Why we should be incorporating more natural light into all our builds

Incorporating natural light in office buildings has become a key trend. But work, rest or play, we can all benefit from a burst of sunshine. Here Chris Chaney, Managing Director of Sunsquare, explains how attention to daylighting should be paid to residential as well as commercial buildings.

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ver the past few years there has been a number of reports exploring the importance of our inherent connection with natural elements. A wealth of academic research has revealed how the presence of these natural elements – daylight in particular – can promote health, wellbeing and productivity.

The WELL building standard supports the idea that we should embed wellbeing into our buildings, focusing on seven categories of building performance: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. But up until now, this has predominantly been focused on commercial buildings rather than homes. And, really, we should be thinking about using as much natural light in all our builds.

Home comforts

Natural light has many advantages over using artificial lights – the benefit to our mental health is just one. It can also result in considerable financial savings in energy bills. In a typical building, lighting accounts for up to 40% of energy consumption, but by allowing more natural light to penetrate and controlling both its light and heat components, the cost reduction will be huge.

Using natural light is not without its issues, however. Glare, overheating, variability and privacy issues can all cause problems. And architects are increasingly looking for new and innovative ways to address these. This perhaps explains a surge in demand for rooflights.

Light it up

The controlled admission of natural light into a building is about reducing reliance on electrics and creating a visually-stimulating environment. And the National Association of Rooflight Manufacturers (NARM) – of which we are a member – has revealed that rooflights provide three times more light than the same area of vertical glazing. They can also provide a much more even distribution of light, particularly in larger structures. After all, where vertical glazing exists, the effective area for natural lighting will only be within 6m of the wall containing the window. This means a rooflight can provide the answer to many daylighting problems.

Not only does it tick the box for providing the occupants of the building with the benefits of a vitamin D boost, it can also be used to maximise light in dark spaces, allow for elegant changes in a conservation area, help negotiate tricky planning permission rules and provide a solution if you are unable to have a traditional window due to the wall forming the boundary of the property.

Make it work

Rooflights work in both commercial and residential buildings and the latter should not be overlooked in terms of daylighting. In 2013, The Royal Institute of British Architects launched a campaign – HomeWise – that called for the Government to set a minimum threshold for light (and space) in buildings which led to a new housing standard called the ‘Nationally Described Space Standard’ in 2015. But while this addressed the space issue – albeit in a voluntary capacity – it did not tackle light at all. It is hoped the WELL building standard will lead the change in this area. And we want to continue to be at the forefront of making daylighting possible in all buildings.

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