Trends in Daylighting and Tunable Lighting

New strategies and technologies can bring health benefits to commercial and residential spaces
Sponsored by Marvin
By Juliet Grable
1 AIA LU/HSW; 0.1 IACET CEU*; 1 AIBD P-CE; AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour; AANB 1 Hour of Core Learning; AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour; This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.; MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour; NLAA 1 Hour of Core Learning; NSAA 1 Hour of Core Learning; NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour; OAA 1 Learning Hour; SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the connection between natural sunlight and well-being, and the role of the body’s circadian rhythms in promoting overall health.
  2. Identify design trends in daylighting and the use of natural light in both residential and commercial projects.
  3. Discuss innovations in fenestration that are facilitating and/or replicating natural light conditions and diurnal cycles.
  4. Explain how tunable lighting can impact the well-being of building occupants by mimicking natural light conditions.

This course is part of the Custom Home Academy

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Trends in Glass and Lighting

While windows, skylights, and other strategies focus on bringing available sunlight into spaces, biodynamic lighting represents the next evolution in lighting, with potential applications in many building types, including homes. As we have seen, biodynamic lighting enables lighting systems that mirror natural sunlight conditions to be installed in the built environment; these systems may help to regulate the human body’s natural circadian rhythms.

Another application for this type of lighting is the ability to extend daylight. For example, one manufacturer offers a skylight that can extend daytime hours with supplemental, tunable lighting that helps create the comfortable feeling of daylight anytime.

The lights in this skylight are designed to match natural light throughout the day in color and quality. The lights are tunable from 2200 K (sunset) to 5000 K (noon on a sunny day) and anything in between. Additionally, the LED lights are high CRI lights, so the quality of the light matches the broad spectrum of natural light.

This skylight can extend daytime hours with supplemental, tunable lighting that helps create the comfortable feeling of daylight anytime. This product could be an especially good strategy for northern climates, which experience more severely shortened days in winter. This skylight features the largest daylight opening in its category, maximizing daylighting potential; it is also equipped with motorized roller shades that can be used to control strong sunlight.

New technology is enabling biodynamic skylights that can mimic the changing color temperature of daylight throughout the day.


Our bodies are governed by circadian rhythms that rely on cues from the natural environment, especially periods of sunlight and darkness. Modern lifestyles can disrupt these important cues, with consequences for sleep, physical, and mental health. Building designers have an important role in promoting health and well-being by implementing good daylighting design in buildings. Good daylighting can help support circadian rhythms while providing many other benefits, reducing reliance on artificial lighting, creating welcoming environments, and promoting connections with the natural world. Biodynamic lighting can supplement daylighting design and may be used to support circadian rhythms, which play a role in so many important physiological processes.

End Notes

1Ruder, Debra Bradley. “Circadian Rhythms and the Brain.” Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. Web. 6 August 2020.

2Aulinas, Anna. “Physiology of the Pineal Gland and Melatonin.” NCBI. 10 Dec. 2019. Web. 6 August 2020.

3Medic, Goran et al. “Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption.” Nature and Science of Sleep. 2017. Web. 6 August 2020.

4Penckofer, Sue et al. “Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine?Issues in Mental Health Nursing. 7 May 2010. Web. 6 August 2020.

5What is Shift Work?” The National Sleep Foundation. Updated 28 July 2020. Web. 6 August 2020.

6IARC Monographs Meeting 124: Night Shift Work (4–11 June 2019): Questions and Answers.” International Agency of Research on Cancer. World Health Organization. 5 July 2019. Web. 6 August 2020.

7Szkiela, Marta et al. “Night Shift Work—A Risk Factor for Breast Cancer.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. January 2020. Web. 6 August 2020.

8Jones, Michael E. et al. “Night shift work and risk of breast cancer in women: the Generations Study cohort.British Journal of Cancer. 29 May 2019. Web. 6 August 2020.

9Garcia-Saenz, Ariadna et al. “Evaluating the Association between Artificial Light-at-Night Exposure and Breast and Prostate Cancer Risk in Spain (MCC-Spain Study).Environmental Health Perspectives. April 2018. Web. 6 August 2020.


11Ulrich, R.S. “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery.Science. 27 April 1984. Web. 6 August 2020.

12Parry, Barbara and Maurer, Eva. “Light treatment for mood disorders.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. December 2003. Web. 6 August 2020.

13Brandon, Debra H. et al. “Timing for the Introduction of Cycled Light for Extremely Preterm Infants: A Randomized Controlled Trial.Research in Nursing & Health. August 2017. Web. 6 August 2020.

14Edwards, L. and Torcellini, P. “A Literature Review of the Effects of Natural Light on Building Occupants.” National Renewable Energy Laboratory. July 2002. Web. 6 August 2020.

15Meister, Jeanne E. “The #1 Office Perk? Natural Light.Harvard Business Review. 3 September 2018. Web. 6 August 2020.

16Circadian Light.” Sustainable Facilities Tool. General Services Administration. Web. 6 August 2020.

17Service, Robert. “New smart windows darken in the sun—and generate electricity at the same time.Science. 22 January 2018. Web. 6 August 2020.

18Penny, Janelle. “How Light Shelves Maximize Daylighting.Buildings. 10 October 2017. Web. 6 August 2020.

19"The Economics of Biophilia.” Terrapin Bright Green. Web. 6 August 2020.

20Skylights.” Energy Saver. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. U.S. Department of Energy. Web. 6 August 2020.

21Results Report: Measuring Personal Light Exposures, Health, and Wellbeing Outcomes.” Lighting Research Center. Updated 18 May 2016. Web. 6 August 2020.

22Feit, Justin. “Finding the Right Tunable Lighting System.Buildings. 3 April 2018. 6 August 2020.



25van Lieshout-van Dal, Ellen et al. “Biodynamic lighting effects on the sleep pattern of people with dementia.Building and Environment. March 2019. Web. 6 August 2020.


26SSL Demonstration: Tunable-White Lighting at the ACC Care Center.” Solid-State Lighting. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. U.S. Department of Energy. September 2016. Web. 6 August 2020.

27Tuning the Light in Classrooms: Evaluating Trial LED Lighting Systems in Three Classrooms at the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in Carrollton, TX.” Solid-State Lighting. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. U.S. Department of Energy. September 2017. Web. 6 August 2020.


Juliet Grable is an independent writer and editor focusing on building science, resilient design, and environmental sustainability. She contributes to continuing education courses and publications through Confluence Communications.

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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in October 2020