Daylighting: It’s not just for executives any more

Daylighting is the practice of placing windows and reflective surfaces so that natural daylight provides effective internal lighting and views of the outdoors into a space. Humans are affected both psychologically and physiologically by the different spectrums provided by daylight. One of the important psychological aspects from daylighting is meeting a need for contact with the outside living environment. Because natural views tend to produce positive responses, they may be more effective in reducing stress, decreasing anxiety, holding attention, and improving mood.

That is why designers and architects are impressing on their clients to design spaces that provide natural daylight to all staff members and their clients and not just to the executives that typically line their offices along the outside line of the windows of the building. In the late 20th century, Lockheed and Martin successfully increased productivity by 15 percent by providing an open office layout that provided daylighting to their production staff. Lockheed officials believe that the higher productivity levels pertaining to daylighting helped them win a $1.5 billion defense contract.

Three ways daylighting affects your employees:

• Decrease headaches: Studies show that natural spectral light improves proper lighting and reduces headaches and other associated ailments, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder and eyestrain.

• Stress reduction: When an employee can view the presence of natural vegetation and habitat through windows their stress levels are lower.

• Increase productivity: It stimulates a more positive mood for employees which promotes increased job satisfaction, work involvement, motivation, lowered absenteeism and most importantly lower levels of turnover.

Ways to increase daylight (natural or synthetic) into the workplace include:

• Provide an open office plan. Eliminate as many solid permanent or full-height walls as possible. Provide movable panels that have openings in them or provide visual access to the outdoors.

• Push production staff work areas towards exterior walls. This is a hard one for management, but moving production staff work areas (that are open plan) to the windows will increase your workforce production.

• Provide full spectrum lighting to interior work spaces. Some internal work spaces may not be able to be lit from the exterior or from above, as in high-rise buildings. Research the latest in technology and provide high-efficient full-spectrum lighting to these work areas. Note that work areas are spaces that the staff will occupy for more that 30 minutes at time. Full-spectrum lighting tends to have higher levels of temperature warmer in color than your standard ‘”cool white” lamps.

What does this mean to your company’s bottom line? Financial savings and increased profit.

Mail sorters at the main U.S. Post Office in Reno on Vassar Way, for instance, became the most productive and error-free after a retrofit to include natural light. In five months, productivity on the machines under the new lighting shot up almost 10 percent, leveling off to about 6 percent after one year. Working in a more naturally lit environment resulted in employees who did their jobs better and faster. While combined energy savings and maintenance savings came to about $50,000 per year, the improvements in employee productivity ($400,000 to $500,000) dwarfed the energy savings, resulting in a payback of less than 12 months.

Every working or living area is to be considered when designing a space, even hospitals. Healthcare spaces are studied daily to help ensure the safety and healing aspects of patients, families and staff. Reported benefits of natural light into healthcare spaces are reduced lighting and heating costs as well as improved physiological and psychological states for all. Daylighting has been so successful that hospital environments, as a part of the patient care program, now utilize it. There are regulations on windows in hospitals in United States. These regulations specify that a window should be included in rooms where patients stay for more than 23 hours.

Daylighting also creates a large benefit to building managers and owners. By using the natural sunlight in conjunction with low-e glass, power bills decrease. Qualified experts in daylighting should be involved as to provide the right type of light fixtures that are controlled by sensors to lower output during peak daytime hours and vice versa.. We have even seen exciting advances in skylights that are also a light fixture. A fixture is connected to a Solatube and is able to control how much light enters through the fixture and can provide fluorescent lighting during the low light times.

There are many aspects to daylighting that can create wellness and healing properties. You should consult an expert that can guide the process of creating a space that contributes to the group as a whole.

Marie Wikoff is owner of Wikoff Design Studio in Reno. Contact her at 775-232- 6556 or through www.wikoffdesignstudio.com.

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