PRODUCTIVITY & ENERGY SAVING IN DAYLIT COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS
The primary concern for most architects and builders today is how to create a building that is energy efficient, more so with regard to commercial buildings, as these structures tend to consume gigantic amounts of energy in terms of power for lighting, air-conditioning, and heating. And as we all know, the more the energy used, the more the toxic emissions into the atmosphere that continues to contribute to global warming.
The NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), Colorado, owned by the US Department of Energy, conducted a study to understand “The Effects of Natural Light on Building Occupants”. It has been reported by architects and builders time and again that huge energy savings can be achieved by buildings designed to exploit daylight. It has been shown that commercial buildings use up 32% of the US electricity (1998), of which 33% was used up by lighting. This in turn results in excessive cooling loads. The utility costs of a building can be reduced if it is designed to optimize daylight in order to reduce electric lighting. In the 1940’s, daylight was the primary source of office lighting. 20yrs on, electric lighting transformed the work place by meeting all of the occupants lighting requirements. And here we are today, reeling from this irresponsible impact!
The study also highlighted important non-energy related benefits to day-lighting, and its perceived economic benefits – it has a potentially massive impact on the physiological and psychological aspects of a work force. According to Dr.Ott (1997), the body uses light as a nutrient for metabolic processes similar to water or food. The different wavelengths of daylight benefits employees in terms of higher productivity, lower absenteeism, fewer errors, positive attitude, reduced fatigue, and reduced eye strain.
It has long been understood that headaches, SAD, and eyestrain are related to insufficient daylight levels, especially in the northern hemisphere. Eyestrain is related to lighting in an office and its ability to refocus – when the eye is not allowed to refocus to different distances over a long period of time, its muscles become conditioned to a limited range of perspective, promoting long or short sight. This strain is reduced with landscape views through windows, because the combination of short- and long-range views allows the eye to refocus (Franta and Anstead 1994). Day-lighting promotes a positive mood in employees which results in job satisfaction, motivation, and reduced absenteeism.
The effect of light on productivity dates back to 1920; the relationship between work output and productivity is still significant. Studies show that natural light increases attention and alertness during the post lunch dip for boring and monotonous work. People with views of natural vegetation also scored high on attention. Increased interaction among employees was noticed in open layouts with integrated daylight, bumping up productivity. Offices designed with large windows and integrated daylight has also reported a significant reduction in employee absenteeism and turnover.
Lockheed Martin showed financial savings through enhanced work force productivity when it moved its office to a daylit building – a 2% increase in productivity equates to a $3million saved per year.
A survey through a questionnaire assessing ten environmental factors, including sunshine and view, was used to determine worker satisfaction – 96% of the employees preferred working under natural light as opposed to electric light, with a preference for year round sunshine.
Though numerous studies show the benefits of day-lighting in terms of energy savings and employer and employee satisfaction vs a vs productivity, improper day-lighting can result in discomfort within a structure. Extremely high levels of brightness, excessive glare and high temperatures can paradoxically produce the same results of limited lighting. So the question of how to maintain a comfortable balance became imminent, because in many instances, the initial positive perceptions to a day-lit building became negative when the lighting levels and the glare got to be too much to bear. Because let’s face it, whatever the benefits of sunlight, it’s too strong an entity to go without any shielding, especially in the summer. Even the winter sun – which is lower and in line with windows – can prove too strong an adversary for the best designed buildings. The coping methods used by some of the buildings like The Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities and The VeriFone building were as follows:
To alleviate the glare from the east side of the building, semi-opaque fabric was hung six feet away from the windows during the summer months.
Venetian Window Blinds were also installed inside the east-facing windows to further reduce glare and to aid with multi-media presentations.
New employees were trained on how to orient their computer screens to minimize the glare.
In keeping with results of the above study, we at Zebrablinds go the extra mile to bring you two of the best options in such situations:
Graber 5% Motorized Exterior Solar Shades with charcoal color – these dark colored shades (built with the GreenGuard certified Phifer fabric woven with fibreglass) are the ideal option to absorb the strong sun rays and cut down its glare before they reach the windows, while making for a seemingly unobstructed view of the outdoors. The 5% openness of the weave is tight enough to deal with the harmful effects of the sun and loose enough to allow for a fabulous view, creating a comfortable coolness inside. The motorized option gives you the flexibility to time the raising and lowering of the shades as and when required, on floors that are not otherwise accessible, and when inclement weather has to be dealt with.
Graber 2.5” Brushed Aluminum Mini Blinds with Inverted Slats – while everyone knows that Venetian Blinds are ideal options to bend light according to requirement, it is a little known fact that when their inverted slats are turned to 45 degrees, they direct light to those ill-lit areas of a room, especially on cloudy days. That apart, the slats can be kept at the horizontal position for a great view but minimized impact of the sunlight, as the inverted slats deflect it to the ceiling. They’re a fantastic option to be used in tandem with exterior solar shades as well. They’re available with the RF automated vane feature as well, so controlling them during a video or Power Point presentation will be seamless.
Working in a day-lit office was never better than it is now, thanks to the strides in modern innovation and technology!