SPOKANE, Wash. — Daylight can make people happier, healthier and more productive. The challenge of bringing it into the workplace will be the focus of a daylighting lab, beginning operations this month at the Interdisciplinary Design Institute of Washington State University Spokane. 

Funded with a grant from BetterBricks, the new WSU Daylighting Design Studio — A BetterBricks Design Lab — will provide education, consulting and other support for design professionals.

BetterBricks is an initiative of the nonprofit Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and is supported by the region’s local electric utilities. The goals of the BetterBricks Daylighting Labs are to encourage the use of daylighting in building design and to incorporate daylight with electrical lighting in buildings.

The WSU Spokane lab, which will receive approximately $135,000 in funding over the next year, joins six other labs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana that make up the BetterBricks Design Lab Network. Each lab is associated with a university design program in a unique partnering of utilities and universities.

The Spokane lab will partner with Avista, Kootenai Electric and other regional utilities to create energy-saving incentives and opportunities and to identify target projects for energy savings. The goal is the creation of a body of knowledge to expand the art and science of daylight design. The WSU Daylighting Design Studio will employ graduate research assistants and be available to all WSU students in Pullman and Spokane for academic inquiry.

Judy Theodorson, lecturer in interior design at WSU Spokane, will be director of the lab. She has been a regional technical adviser to the Lighting Design Lab in Seattle since 1999 and developed the proposal to establish the Spokane lab.

She has taught environmental control systems and design studio for seven years at WSU, University of Idaho and Montana State University. Theodorson, a registered architect who is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, focuses her teaching on the aesthetic, human and efficiency benefits of environmental design, particularly lighting.

Lab equipment and services

The lab will provide design assistance and physical modeling to help design professionals integrate daylighting into their building designs. When completed, it will make use of a heliodon— made up of a tilting table and a theatrical light that acts as the sun—which allows the testing of a building model in direct sun conditions to evaluate the function of shading devices against sun patterns any day and at any time of year.

It will also include an overcast sky simulator, which will allow the testing of a building model in overcast conditions to show the quantity and distribution of daylight in a space.

The BetterBricks Design Lab Network serves as a free technical resource of credible and unbiased information and education to facilitate integration of energy-efficient design to achieve high-performance buildings. The labs help design professionals take advantage of the benefits of energy efficiency to create more productive and comfortable work environments.

The WSU lab is beginning its education and consulting services this month. While awaiting installation of the local equipment, it will make use of the Seattle Daylighting Lab for design analysis.

Lab already at work

Spokane School District No. 81 is promoting “green design” in the three elementary schools currently in the design process. The Seattle Daylight lab has done daylight consulting on Lincoln Heights (Integrus Architecture), Lidgerwood (Madsen Mitchell Evenson & Conrad Architects) and Ridgeview (ALSC Architects). The newly established WSU lab will follow up on these projects as a locally available source of expert assistance.

The benefit of utilizing daylight in schools is well documented. Studies show that students have improved performance on standardized testing if they have been in classrooms that primarily use natural light rather than artificial light.

Related Web sites:

Daylighting Fact Sheet: http://wsunews.wsu.edu/detail.asp?StoryID=4981
Interdisciplinary Design Institute: www.idi.spokane.wsu.edu
BetterBricks: www.betterbricks.com
New York Times article on daylight design: http://www.lightingdesignlab.com/daylighting/

“The Deliberation on Daylighting,” article in Buildings, April 2004: http://www.buildings.com/Articles/detailBuildings.asp?ArticleID=1827
U.S. Green Building Council: www.usgbc.org