Thursday, 15 November 2012

Daylighting - Why Are We Regulating?

 Development of a Second Floor Addition Project by Wo-Built Design and Build Construction Company, TorontoWo-Built's Second Floor Addition Project
"...we could brighten the staircase with two large and spectacular side by side skylights."
Photo © Wo-Built Inc.

Daylighting - Why Are We Regulating Even Limiting One of the Best Resources in Buildings

Yesterday I attended the IES Toronto Chapter technical session on Daylight Harvesting since daylight is such an important part of PeapodLife, our holistic approach to Energy, Shelter and Food.

The session covered good daylighting design, it's importance in the space, the current codes and standards and some basic calculation methods; all in all a welcome refresher course for me, since my MSc thesis many, many years ago was in daylighting.

We, at Wo-Built, are passionate proponent for daylight in spaces and all our designs in the past have used skylights where possible. As the presenter (Sandra Stashik) mentioned studies have shown that daylight can increase sales, have students learn faster and bring about a better work performance. But for us daylight is more than just statistics, it brings a quality of life to the space that cannot be measured. It energizes us.

But the light alone is not enough in our opinion. Diffuse daylight is the most boring light quality that there is. That's why people like to switch on the light fixtures during the day, even though there is enough light quantity coming from the windows and skylights. The artificial lights give the impression of quality. What makes daylighting interesting is the sun aspect, the element that is most maligned in building design. It causes contrast on computer screens and work surfaces (shocking), heat gains (positively horrible) and heaven's forbid, since the sun is allowed to come through clear glass, you the user has a view to the outside.

I am not advocating that sun and daylight should not be controlled; on the contrary, a good lighting design should always use the proper shading devices, dimmers, orientation and keep in mind the use of the space. But one should not design interest out of a space. Unless there are safety factors where contrast is a visibility issue or where small manufacturing tolerances are required, the human eye and body often are happy to accommodate light and heat variances within reason. We also have the free will to change our seating position and work environment to suit.

The reason for the rant is that I feel that the current codes and standards are again bringing with them a benign big brother approach and are in danger of stifling creativity. It is great to mandate that daylight is required in buildings over a certain size, but does it have to go into details of fenestration sizes etc. Why can't it be left to the designers and architects to decide what is the best for the building use? All I am asking is that we have a little bit of common sense and not stifle creativity and innovation.

A lot of the decisions are made due to energy saving considerations not space quality ones, but just imagine you could have a building with mostly glass, still have large R values to offset heat loss, more choices in variable shading of the glass giving a dynamic environment, enough light to grow food in the space, enjoy the sunshine safely, maximize the daylight and produce energy at the same time. An outward looking dynamic building system, that encourages innovation and creativity. This is what PeapodLife is about.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

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