Design & Daylight
This is the first of a two-part introduction to a thematic blog series on the use of daylighting as a design element in residential architecture. Below I will define daylighting and present some of its benefits. Part II will review briefly how we see and experience light and then look generally at the issue of visual comfort. Following this introduction I’ll be posting to this blog monthly and will organize the postings by room and/or type of space. I’ll touch on strategies for introducing and controlling natural light in the bathroom, kitchen, living room, office/study, bedroom, the entry/halls/stairs and below grade rooms.
Understanding how to incorporate controlled daylighting strategies into your homes or projects will allow you to use light and dark to your best advantage and to make your homes a more comfortable, healthy and happy place to live. Be sure to follow along throughout this blog series and comment or ask questions. I’ll certainly respond when I can.
Daylighting as a design element is the practice of controlling natural light – sunlight, diffuse light from the sky and reflected light – to illuminate spaces in buildings. Many of the benefits of daylighting may come quickly to mind. Successful daylighting strategies reduce the use of electric lighting which saves energy, the cost of energy and, for residences that do not generate their own electricity, reduces the pollution created when electricity is generated. Daylighting strategies combined with operable openings for natural ventilation and controlled solar heat gain for increased thermal comfort allow for further experiential, economic and environmental gains. For most of us these benefits have become second nature.
Daylight, Darkness and Our Health
The study of circadian health explores all of the relationships between our mental and physical well-being and the presence of light and dark. The circadian rhythm, often called the internal biological clock, is our daily physical, mental and behavioral response to light and darkness in our environment. Our natural production of certain biochemicals that control and regulate our learning and intelligence, impulse control and muscle coordination, our focus and stress management and our moods are triggered by appropriate amounts of either dark or light. Artificial light can stimulate, and in some cases over stimulate, this biochemical production.
The best and most self-regulating stimulus is the natural daily cycle of daylight and the true darkness of night.
Stay tuned for Part II of this intro where I’ll address visual comfort. Having a basic understanding of how we optically receive daylight will ultimately help you design and build better spaces.
Bringing daylight into a home successfully is not always easy. When done well, however, proper daylighting can make a home a healthier and happier place to live.
My own personal interest in daylighting was fostered through a wonderful professional association, in the first part of my career, when I worked for Joe Esherick at EHDD. Joe was one of the 20th Century architectural masters of light and within his buildings one often feels as if daylight closely followed people as an inhabitant of near equal importance. One can point to Joe's great design skill, deep understanding and deft handling of the properties of light and form but I think that daylight for him, and certainly for me, is also about something more. Our response to daylight, and our need for it, is built into our chemistry.