By: Krystal Maxwell
The focus on occupant health and well-being is a trend in the commercial building market that is continuing to grow in 2019. An occupant’s interactions with the built environment can affect their productivity, comfort, health, and satisfaction with the indoors. Historically, the thought of comfort was linked to HVAC within a building. The role of lighting for occupant comfort and productivity has started to gain momentum.
Daylight Plays an Important Role with Time Spent Indoors
The inclusion of natural daylight has become a focal point within the growing trend of lighting playing a role in improved occupant health and well-being. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend an average of 90% of their time indoors. A recent study commissioned by Danish window and skylight manufacturer Velux, the Indoor Generation Report, surveyed roughly 16,000 people from 14 countries in Europe and North America about the amount of time they spend inside. This study found that 25% of Americans spend 21 to 24 hours inside, 20% spend 19 to 20 hours inside, 21% spend 15 to 18 hours inside, and 34% spend 0 to 14 hours inside. With so much time indoors, there is limited exposure to natural daylight.
Daylighting is a lighting control strategy that reduces energy use through the dimming of electrical lighting when natural light is present. Daylighting also plays a role in increasing the use of natural light and helping to improve occupant comfort and productivity. According to a Harvard Business Review study of 1,614 North American employees, access to natural light and views of the outdoors ranked as the number one office perk, outranking factors such as onsite cafeterias and fitness centers. The same study showed that roughly one-third of respondents feel they don’t get enough natural light in their workplace, 47% stated they feel tired from the absence of natural light or a window at their office, and 43% felt gloomy due to the lack of light.
Balancing Natural Light Is Key to Success of Daylighting Control
Incorporating daylight into the workplace can also create unintended issues, such as sunlight that is too bright or creates a glare. Some lighting manufacturers are integrating their lighting solutions with motorized window shades to address this problem. Another solution, which provides the same benefits without the need for shades, is dynamic glass, a smart window offering. In November 2018, a Milpitas, California-based company called View that offers dynamic glass, announced a $1.1 billion investment from SoftBank Vision Fund. View’s core offering works to let in the optimal amount of natural light while decreasing heat and glare. The company states this can reduce lighting and HVAC expenses by up to 20% and reduce headaches, eyestrain, and drowsiness by more than 50% while simultaneously increasing productivity. The investment provided funds to meet accelerating demand for View’s dynamic glass, which at the time had been installed in 35 million square feet of buildings.
Some other companies that offer dynamic glass include Innovative Glass and Suntuitive. While this market is still small, dynamic glass can provide a complementary solution to daylighting. An investment such as SoftBank Vision Fund’s in this technology shows the potential role of dynamic glass in improving the occupant experience.