Story at a glance:

  • Daylighting in commercial buildings infuses positivity and productivity, while reducing energy use in artificial lighting.
  • Daylighting uses sustainable strategies to reduce the negative impact of sunlight, including heat gain and glare, while amplifying the positive effects.
  • Inviting natural light can also help with passive heating and cooling.

Welcoming light into commercial spaces diminishes the need for artificial lighting during the day and creates a positive working atmosphere for productivity and uplifted spirits. With the implementation of the right technologies for the space, daylighting is significantly cost-effective and a sustainable and uplifting choice for lighting.

“When light is introduced to seemingly float a roof, dematerialize a corner, or flow through the interstices between elements, these details serve to open and release traditional spatial enclosure. As a consequence, details of light can imbue freedom, stimulate self-reflection, and empower people,” Christine Bruckner, director of M. Moser Associates, told gb&d.

Successful daylighting revolves around realizing the potential of a building and its setting and designing solutions that work for that particular space, making daylighting design a complex set of decisions that affect aesthetics, experience, and cost, as Marti Hoffer of lumenomics mapped out for gb&d.

Beginning with the design of the building footprint, it is important to take into consideration how the angle of the sun changes throughout the day to determine the location and spacing of windows with maximized south and north exposures. Window treatments and technologies, from high-performing fiberglass windows to daylight-responsive electric lighting controls, then work together to create a healthier space for occupants with ample natural light and, oftentimes, passive heating and cooling.

These seven commercial buildings each use daylight in innovative ways that suit their particular purpose and character, from municipal buildings in Santa Monica to schools in Vancouver.

1. Langara Science and Technology Building in Vancouver

At Langara College in Vancouver, the multistory Vortex Lounge is an oculus shaped like a crystal, designed to bring as much light into the building as possible. The building also utilizes a light well, which brings in more daylight and passively moves air as it acts as a return air shaft, as well as a skylight on the west side of the building.

“The more natural light we can get to penetrate the building, the less ambient lighting we need to use, thereby reducing energy consumption. The challenge is controlling glare,” architect Kori Chan of Proscenium Architecture + Interiors Inc told gb&d. The solutions for this building: translucent panels on the lower floors and an architectural screen on the top three levels.

2. Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Recreation Center at Clemson University

At Clemson’s outdoor recreation center, a major priority was to support the mental health as well as physical health of students. As such, biophilic materials and natural light became focal points of the design.

Large, strategic windows collaborate with sensor-controlled lighting to brighten the space and conserve energy, while large fans and passive cooling serve to bring comfortable air to the recreation center.

3. Bloomberg’s European Headquarters

In the heart of London, Bloomberg’s solution for daylighting is comprehensive and complete, proving even a headquarters in the middle of a city known for its grayness and fog can be bright and pleasant indoors. A central atrium invites light and expels heat while the building’s windows are set into an exterior framework angled to maximize light and reduce direct sun exposure and glare. Breathable walls and petal-leaf aluminum ceiling tiles assist in the heating, cooling, and acoustics of the building while also reflecting and amplifying natural light, equipping the building with many technologies that help daylighting work at its best.

4. Studio Ma’s Xero Studio

Studio Ma’s headquarters in Phoenix use daylighting for passive cooling as well as for natural ambience and views. The building is encased in a screen of kebonized wood that blocks direct sun to reduce heat gain and glare while still offering light and enhancing outdoor views for occupants. The mix of biophilic design and light makes the workplace bright and airy. Operable skylights offer additional light and expel heat for passive cooling.

5. Krause Gateway Center

The Krause Gateway Center in Des Moines combats glare and heat gain with strategically cantilevered roofs whose positioning helps with passive heating and cooling.

In the summer the Des Moines sun is almost vertical, producing many shadows. To combat this effect in the building, the architects at Renzo Piano Building Workshop built dramatic cantilevered roofs. On the building’s towering windows, low-emissivity coating with a high performing U-factor reduces heat gain. On the other hand, ROLLTECH’S CHROMATECH glass spacers help keep the space cozy with 40% reduced heat loss at the edges of the panes during the winter.

6. Santa Monica City Services Building

As the first municipal building to seek full Living Building Challenge certification, the Santa Monica City Services Building, engineered by Buro Happold, must incorporate daylight, air, nature, and community.

This building uses daylighting for heating and cooling as well as light, comfort, and air, with 209 operable windows that work with the Santa Monica climate to naturally ventilate the space. “The facade is working really hard to control heat gain. It’s heavily fritted, so it’s keeping a lot of the heat out,” says Julian Parsley, principal at Buro Happold. Fritted glass fuses ceramic frits to the glass’s surface to block a percentage of light and reduce heat gain and glare without reducing the positive effect inside.

7. UnityPoint Health – Prairie Parkway

In this medical center, Prairie School architecture meets large-scale commercial architecture with floor-to-ceiling windows and blue glass accents that call back to Prairie-style stained glass.

Windows bring in heaps of golden light and comforting warmth while electronic lights equipped with daylight-sensors dim accordingly to reduce energy use. The windows bring openness and comfort along with views of the landscape outdoors to inspire wellness.