Daylighting and Health

daylight-health-benefits

The Health Benefits of Daylighting

Plants aren’t the only living organisms that metabolize sunlight, we human beings do too. While the relationship daylight exposure and our health isn’t simple, it is important to know. Most people are aware of the risk of skin cancer from long exposure without protection, a number of studies and scientists suggest that moderate exposure leads to a surprising number of health benefits.

  1. Daylight helps lower blood pressure.

    A group of researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that as soon as daylight hits the skin, a compound is released that helps lower blood pressure.

  2. Daylight improves bone health.

    The most well-known health benefit of daylight is the creation of Vitamin D when daylight hits the skin. The creation of Vitamin D also creates Vitamin D3, which has been shown to reduce risks of bone fractures.

  3. Daylight improves brain functions.

    A study by the University of Cambridge found that higher levels of vitamin D were correlated with higher levels of cognitive function. The inverse was also true, where lower the levels of Vitamin D among those with lower cognitive function. Even more studies have shown that daylight could help with grown of nerve cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating and storing memories.

  4. Daylight eases mild depression.

    A lack of daylight can cause a condition called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a common mild form of depression in the winter months or for workers who have long hours in artificially lit buildings. Moderate daylight increases the levels of natural antidepressants in the brain, like serotonin.

  5. Daylight improves sleep quality.

    When daylight hits our eyes, the brain sends a message to the pineal gland to stop production of melatonin, the hormone mainly responsible for making us drowsy. When it starts to get dark, the message stops and melatonin is produced again. Over production of melatonin during the day leads to low levels at night, making it harder to fall asleep.

  6. Daylight improves growth in children.

    Studies have revealed that amount of daylight a child gets, especially in the first few months of it life, has an effect on how tall the child grows.

  7. Daylight improves the immune system.

    Daylight helps suppress an overactive immune system, which is why daylight is used to treat autoimmune diseases like psoriasis. Daylight also causes an increase in white blood cells, which play a key role in fighting diseases and infections.

  8. Daylight reduces risk of some cancers.

    Scientists from the University of California noticed that higher levels of Vitamin D drop your risk of many cancers, especially colon cancer and breast cancer. Other studies show that Vitamin D supplementation produce a dramatic 60% drop in risk of developing any form of cancer.

Blue spectrum of light.

The biggest reasons for these health benefits is the full spectrum of color that daylight provides. Most artificial light is on the yellow spectrum only, whereas natural daylight carries the full spectrum, especially blue.

It is important that daylighting systems must not filter out the blue spectrum of light. These benefits cannot be achieved without the blue spectrum of light. When a daylighting system has yellowed it is actually a failed system because it is filtering out the blue spectrum of light.

Case Study: Chase Bank

Chase Bank of Loveland

Chase Bank of Loveland Hero

A Pyramid Skylight Retrofit Will Provide Improved Daylighting

The Chase Bank building in Loveland, CO has four low-rise pyramid skylights. The bank has experienced problems with these skylights over the years. Gaskets failing, condensation problems, and popping noises were a just few of the constant problems.

The biggest complaint, however, was the quality of the light and the heat from the sun. The light the skylights were projecting into the building was the number one complaint over the years. The longer the acrylic panels were in place the worse the yellowing of the light and the unbearable heat gain, especially on the second floor.

Going up to the second floor was like being an ant under a magnifying glass in the summer.
The Contractor

We discussed with the contractor and building owner the combinations of colors we could use to gain the control they were looking for. It was decided to use a blue polycarbonate outer layer with an interior layer of Ice White Matte. The Ice White Matte allows the light to be dispersed evenly across and down from each skylight.

A Daylighting Comparison: Yellowed Fiberglass vs. Translucent Polycarbonate

Daylighting and Energy Usage

hm-brown-daylighting-energy-usage-6

A good daylighting system is the easiest and most cost-effective way to light a space and reduce energy usage. After all, the sun provides everyone with a lot of free light and energy every day, it makes sense to take advantage of it. However, placing just adding in skylights or windows without thought is a recipe for disaster; or really just some discomfort, but you get the idea.

An average grocery store might save about $16,000 per year in operating costs, or $0.32 per square foot with the use of an appropriately sized skylighting system.

