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Using natural light in buildings

The concept of Light Architecture refers directly to the focus on the element of natural light as a priority in the design process of a building. This focus is then translated into real terms during the construction phase of a project by the use of materials and systems which create an interior space that benefits directly from natural daylight. The key benefits of designing and building with natural light in mind include savings on both HVAC systems, artificial lighting, a greener building and the creation of a high-quality environment interior space.

light architecture cladding at recreation centre

Daylighting and architectural movements in the past

The Bauhaus school was responsible for a paradigm shift in the design of buildings and continues to influence designers today. One of the most influential Bauhaus themes is the role of light in shaping interior spaces and manifesting concepts. In Bauhaus thinking, light and transparency signify openness, freedom, democracy, coherence and health. This translates into designs that use a lot of glass, allowing natural light to flow into buildings and connecting the interior to the world outside.

Bauhaus luminaries with a particular interest in light included Hirschfeld-Mack who demonstrated the way coloured light mixed to form white light, and Albers, who used shadow and light to ‘sculpt’ space. László Moholy-Nagy believed that art only acquired meaning when it reflected light. His ideas inspired generations of architects, artists and designers far beyond the Bauhaus and his own lifetime. For example, Le Corbusier believed in the importance of windows as a means of channelling natural light into interior spaces. His fenêtre en longeur, or long horizontal window has become an architectural archetype.

Using light architecture in a church

Daylighting Design Trends

  • Greater client awareness of sustainability and the health-related benefits of naturally lit environments
  • Natural light is perceived to be as important as internal useable square footage, leading to more exciting spaces with interconnecting vertical connections
  • Technological advances in thermally efficient thin-framed glazing, allow architects to explore a greater variety of envelopes and apertures
  • The intrusion of solid framing elements has been reduced, allowing for purer sculptural forms

The most effective strategies for engaging natural light

  • Carefully consider how light enters, illuminates and animates a building and the physiological effect it can have on the occupants of each space.
  • Take inspiration from natural light in nature and art, and keep returning to natural light in sacred architecture.
  • Start by exploring the different ways to get natural light into a building and balance these with functional and spatial requirements.
  • Consider the materials of each element and how the light will play across them, and they add to the visual understanding of the building.


The Danpal approach to Daylighting

At Danpal, we believe that well-designed buildings should offer as much natural daylight as possible while still maintaining a comfortable internal environment.

Danpal® offers a brilliant range of daylight harnessing architectural solutions designed for building envelopes. Danpal provides the right tools for planning the most effective light openings – by integrating appropriate products which exploit the optimal level of energy resources.

A visionary in architectural technologies, Danpal® was the first company to develop the Danpalon® translucent panel standing seam system. For over three decades, Danpal’s® systems have been used around the world in architectural projects spanning commercial, education, transport, health, sports and high-tech industries.

By using state-of-the-art software, Danpal provides lighting and solar energy simulations, ensuring the optimal planning of daylighting. Danpal is unique in offering simulation solutions – reflecting its 30 year heritage as a specialist in daylight architectural innovation.

Natural light is one of the key ways of saving energy. Daylighting minimizes the amount of artificial light and reduces electricity and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) costs. Electrical lighting produces a lot of heat, whereas natural lighting generates hardly any heat if it is properly controlled.  Making use of natural light can save up to 75 percent of the energy used for lighting buildings and reduce cooling costs.

In the past few years, lighting has become a focus for energy saving ideas. However, not enough effort has gone into maximisation of the use of natural light either in building design or legislation.

Good daylighting solutions demand an integrated building design approach. Daylighting design should be holistic: developing solutions that are part of the main concept, while meeting visual, thermal and energy needs. We should discover how the sun shapes our experience, and apply this lesson to building design from the start. Designing for daylighting has to be considered at the initial stages of building design. The orientation of the building and glazing relative to the sun path is the most important decision. This is followed by the design of the roof and facades, the selection of glazing systems, and daylight controls such as blinds and louvres.

As energy issues have become ever more pressing, buildings have become increasingly sophisticated in their various responses to site, climate and function – and much of this sophistication is expressed through technology. Danpal® provides the right tools for planning the most effective light openings – by integrating appropriate products, which exploit the optimal level of energy resources – anywhere in the world, any time of day.

By using state-of-the-art software, Danpal® provides lighting and solar energy simulations. Danpal® is unique in offering simulation solutions – reflecting its 30 year heritage as a specialist in daylight architectural innovation. Danpal® products are built into the simulation software. Architects can monitor internal heat and light levels during preliminary design by testing the diffusing and insulating capacity of various Danpal® solutions. This ensures optimal energy efficiency and visual comfort.

Danpal® simulations bring solar and energy efficiency to new levels and create flexibility in design. The simulation software enables architects to choose the perfect system design for their energy and lighting needs by “playing” with different product specification options and the structure area. Taking into account the system’s physical characteristics (light transmission, solar factor, U value, etc.), the software creates a simulation of daylight and energy consumption, then provides a map showing the natural illuminance levels throughout the building.

Light is fundamental to our existence. Over 50% of the world’s population lives in cities and the United Nations estimates that by 2050 this figure will rise to 70%. But we are not using our cities and towns to their fullest potential. Night-time presents great challenges to cities around the world. While more and more people are living in cities, this has not always successfully translated into a ‘24 hour’ city. In many cities there is no strategic planning and design for the nighttime. A holistic approach to urban lighting could create vibrant and safe places for people in cities—at all hours.

We must rethink urban lighting beyond safety or beautification and more as a way of improving the quality of life for people who live in cities. Lighting can have a positive impact on our cities” total architecture’, enhance cultural experiences and encourage social interaction. The integration of smart LEDs in city systems enable lighting that is responsive to specific contexts, while the understanding of the impact of light on human behaviour can help us design more liveable urban environments. We need to find ‘the right kind of light’ for urban environments.

At night, the impression of a city is created through what is lit. Light and art create the atmosphere, whilst shaping the sensorial experiences of our surroundings. Illumination alters spaces; as a medium, it enables designers to play with shades, colour and intensities. Research shows that lighting can trigger positive behaviour—for example, by inducing a positively balanced mood. LEDs give us the tools to address complex urban challenges in new ways. Night-time lighting can be more responsive to environmental, social and contextual needs through smart technologies.

Danpal. Transforming light into a powerful tool

At Danpal, our customised and easy-to-install range of systems literally transform light – whether natural or artificial – into a powerful and versatile tool, for architectural creations that radiate inside and out. For example, Danpal’s extensive range of lighting offers architects a rich palette to create inspired facades – illuminating the user’s experience with sunlight by day then offering spectacular light walls radiating internal light in the evenings.

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