On Friday, June 20 offices around the country will be switching the lights off at noon. Daylight Hour is an event hosted by the nonprofit Green Light New York, to raise awareness about the benefits of using natural light inside.
Lighting accounts for roughly a third of electricity use by New York City commercial buildings, according to numbers from the utility company Con Edison. Yet many of these lights could be switched off when the sun is out.
“We estimated the area of New York for which these daylight systems were feasible,” said Yetsuh Frank, a Managing Director at Green Light. They determined that 114 million square feet of floor area could potentially be lit by sunlight for part of the day, saving owners and tenants $70 million on energy costs per year.
Frank said daylighting systems could either be achieved with a passive approach (just don’t turn the lights on) or a higher-tech system that can be scheduled or will respond in real time to the lighting conditions of the space. “Both approaches are valid, I think it just depends on the context.”
In New York City, recent legislation will require buildings to meet a stricter efficiency standard, and taking advantage of daylight can help. Frank said that one of the biggest challenges is simply the lack of awareness about the possibilities of natural lighting. “We thought that the Daylight Hour would be an interesting way to simply raise awareness about this issue.”
Another major benefit is that daylight is most readily available during peak demand, especially in the summer when air conditioning is used heavily. The electricity supply during peak demand is often the most detrimental to the environment. “The peak time is when the folks that generate electricity have to bring on the dirtiest, oldest power plants to serve the demand,” said Frank. “Not having those on has huge environmental benefits.”
In addition to creating the Daylight Hour, Green Light New York is working to build a physical resource space that will hold classes and demos of daylighting systems.
Although Green Light New York is based in Manhattan, Frank said that offices from other locations have registered to participate in the Daylight Hour. He hopes that some of the companies will consider turning the lights off regularly, and not just as part of a one day campaign.
The daylight hour officially runs from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM on June 20. Learn more and register your office at greenlightny.org.