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No disrespect to Thomas Edison—the invention of the light bulb was nothing short of revolutionary—but a decade-long trend in building-science research indicates that people are simply more comfortable, productive, and more important, happier in buildings that use the sun's rays as the primary source of lighting.
While tapping into natural sunlight isn't a fresh idea, recent advances in lighting research and technology have allowed "daylighting" to come into its own."Daylighting also represents the single largest 'new' opportunity for energy savings in commercial lighting today and for the foreseeable future," says Dale Brentrup, a professor of architecture at the UNC Charlotte School of Architecture's Daylighting + Energy Performance Laboratory, in a press release.
In the lab's arsenal are two instruments that measure the impact of sky luminance and solar radiation: The Artificial Sky, which simulates the average overcast conditions of the Piedmont region, and a Fixed Sun Movable Earth Heliodon, which simulates solar penetration.
"Daylighting is directly related to the idea of carbon reduction," says graduate student Lindsay Frizzell, who is working on a project to quantify energy efficiency. "For every kilowatt hour of energy we save, we're cutting approximately two and a half pounds of carbon dioxide emissions."
Although buildings can be retrofitted to create energy savings, Bentrup says that energy efficiency can best be achieved by designing new buildings using sustainable practices. He is working with the university to create guidelines ensuring the efficiency of new construction.