Daylighting Systems for Large Buildings: What You Need to Know

Daylighting Systems for Large Buildings: What You Need to Know
From daylighting to air conditioning, the needs of large buildings are very different from their smaller counterparts. Today, we will be looking at large buildings such as office complexes and manufacturing facilities and how they can benefit from using natural lighting to become more energy efficient.

While daylighting in small offices and retail outlets is fairly simple, requiring little more than passive skylights and limited artificial lighting – planning a daylighting system for a large building is a far more complicated process.

Read on to learn about four key concepts that are important in the process of fitting daylighting systems to large commercial and industrial buildings.

Heat loss and gain is of critical importance for large commercial buildings

The heating needs of small environments are relatively flexible. After all, it takes very little energy to heat an office space designed to house twenty people, at least when compared to the heating needs of a 100-person retail outlet.

Because large buildings have such vast heating demands, it’s essential that any daylighting systems are assessed carefully for their ability to retain (and block) excess heat from escaping or entering the building.

In large buildings, particularly those with high ceilings such as storage facilities, having heat-efficient daylighting is of immense importance. Because of this, the materials used in large daylighting systems need to be carefully assessed to stop heat loss from reducing the savings made possible by daylighting.

Window and skylight positioning needs to be carefully planned out

When a large-scale daylighting system is implemented properly, it can reduce total energy spending by as much as 35 percent. When it’s not properly installed, it may have the virtually no effect – or even a negative effect – on energy spending.

One of the most important aspects of a successful large building daylighting system is the placement and positioning of windows and skylights. Window placement can make or break a daylighting system, with a poorly placed skylight having huge costs in terms of lost energy efficiency.

Because of this, large-scale daylighting systems need to strike a balance between the optimal use of natural light and smart use of artificial lighting. This means carefully thinking about factors such as the changes in sun position in different seasons.

New buildings should be designed for optimal daytime sun exposure

While daylighting systems that are retrofitted to existing buildings need to be carefully placed to maximize sun exposure, new buildings have the freedom to change their designs to better position skylights and exterior windows.

A small change in the angle of a building can increase its exposure to early morning and late afternoon sunlight from the north and south, for example. These seemingly small adjustments can have a major effect on the building’s exposure to sunlight.

When positioning can’t be changed, an active skylight system is effective

One of the best ways to improve daylighting in a large building that isn’t well placed relative to the sun is to install an active skylight system. Active skylights differ from typical passive skylights by using mirrors to track and reflect natural sunlight.

This makes them ideal for channeling sunlight into a large building late in the day, particularly at times when a passive skylight would be poorly lit. In warm months when the sun is best avoided, these skylights can also be configured to deflect any excess sunlight away from the building to minimize ambient heat gain.

Dimming controls and smart design are essential for daylighting success

Daylighting can be massively helpful for improving your building’s energy usage, but only if it’s backed up by smart artificial lighting. Large buildings need to use sensors that adjust interior lighting based on the level of illumination from daylight.

After all, no amount of daylight will reduce your electrical bill when your artificial lights remain switched on at all hours. Optimally, a daylighting system should rely on artificial light only in the early morning and evening, and rarely during the day.

Intelligent interior planning is also important for getting the most from a daylighting system, particularly in a large building. Furniture, office cubicles, and other common commercial interior items should be arranged to maximize the flow of natural light throughout the building.

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