David Willetts, Chairman of SerraLux Inc., discusses how capturing the power of daylight can help organisations save up to 60 per cent in electricity costs. Alongside the energy savings that can be reaped by harnessing natural light he explains the benefits daylight can have on human beings and provides advice to FMs who are looking to improve employee comfort and reduce glare
Summer is just around the corner. Daffodils have sprung up on every spare patch of lawn they can find, the sound of the ice cream vans is becoming more and more familiar and people are beginning to wear short sleeves to work. Last week we saw the first day of spring coincide with the International day of Happiness. Coincidence? I think not.
However, it’s not all sunshine and roses, or daffodils for that matter. As the days become warmer and longer so, too, does the amount of sunshine coming into our buildings. And while this may seem like a summer perk, in reality, being stuck in a windowless building or at a computer which is subject to huge amounts of glare is not ideal. With increased daylight, then, comes several problems which FMs need to address.
It’s no secret that sunlight in moderation is beneficial for both our physical and mental health. Plants, animals and humans all thrive off sunlight and need it for good health. Sunlight has been found to help beat seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D), increase levels of Vitamin D, aid concentration and alertness, improve some skin conditions and can even boost mood and overall immune system. Most animals and plants are governed by circadian rhythms – a biological process which is affected by our environment and the amount of sunlight we are experiencing. Disruption to this circadian rhythm has negative consequences for our health and wellbeing. And, by extension, our ability to work.
The WELL Building Standard places daylighting at its core, with a focus on circadian lighting design. Now that established organisational bodies are recognising the importance of lighting in design, more businesses are also realising the economic and social benefits of capturing daylight in their buildings. According to Leesman, the world’s leading assessor of workplace effectiveness, 77 per cent of employees worldwide state that natural light is important to them. We all know that we need light to read, write and interact with each other – that’s not new. What is new is the fact that businesses understand now, more than ever, that environmental factors can impact on those all-important productivity levels. And, as per the latest Leesman data, only 58 per cent of those surveyed are satisfied with the offering in their workplaces. As we are still caught in the midst of a productivity crisis, we need to work on improving every possible facet of the workplace. The provision of daylight plays a role here.
Building interiors which capture natural light effectively make economic sense to both owner and occupier. Through building design, daylight can be maximised in a number of ways: through building orientation, window design, configuration and glazing, strategic use of overhangs and interior design and furnishings. Daylight can also be ‘retrofitted’ into existing facilities, making a sunny office achievable for all. Daylight management technologies, removing blinds and moving desks around can all help increase the amount of daylight. Many companies nowadays place meeting rooms and cellular offices towards the middle of a building blueprint to allow natural light to flood the main office space where most people will be working.
The Carbon Trust, the experts on resource efficiency and carbon reduction, have found that up to 40 per cent of a building’s electricity use is down to lighting. Clearly then, substantial savings can be made if businesses reduce the use of artificial light and harness the power of natural lighting. Using daylight sensors to adjust the artificial lighting, according to the amount of natural light in a room, can reduce electricity use by up to 40 per cent – some studies suggest the could be as much as 60 per cent.
It’s 2017 and workplace wellbeing has taken centre stage in the built environment sector. As awareness around wellbeing grows, so too will the awareness around light and its role in improving employee satisfaction levels. There is a correlation between workplace wellbeing and the amount of natural light in a workplace. But going ‘green’ and maximising the power of daylight requires thought and planning before the benefits can be reaped. Regardless of the season, then, FMs should make proper lighting, a priority; not just for the people in these places but for the planet as a whole.