6. Daylighting


What is Daylighting?

Daylighting is the practice of placing windows or other openings and reflective surfaces so that during the day natural light provides effective internal lighting. Particular attention is given to daylighting while designing a building when the aim is to maximize visual comfort or to reduce energy use. Energy savings can be achieved either from the reduced use of artificial (electric) lighting or from passive solar heating or cooling. Artificial lighting energy use can be reduced by simply installing fewer electric lights because daylight is present, or by dimming/switching electric lights automatically in response to the presence of daylight, a process known as daylight harvesting.

Types of Daylighting


Windows are the most common way to admit daylight into a space. Their vertical orientation means that they selectively admit sunlight and diffuse daylight at different times of the day and year. Therefore windows on multiple orientations must usually be combined to produce the right mix of light for the building, depending on the climate and latitude.

The use of heliostats, mirrors which are moved automatically to reflect sunlight in a constant direction as the sun moves across the sky, is gaining popularity as an energy-efficient method of lighting. A heliostat can be used to shine sunlight directly through a window or skylight, or into any arrangement of optical elements that distribute the light where it is needed..

Light shelves
Light shelves are an effective way to enhance the lighting from windows on the equator-facing side of a structure, this effect being obtained by placing a white or reflective metal light shelf outside the window. Usually the window will be protected from direct summer season sun by a projecting eave. The light shelf projects beyond the shadow created by the eave and reflects sunlight upward to illuminate the ceiling.

Skylight is any horizontal window, Roof lantern or Oculus, placed at the roof of the building, often used for daylighting. White translucent acrylic is a 'Lambertian Diffuser' meaning transmitted light is perfectly diffused and distributed evenly over affected areas. This means, among other advantages, that light source quality standards are measured relative to white acrylic transmission. White acrylic domes provide even light distribution throughout the day. Skylights admit more light per unit area than windows, and distribute it more evenly over a space.

Light tubes
Another type of device used is the light tube, also called a solar tube, which is placed into a roof and admits light to a focused area of the interior. These somewhat resemble recessed ceiling light fixtures. They do not allow as much heat transfer as skylights because they have less surface area.

Clerestory windows
These are high, vertically-placed windows. They can be used to increase direct solar gain when oriented towards the equator. When facing toward the sun, clerestories and other windows may admit unacceptable glare. In the case of a passive solar house, clerestories may provide a direct light path to polar-side (north in the northern hemisphere; south in the southern hemisphere) rooms that otherwise would not be illuminated. Alternatively, clerestories can be used to admit diffuse daylight (from the north in the northern hemisphere) that evenly illuminates a space such as a classroom or office.

Fiber-optic concrete wall
Another way to make a secure structural concrete wall translucent is to embed optical fiber cables in it. Daylight (and shadow images) can then pass directly through a thick solid-concrete wall.

Emerging Daylighting Technologies

Solar Canopy