Although they say there are no bad ideas, here are a few good ones regarding lighting to help you navigage the greenwash out there and get to the real facts. This is the first part of an ongoing series outlining design principles for sustainable lighting design.
Thin buildings need less help
The thinner your building is, the less it will need to rely on artificial life support systems like HVAC and electric lighting to operate. Standard windows can light twelve to fifteen feet into a space. Windows with a daylight control and delivery system, like a light-shelf, can push it even further, up to thirty feet in some instances. More daylight = less electric light.
Orient your building east-west
The path of the sun has changed little over the past few millennia. By now we have a pretty good idea of where the sun goes and of the most effective methods for using that sunlight. Of course, east- and west-facing windows get sunlight, but only for half the day. If the major axis of a building is oriented east to west, the southern exposure will be able to harness that energy almost all day long – if designed correctly (not too much, not too little).
Easy does it on the glass
High-performance glass is a wonderful thing, but it’s still no replacement for a solid wall, in terms of insulation and reasonable cost. In these energy-crunching design times, we need to optimize our building designs so they accept just enough daylight and reject the rest. Too much glass and you could end up with heat-gain and heat-loss problems and glare issues. Too little and you could have a cave.
Bring up that window sill, too! The glass that extends to the floor has little practical value except aesthetics, which is a debatable, fickle thing. There’s nothing like seeing that trash can pushed up against the glass…
Lower partition heights and fewer offices, please
Private offices are sought-after the world over by the power climbers, but they stink for utilizing the space as well as possible. Consider opening up your office design to more community spaces, putting the bosses right out there with everyone else. Private spaces will still be necessary, but limit them.
Workstation heights have to come down too. It’s kind of a corporate slap in the face to be given an office without a door or window – you sit at the bottom of a cubicle well all day. By lowering the heights of the partitions, you open up people’s views to perimeter glass, let the daylight penetrate deeper into the space, and encourage more interaction and camaraderie.
How would you like being told what your favorite color is? People take it very personally – designers especially. Whatever your preference is, we, as lighting designers, respectfully ask that you pick light colors with higher reflectances. How building surfaces reflect light has a lot to do with how the space feels, either with daylight or electric light. If the finishes are too dark you create a cave, and then need to pump in way more energy to light the space adequately.