of the recent emphasis on energy conservation, natural lighting is being reintroduced into buildings. There is intensive research held on the impact of sunlight on human beings.

Here are some of the benefits of natural light in architecture:

Benefits of Natural Light in Architectural Design

The benefits of natural light in architectural design are as follows:

Benefits of Natural Light

01. Energy Conservation

As the topic of sustainability and energy conservation has become increasingly central to the fields of design and architecture, it is worth noting that making efficient use of natural lighting can save electricity bills by as much as 40 percent. In the words of Philip Sloan, Willy Legrand and Joseph S.Chen, “designing buildings to maximise the use of natural lighting can reduce energy consumption by 40 to 60 percent compared to conventional buildings.”

02. Enhances Quality of Space

Strategic incorporation of natural sunlight into built-up spaces can increase the value of a space. Natural light is the key to making a room feel more spacious and inviting than its artificially illuminated counterpart. Large windows provide natural light and also allow for connecting with the outer world.

03. Truer Colours

Natural light makes the colours inside look deeper, more natural, and much more pleasing. Every colour looks better in natural light, from the gunmetal grey of the kitchen counter to the shiny leather of the sofa.

04. Inhibits the Development of Fungi

Rooms that don’t get enough sunlight are breeding grounds for fungi, molds, and insects. The room becomes unpleasant, dark, and possibly smell awful. Natural light, on the other hand, has the potential to keep the room clean and mildew-free.

05. Better Comfort

Living spaces lit by natural light are more comfortable than those lit by bright artificial lights. Too many artificial lights could also lead to additional heating.

06. Enhances Health

According to M. Nathaniel Mead, “Sunlight stimulates the body’s production of Vitamin D and also cures rickets.” It also reduces eye strain, dental problems, bilirubin degradation, the breakdown of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, the development of white blood cells, the enhancement of nervous system function, and the control of blood pressure. Health experts say that rooms with lots of natural light make people feel more comfortable and improve their health. It makes people happier, boosts morale, gives them more energy, and reduces stress.  It refreshes the mind, body, and spirit of a person and helps them stay calm.

07. Benefits in Workplace

People who work in offices are frequently under pressure from a number of sources; they may dislike monotonous tasks and may become exhausted after a period of time. In the words of Emmanuel Tsekleves, Rachel Cooper, “natural light at the workplace improves workplace health. Hence, it is important that natural environments are accessible at the workplace.” Natural lighting in the workplace contributes to better health, lower absenteeism, enhanced productivity, financial savings for the office manager, fewer accidents, improved mental performance, better sleep quality, and increased morale.

08. Benefits in Retail Markets

Unlike wholesale markets, retail markets rely entirely on promotional efforts and positive interactions between buyers and sellers. In recent years, there has been a trend towards allowing natural light inside stores in order to improve their store environment, increase sales, provide a more pleasant shopping environment, attract clients, and enhance colour representations.

Tricks to Incorporate Natural Light

Considering all the advantages, it’s no surprise that many people try to let as much natural light into their homes and offices as possible. Listed below are a few techniques to incorporate natural light:

01. Skylights

Skylights
Skylights
Skylights

Skylights are horizontal openings cut into the rooftops of buildings at strategic locations to let sunlight into the interior space. Translucent glass used at the top allows light to come in without invading privacy. However, this requires careful application as it promotes the gain of thermal loads in the building, which raises the temperature inside. Therefore, they require careful placement and projection with respect to size and sealing materials. We recommend Addlite roof lights for flat roofs.

02. Glass Door

Glass Door
Glass Door
Glass Door

Another popular way to let more light into a living space is to get rid of large pieces of furniture and solid doors that block light. The idea is to get rid of the solid doors and replace them with glass ones, or even leave some openings without doors. This allows more light to come in.

Here’s a video to sum up all the points mentioned above & below:

03. Solar Tunnels

Solar Tunnels
Solar Tunnels

Many people may not know this, but sun tunnels, sun tubes, light pipes, or tubular day lighting devices can turn a room with no windows or little natural light into a space that is bright and full of natural energy. This is a great addition to a home area where natural light hasn’t been able to get in before.

The working of solar tunnels can be a bit complex. Solar tunnels are glass tubes with reflective coatings on both ends. Both ends enter the ceiling of the room you’ve chosen, one via the roof. They let in plenty of sunlight, which is reflected off the mirror’s surface and fills the rooms with natural light. They are easy to install. The diameter of the tunnel can vary as per requirements. It is advisable to use bigger ones for bigger rooms.

Kelly Walsh High School

Solar tunnels are also called sun tunnels or solar tubes. Kelly Walsh High School is a public secondary institution located in Casper, Wyoming wherein sun tunnels and LED based lightings are incorporated. Bringing in natural light with solar tunnels is an excellent way to enhance the indoor living space.

04. Light Shelf

Light Shelf
Sidwell Friends School

A light shelf diffuses and effectively facilitates the entry of light into the room. A light shelf is a horizontal, shelf-like element that reflects visible light upward towards the ceiling. From here, the light reflects down into the interior of a room. The location of these shelves plays a crucial role.

To optimise sunshine, light shelves are built around a building’s southern side in the Northern Hemisphere. Light shelves must be constructed on a building’s north side in the Southern Hemisphere for maximum exposure. In any situation, ongoing maintenance is necessary to keep the light shelves as reflective as possible while also making sure they remain functional.

One of the examples of light shelf executed is in Sidwell Friends School in Washington. The greatest energy savings is from the use of light wherein the large windows have light shelves above, reflecting light farther in rooms without letting in heat.

Conclusion

Life on Earth is due to the presence of natural light, which has been crucial to the growth and evolution of both plants and animals and, ultimately, humanity. Natural light in architectural design has a great role to play. Architectural spaces that make use of natural light are not only brighter and more functional, but also more dramatic and engaging when planned and designed correctly.

Image Courtesy: Image 2, Image 6, Image 13

Author Bio

Fathima Israr – I’m Fathima Israr Khan, an MTech second-year student in Geotechnical Engineering at NIT Silchar.

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