 

Controlled Daylighting

hm-brown-daylighting-energy-usage-3To achieve reduced energy usage and save on operating costs the daylighting must be intentional and controlled. It is equally important to install and implement lighting controls. If the office worker or employee’s turn on the electric lights, there will be no savings.

Why are electric lights so expensive to run? About half of a light bulb’s energy consumption is released as heat, making them fairly inefficient. LED technologies are improving this percentage, but they still cost money.

Potential Energy Savings

A good daylighting solution will reduce overall energy usage of any building. For example, the potential savings for a few typical buildings in the Los Angeles area were calculated*. An average grocery store might save about $16,000 per year in operating costs, or $0.32 per square foot with the use of an appropriately sized skylighting system. A typical elementary school might save about $7,500 per year in operating costs, or $0.23 per square foot. An industrial processing and distribution center might save about $0.12 per square foot.

*Using 1998 energy costs, weather conditions from the San Bernardino Valley, and a few default assumptions.

Translucent Vs. Transparent Daylighting

transparent vs translucent daylighting

When Should You Use Transparent Daylighting and When Should You Use Translucent?

Proper daylighting design requires use of both translucent vs. transparent daylighting. Glass or other transparent glazings provide a view of the outside, making the room feel larger and bringing the outdoors in. However, glass also brings in solar heat and causes glare, making the space uncomfortable and difficult to work in.

Translucent Vs. Transparent Daylighting

Translucent Daylighting Is the Most Cost Effective

Utilizing translucent daylighting is the most efficient and effective way to provide natural daylighting. Translucent panels are far more effective at blocking heat, providing savings in energy usage. Translucent panels also scatter the light, eliminating glare and reducing the amount of both artificial light and amount of daylighting needed, reducing both operating costs and installation costs. Translucent panels are cheaper to manufacture and install than glass, providing the best cost to usage ratio.

CPI Daylighting’s translucent polycarbonate, like their UniQuad or QuadWall products, provide highly diffused light without glare or solar heat gain. Diffuse light is like light on a cloudy day; small shadows, no spotlighting, low heat and easy on the eyes.

Transparent Daylighting Provides a View

Glass on the other hand provides a view. However the tradeoff is that it also delivers glare and solar heat gain. Glass is also expensive, and to get similar U-values, the glass has to be coated, triple pane, and insulated with argon gases, all adding to the costs. The seals will eventually break down, the gases leak out, and performance drops, and either replacements are expensive and difficult, or impossible.

But, there are areas that a view is necessary. No one wants to work in a building without a window or view outside. So the key is to balance the translucent vs. transparent daylighting in the design.

Translucent Vs. Transparent Daylighting Usage

For general use, walls at eye height (6 feet – 8 feet) should have some transparent glazing, allowing for views outside. In almost all other cases translucent daylighting provides the best performance at the best price. It really depends upon the usage: gymnasiums work best with translucent daylighting, and office buildings do well with translucent daylighting, as glare and heat can drop productivity quickly.

Commercial Flat Roof Daylighting Solution

The Velux Commercial Sun Tunnel for a Commercial Flat Roof

Getting cost-effective daylighting into a commercial building can be a challenge, especially when most have a commercial flat roof. Velux Commercial Sun Tunnels are a great potential solution.

Why Velux Sun Tunnels?

The Velux SunCurve diffuser is designed to capture light at all times of the day and reflect it down the shaft, giving you ample daylight dawn dusk.

Velux Sun Tunnels have a variety of parts and accessories to work with whatever needs your location might need; from forced entry protection, A, B, or C fire classifications, to a daylight controller for room darkening.

Sun Tunnel Parts and Accessories.

Velux also provides the best warranty, giving you peace of mind.

Ideal Applications

Velux Commercial Sun Tunnels were created for commercial flat roof applications, no matter the material. They work best over areas that can benefit from natural daylight, and help reduce energy loads and improve the comfort and performance of employees, guests, or customers.

Open Ceiling Sun TunnelSchools, retail spaces, warehouses and office locations benefit the most from Velux Commercial Sun Tunnels. They provide a very cost-effective way to bring in daylight through the roof. Even greater cost savings can be attained with open ceiling applications.