The desperately cold winters of recent years make long, warm spring and summer days that much sweeter. In that spirit, Solatube wants everyone to take some time on June 21, the summer solstice and longest day of the year, to celebrate National Daylight Appreciation Day. The manufacturer of tubular daylighting devices says the goal of the holiday, first celebrated in 2011, is "to increase awareness about the benefits of incorporating daylight into all aspects of our lives."
Among other sources, Solatube refers to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research backing the energy efficiency aspect of daylighting over traditional electric lights. MIT estimates that between 25% and 40% energy used by buildings is taken up by lighting. "Depending on the building and how it's used, a good daylighting strategy can reduce the need for energy-consuming electric lighting by 20% to 80%," says Dr. Marilyne Andersen of MIT's department of architecture.
And daylighting doesn't just benefit the wallet. A forthcoming study out of Cornell discovered that nurses who had access to natural light in their healthcare workplaces had lower blood pressure, increased communication with colleagues, laughed more, and were in better moods with their patients compared to nurses who worked under artificial light.
Other organizations have touched on additional environmental benefits of skylights compared with traditional windows. In 2013, the Danish Building Institute found that skylights had twice the daylight factor (DF - a ratio of internal to external light) compared with vertical windows, and more than three times the DF of dormer windows. Stephan Moyon, director of sales at Velux, suggests that the angle of a skylight better penetrates the core of a room, leading to better light quality.
So, as we approach the longest day of 2015, here are a handful of daylighting options that will help you and your clients appreciate natural light for a long time to come.
Energy Star-qualified Tubular Skylights from ODL feature as much as 98% reflective mirror interiors that increase the product's performance by maximizing the amount of natural light transmitted to interior spaces. Light passing through the upgraded skylights is a minimum of 25% brighter than previous models, the maker says. The Tubular Skylights are available in both 10- and 14-inch diameters and can easily be installed between roof rafters without framing, drywalling, painting, or construction. Installation kits include the Solar Lens Roof Dome, leak-proof roof flashing, adjustable skylight tubes, mirror finish tubes, a ceiling trim ring, and a low-profile lens diffuser. odl.com
Light Bulb Moment
Solatube has found a way to blend the conveniences of LEDs with the benefits and brightness of tubular daylighting devices. The Smart LED System harnesses the sun's light during the day. As light level begins to dim, smart sensors in the unit activate incorporated LED lighting. The combination saves up to 94% on lighting energy use, the maker says. An optional occupancy sensor activates the LEDs only when a low-light area is occupied. Each LED in the fixture is designed to last an average of 20 years, so homeowners won't have to worry about changing bulbs. solatube.com
Out for a Walk
Skylights don't have to be just for rooftops. Solar Innovations has expanded its Walkable Skylight options in response to a surge in popularity. Larger overall units are now available, including individual glass units up to 4 feet by 4 feet. Incorporate multiple units into a single frame to create larger overall walkable spaces, indoors or out, depending on the project engineer's approval. Solar Innovations has in-house product specialists and engineers available to aid customers in the selection process. Used in roof installations and inside between floors, the Walkable Skylight units let daylight penetrate entire spaces from top to bottom. Per code, Walkable Skylights are engineered with a point load of 300 pounds and a uniform load of 400 psf, but additional performance requirements can be met with advance notice. solarinnovations.com
Diffuse the Situations
New diffusers for Velux 10- and 14-inch Sun Tunnel skylights are now available, along with accessories that can improve the units' energy efficiency, allowing them to exceed Energy Star requirements and incorporate a night light kit to make Sun Tunnels functional 24/7. Ideal for hallways, closets, stairways, bathrooms, and laundry rooms, designers can choose from brushed nickel, polished brass, oil-rubbed bronze, and original white trim. whyskylights.com
Wasco's SageGlass Unplugged option is a solar-powered, self-contained version of its SageGlass dynamic glass. The Unplugged version offers architects and building owners even greater flexibility in how they incorporate dynamic glass into their building designs, but without the wiring. A narrow solar panel incorporated into the fixture provides sufficient power to control the window's tinting throughout the day. Unplugged units can be networked and talk to each other. Connected to a standard wi-fi router, the system can be controlled automatically or manually via mobile apps for iOS and Android. Sageglass.com