Whenever I see buildings with electric lighting on during a sunny day, I am appalled at how wasteful it is. A new skylight design from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) allows a reasonable amount of sunlight into buildings, but not too much like older designs do, and it adjusts the amount of light it allows in depending on the weather. A survey showed a high user satisfaction level of 90% with this skylight design compared to older designs.
It is a solution to a problem which most people have faced forever: Winter is cold and grey, so they need/want as much sunlight as possible. Large windows are ideal for this. However, during the summer, their houses turn into ovens as these large windows allow too much sunlight inside.
Many people appreciate natural light (sunlight) because of its appearance, and also the fact that it requires no energy. It has also been proven to boost worker productivity. Many office building developers and owners, however, chose to block out most sunlight and use electric lighting to keep rooms cool, reducing air conditioner power consumption.
I wouldn’t blame them for this, as it is difficult to maintain natural lighting with old designs, and they would have to use tints so that it doesn’t become too hot during sunny weather. When it is cloudy, the tints end up making the buildings too dark, so electric lighting has to be turned on, which increases energy usage. An adjustable skylight is the perfect solution!
When the amount of sunlight allowed into a room is limited to that of a typical electric lighting setup, it produces no more heat than the electric lighting setup, plus the electric lighting setup will increase energy usage. Sunlight is hot because of the sheer volume of light the sun produces, which is far more than what any electric lighting setup produces.
An adjustable skylight allows a lot of light and heat in when you really want it, and less when you don’t.
In 2012, 14 light scoops were installed on an expansion of the Welch Allyn corporate headquarters in Skaneateles, N.Y. Several months after the light scoops were installed, 48 occupants completed a survey with a very high rate of satisfaction — almost 90 percent “like” or “strongly like” the patches of sun in the atrium, with responses such as, “sometimes I like to take a mental break, sitting in the sun,” “I just love to have sun, especially with the way it used to be [before renovation],” and “it’s very relaxing.” More details of the Welch Allyn installation and case study can be found in the Light Scoops design guide.
Light Scoops: A Design Guide demonstrates how to design light scoops to meet target light levels and includes a performance comparison of light scoops vs. conventional skylights.
Check out the light scoops design guide!