Daylighting lab to promote energy-effective design

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 and Integrated Design Center being established at the Interdisciplinary Design Institute of Washington State University Spokane with a grant from BetterBricks.

BetterBricks is a project of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a broad consortium of utilities that work to improve the efficiency of electricity use in the region. The BetterBricks Daylighting Labs’ goals are to encourage the use of daylighting in building design and to optimize the use of daylight in buildings.

Daylight does not equal sunlight. Daylight is cool in color and temperature and, by definition, daylighting actually involves keeping direct sunlight out of buildings and bringing diffuse light in. Design is integral to ensuring that the incoming daylight works with, and not against, other building systems such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning and electric lighting. Good daylight design will reduce the use of electricity by turning off electric lights and reducing air conditioning loads.

The ultimate outcome is the creation of a body of knowledge that is expanding the art and science of daylight design. The WSU BetterBricks Daylighting Lab and Integrated Design Center will employ graduate research assistants and be available to all WSU students in Pullman and Spokane for academic inquiry.

Joins Northwest network
The WSU Spokane lab, to be funded with approximately $135,000 over the next year, joins six other labs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana that make up the BetterBricks Design Lab Network. Each lab has an association with a university design program in a unique partnering of utilities and universities.

The lab network serves as a 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 design and financial benefits of energy efficiency to create more productive and comfortable work environments. Each lab can provide a variety of services, which include information on tools and resources available, consultations on climate analysis and appropriate building responses, design consultations for daylighting and electric lighting, and daylighting modeling. Some labs offer additional services such as consultations on heating/air conditioning system integration and energy analysis.

Judy Theodorson, adjunct assistant professor of interior design at WSU Spokane, will serve as director of the lab. She has been a regional technical advisor to the Lighting Design Lab in Seattle since 1999 and developed the proposal to establish the Spokane lab. Her expertise includes seven years of teaching environmental control systems and design studio 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.

Serving architects, schools, more
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 — essentially a tilting table and a theatrical light that acts as the sun — to allow the testing of building models in direct sun conditions and evaluate the function of shading devices at any time of day and year. It also will include an overcast sky simulator, essentially a mirror room, to allow the testing of a building model in overcast conditions to show the quantity and distribution of daylight.

The Spokane Public School system is pursuing several related designs for projects in three elementary schools currently in the design process. 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 student performance on standardized testing improves if students have been in classrooms that primarily use natural light rather than artificial light.

The lab is a partner with Avista, Kootenai Electric and other regional utilities to create energy-saving incentives and opportunities and to identify target projects for energy savings.

Fast facts about daylight and design
Daylight can make businesses more successful. A recent study by Heschong Mahone Group of Sacramento ( found that sales were 40 percent higher in stores with good natural light. Worker productivity — much of which can be directly correlated with daylight — can increase by 20 percent with good design or decrease by 20 percent with bad design.

By incorporating appropriate daylighting design, building owners can meet 25 to 33 percent of the requirements necessary to obtain a silver-rated LEED building. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™ is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council.

For additional information see:

• Interdisciplinary Design Institute:
• BetterBricks:
• New York Times article that gives a good overview of daylight design:
• The Deliberation on Daylighting, an article in Buildings, April 2004:

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