Eternal sunshine of a spotless design.
Spotlight on daylight.

There is a rich wealth of knowledge within Hoare Lea, but it’s fair to say many of us often focus on our own area of expertise without any real understanding of what many of our groups actually do. In this series – Spotlight on Specialisms – we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the diverse ways our cost-centres can add value to a project.

First up, we have our Lighting Design group, who have decided to focus this piece on daylight design, as our industry is only just waking up to the importance of it in a space.

Heathrow Terminal 2

Sunlight is vital. It drives our body clocks, affects our moods, is a key source of Vitamin D and perhaps most crucially, enables us to see! Yet, in the developed world, it’s estimated that we spend 90% of our time inside manmade structures.

If this seems unnatural, that’s because it is. The modern era of human-built environments accounts for a mere fraction of our evolutionary history. The fact is, we evolved in an outdoor world driven by the 24-hour light-dark cycle of the earth, and our biology is a testament to that. The more we learn about the benefits of daylight, the more vital it becomes in regards to good building design.

Blavatnik School of Government

In late 2017, our Lighting Design team welcomed Ruth Kelly Waskett as Principal Daylight Designer. She is a highly skilled daylight specialist, who has been involved with designing buildings for more than 15 years – first as a mechanical building services engineer, and later as a lighting specialist.

Ruth has an acute understanding of how vital it is to incorporate good daylighting into the design of a building. It doesn’t just affect our health, but everything from planning, performance, selling, and the end-user experience, explaining:

“Theories suggest this desire for a view comes from an innate need to survey our territory.”

Distant views are particularly beneficial to people engaged in close visual tasks, such as working on computers, reading, and fine manual work. Being able to focus on far away objects regularly allows our eye muscles to relax and can reduce eye strain. Views also provide an important connection to the external landscape, giving us instant feedback on the weather, time of day and season.

But how do we effectively incorporate good views and daylighting into a building’s design? Firstly, it’s important to engage with our lighting designers at an early stage. Secondly, it’s worth noting that more isn’t always better.

A daylight study for University of Oxford Biochemistry Phase II.

The love affair with glass in architecture shows no sign of abating, but copious glazing brings glare and overheating, leading to heavy shading elements and closed blinds over entire facades. Inefficient shading can result in the oft-documented “blinds down, lights on” syndrome. This is bad for both energy consumption and occupants’ health and wellbeing.

Ruth says:

“There’s no single solution. Automated dynamic shading can close when necessary, maximising the benefits of daylight for occupants and energy efficiency. However, these solutions often carry a maintenance burden and if occupants are unhappy with the set-up, they tend to take matters into their own hands, for example by covering or disabling sensors, thus undermining the whole system.”

A different response is to use smart glazing materials, such as electrochromic glazing, which can change opacity in response to daylight conditions. In some cases, this may need to be combined with some moveable shading elements to keep occupants comfortable.

Ruth explains that the most important thing to consider is how the building will actually be used: “Crafting the right solution requires an understanding of occupants’ needs, and does not have to involve technologically sophisticated facades.”

Solutions can range from simple manual blinds to highly engineered facades. The key is in recognising which approach meets the needs of occupants, the aesthetics of the building, and the need to minimise energy consumption. We recognise that the overriding need is that of the occupants. A building that doesn't function well for its occupants simply doesn't work.

Regardless of the solution, the challenge remains the same: finding the best way to control daylight without cutting ourselves off from its many benefits.

Get in touch with Ruth to discuss how daylighting design can be incorporated into your project.

Of course, the world of lighting design doesn’t stop there; we have a full team of lighting specialists able to add value, so get in touch with Dominic Meyrick or Jonathan Rush if you want to find out more.