Daylighting Is Making a Comeback

A hundred years ago there were all kinds of sophisticated technologies to manage, direct and control natural light. Cheap electricity made such variable and hard-to-manage sources unnecessary; just throw in a couple of fluorescent fixtures and it didn't matter how far you were from a window. But electricity isn't so cheap any more, and daylighting is making a comeback. Add some computers and controls and you get the new world of daylight management, where shading devices, heliostats and skylights are integrated with interior lighting systems to get the best and cheapest light possible.

Of course, skylights and windows have been around forever; the reason the fluorescent fixture took over is that the engineers wanted control- to get precisely the right number of footcandles delivered to the work surface at any time of day. If you put a in a skylight, like this one from Sunoptics that we saw at Greenbuild, you might have too much light some of the time and too little at others, because the traditional fluorescent ceiling didn't even have a switch, let alone a dimmer or a way of measuring what the light level was.

Barry Kay on Daylighting from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

I interviewed Barry Kay of Kay and Sons, who "provide daylight management solutions." He explains what it is, how it saves money and reduces carbon emissions. It is all about control. We met in the very loud Lutron Booth in Greenbuild.

Lutron makes hardware and software that "optimizes the use of light to improve comfort and productivity, simplify operations, and save energy. Quantum dims or switches all electric lighting and controls daylight using automated window shades."

This kind of technology makes daylight, skylights, blinds and fixtures all work together. It is never to dim or too bright, but can be set to be just right.

Some of the other daylighting systems we have seen on TreeHugger:

Skylights: Solatube

The most efficient use of solar power is lighting. Sunlight is already light, no energy is lost in conversion to or from electricity. Thus the success of windows and the more moderate success of skylights. But What if you need the light to get somewhere not directly connected to the outdoors. What if there's three feet of insulation between your wall and the outside, as there probably should be.


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The Suntracker One-Ups the Skylight


There's nothing like the real deal when it comes to light. Natural sunlight makes us feel better, work better, and yes, we buy more too. Skylights are nice and simple, and light pipes can do the trick. The Suntracker One is an intriguing upgrade on the conventional skylight. Consisting of a 4'X4' acrylic dome, the Suntracker uses three heliostatic mirrors that track the sun and reflect its light down into the building.


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Smokey Robinson on the environment from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

The Suntracker is now called the Ciralight, and is distributed by, of all people, Smokey Robinson. I interviewed him at GreenBuild; more at Smokey Robinson is Green Entrepreneur, Promoting GPS Guided Skylights

Sunlight in a Cable: Parans


There has been a lot of research that shows how the human body has rhythms that are affected by sunlight, and the change of its colours through the day. Parans, a new Swedish company, has developed a system of collectors, fibre optic cables and elegant luminaires to transport natural light just about anywhere in a building, so that nobody should have to go for a day without sunshine.


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Parans Mashup with Fluorescent


We were intrigued by the Parans light pipe luminaires when they first came out- they make so much sense, why pay for light when the sun makes it for free? Unfortunately, some of us have to work when the sun isn't shining, so artificial light is still necessary. Parans has an answer for this too- the hybrid fixture, with standard T5 fluorescent tubes that that dim automatically according to how much natural light that is emitted


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DayRay: Flexible Daylighting


If we are going to design interior spaces without windows, systems that bring in natural light can be a big help. We have shown the European Parans system before, but now DayRay of Australia is offering a system "made up of flexible polymer light fibres that carry daylight to the inner core of a building. The discrete collectors can sit anywhere on an external wall or on a roof, and will capture light, even on cloudy days. DayRay™ collectors work without having to track the sun and are effective wherever there is a source of natural light available."


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Zeno by Luceplan -- Artificial Natural Light


Been a while since we mentioned the idea of getting sunlight into spaces bereft of windows, via lightwells, or lightpipes. After two years of research Italian designers, Diego Rossi and Raffaele Tedesco, created the Zeno light for Luceplan, which works on much the same principle. Optical conduits collect exterior light and convey in a "direct and controlled way" to the fittings. What makes this light different from other lightpipes is that it can also integrate other light sources into the design, like compact fluorescent bulbs, HID Metal-Halide and halogen lamps.


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New York Times Building Sunscreen


At the New York Times, they call it "dynamic daylighting." Combined with automated blinds, they keep the glare down and maximize the daylighting of the space. The light fixtures are all individually controlled to adjust to dim when the natural daylight is high.


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Intelligent Self-Shading Rooms: Electrochromatic Glass


A skylight company called Velux has developed a type of glass that can become dark or clear by flicking a switch, or via an intelligent automation system. The glass has special layers of material which turn dark when an electrical current is applied. The process is known as electrochromism, and it has also been applied in the automobile industry to automatically tint rear-view mirrors.


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Tags: Designers | greenbuild | Lighting

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