Humans need natural daylight - it is a fundamental part of our biology. Exposure to natural light has a whole host of health benefits, from promoting better sleep to improving our moods. Daylight supports the regulation of vitamin D, serotonin and melatonin in our bodies and promotes healthy eye development.
Yet many of us now spend the majority of our days indoors, moving between our homes and offices. Modern architectural design has already begun to recognize the importance of letting natural light back into our lives, using glass in new and exciting ways. Large, often floor-to-ceiling windows help to bring a feeling of the outside in.
However, while this helps to create light-filled buildings, it can also increase building temperatures and personal discomfort for those sitting in direct sunlight. In particular, in office environments, the need to reduce glare on screens, control room temperatures or create private meeting spaces means we’re still using blinds and partitions to shut ourselves away from the outdoors and natural light.
Increased temperatures also create more demand for air conditioning, while the use of window blinds means relying on additional artificial light. All of this can considerably increase a building’s energy usage and environmental footprint.
Yet the business benefits of exposure to natural light are clear. It’s been shown that office workers who sit near windows sleep on average for 46 minutes longer than those who don’t. While workplaces with good levels of natural light benefit from productivity gains between 3% and 40%.
This poses the question: How do we balance our human need for natural light with the practical and environmental considerations of modern building design?