Architectural Record BE - Building Enclosure

Daylight in the Office Space

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Advertorial course provided by Lutron
Continuing Education

Learning Objectives - After this course, you should be able to:

  1. Identify potential benefits and dangers of incorporating natural light into an office space.
  2. Understand strengths and weaknesses of different natural light control systems.
  3. Specify appropriate fabric characteristics to meet project requirements.



Light is a dynamic element of the built environment. Amidst concrete, glass, and cubicle walls, light provides a critical link between the earth, the building, and the individual. In an office building, light is necessary for the employee, an operational expense for the building, and supplied by the environment. Electricity is expensive and, of all building systems, lighting is typically the largest consumer of electricity. Natural light is free, but its availability fluctuates every day in both time and quantity.

How a building is lit impacts a variety of factors, from overall building performance and space functionality, to the interior and exterior aesthetic, and the way in which the building interacts with the neighborhood and environment. While the design of the interior lights is often specified by project engineers or lighting designers, the design of the building envelope and the window-to-wall ratio rests upon the shoulders of the architect. As more windows are added into a project, more natural light is invited into the space.

Appropriately incorporating natural light into an office space can improve employees' moods, reduce the building's peak demand of electricity, and contribute toward earning LEED credits.

Incorporating natural light into an office space creates an opportunity to improve the environmental performance of the project, while promoting individual well-being and enabling capital building investments to provide better economic returns. In order to realize these potential benefits, the natural light must be effectively controlled. Today, there is a variety of technologies that provide natural light control. Architects can use these technologies as tools to tailor their designs to best fit the people and business goals of the spaces they create.

Natural Light in an Office Space and the Individual

The most basic goals in office space design are to create a place where work can be accomplished and communication can occur. Today, light is instrumental in creating that productive environment, because 90 percent of the communication in the workplace occurs visually. From reading and writing email messages to seeing aco-worker's body language and facial expressions, people use their eyes to interpret the world around them, and their eyes require light.

The same light that is the medium for visual communication also impacts the mood, health, and behavior of the employees it touches. Both natural and electric light can illuminate a space, but they do not impact people equally. Studies have corroborated a long-held belief that there is a strong correlation between positive mood and daylight exposure. Recent studies also imply that incorporating outdoor views into the office will positively effect employee motivation, satisfaction, productivity, and comfort, which can manifest in improved employee retention and workforce output.


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Originally published in Architectural Record.