Let the light shine in
The introduction of Part L of the Building Regulations emphasised the importance of avoiding unnecessary lighting during the times when daylight levels are adequate or when workspaces are unoccupied, and led to the need to look at the choices available for more energy efficient solutions. This, together with the fact that the use of natural daylight can help organisations achieve both significant cost savings and health benefits for occupants of their buildings means that natural daylight solutions are becoming ever more popular.
There are however a number of things to take into consideration where lighting is concerned before installing a new system, and whether it is for a refurbishment or new build, it is vital to look at the whole life costing of the system which includes installation, energy consumption and maintenance.
Reducing energy costs
It is estimated that electric lighting can account for up to 25% of a building’s energy costs but this isn’t just accounted for by the cost of the lighting because electric light produces a significant amount of heat, which can mean an increase in the need for air conditioning. Reducing your electric lighting could therefore reduce both energy costs and environmental impact.
Daylighting systems work by transferring daylight from the roof into room areas which are not adequately lit by windows – typically internal workspaces, and therefore they need to incorporate a number of unique features to enable this to happen.
SolaLighting’s solutions incorporate a number of features which actively capture natural daylight. These include the patented Raybender 3000 Fresnel lens and LightTracker reflector which significantly increase the light capture area and consequently the amount of daylight that is directed into the rooms below. This is particularly important when the sun is low in the sky for example in the early morning, late evening or during winter months.
In addition, SolaLighting’s Spectralight Infinity, the material that is used within the tubular part of the system, reflects up to 99.7% of the light being transferred, making it the most efficient reflective surface in any tubular daylight system. Put another way, Spectralight Infinity absorbs only 0.3% light energy at each bounce so that after 20 bounces it will deliver up to 94% of the original light – around 30% more than the closest competitive material.
Once through the tube, Solatube ceiling diffusers ensure that the light is evenly distributed in the room below. Diffusers are double glazed to prevent heat loss or gain and block virtually all UV transmission. Depending on the application and requirements of the building, diffusers can be fitted with a number of options including a ventilation kit, a daylight dimmer or an electric light fitting for use at night.
Research has shown that the occupants of a building prefer natural to artificial light and long-term studies have found that people prefer the varying levels of light provided by a daylight cycle to the constant light levels provided by artificial lights. A wide range of health problems may also be attributed to a lack of access to natural daylight throughout the day.
Lighting levels are usually measured in lux, a measure of the intensity of light, which is a standardised model of human brightness perception. SolaLighting’s Daylighting Systems can achieve up to 2,000 lux where conventional workplace lighting delivers, on average, a maximum of only 500 lux. This is obviously dependent upon the time of year, time of day, weather etc but offers a much reduced impact on the environment as well as a far healthier option.
Daylight in action
Through the installation of Daylighting systems many organisations have recorded measurable and quantifiable benefits for example a recent study of office worker productivity found exposure to daylight was consistently linked with higher levels of concentration and better short term memory.
The system has also helped to keep people in the workplace and raise their productivity, a fact which a utility company discovered upon completion of building upgrades to use more daylight. They saw absenteeism decrease by 25%, productivity increase by over 13% and energy costs reduce by almost 70%. It was initially estimated that prior to the installation the lighting retrofit would pay for itself in just over four years, but when the increased productivity and reduced absenteeism were factored in it was found to have paid for itself in just 69 days.
In another case, a 76,000 square foot office building was upgraded to include a series of daylighting and other energy-efficient features. On sunny days, employees used only natural daylight and small task lights. Employees no longer complained of ‘end of the day headaches’ or sluggishness. In addition, absenteeism dropped by 40%, employee productivity increased by 5% and energy bills were slashed by 50%.
A dramatic effect
Daylighting systems are indeed coming into their own and have been used to dramatic effect in a number of different applications from schools and hospitals to offices and factories. Previously unusable internal areas have been reclaimed as effective, usable space which is lit by natural light with none of the running or maintenance costs associated with electric lighting.
In addition they are very easy to fit and can usually be incorporated easily into existing buildings with minimal disruption to operations regardless of the type of building or its application.
Daylighting systems are proven to improve the quality of the space and offer the occupant a visual connection to the outdoors which makes their environment a more comfortable, pleasant and productive space to work in. If you add to that the fact that they have huge energy saving benefits then you will begin to see why they are becoming so popular throughout the industry.