Daylighting in the workplace

Often times, when planning out office spaces, window placement is overlooked; in fact, quality daylighting can make one of the biggest impacts on a business. According to The California Energy Commission, more natural light from windows and better ventilation increases worker productivity, alertness and overall performance.

There have been multiple studies proving this theory true, such as Heschong Mahone’s study in 2003 entitled “Windows and Offices.” Mahone showed that students who sat in classrooms with natural light scored 25% higher than those students who were placed in rooms without windows. This study proves that people are able to mentally focus better when surrounded by natural light.

The United States Green Building Council recognizes the importance of daylighting as well, and builders wanting to receive LEED certification are advised to design buildings that allow occupants to receive maximum daylighting as well as a view to the outdoors. Even furniture trends are in alignment with this theory. According to Teknion, an office furniture manufacturer, workstations are shrinking in height to about 42-inch-high panels in order for all workers to receive maximum daylighting at their workstations.


So, the question is, how do you design an office in order to receive maximum daylighting? If you are working with a square or rectangular space, which is often the case, offices and breakout areas where occupants spend the most of their time should be placed surrounding the perimeter of a building, where windows are available. The core of the building should be saved for elevators, restrooms, and mechanical rooms, where daylighting is not as important. An open concept office design will help allow light penetrate throughout the space. The use of glass walls and doors would be most helpful in allowing light to penetrate through hallways and to the core of the building. Wherever feasible, use toplighting; toplighting includes skylights and clerestory windows. Workstation panels should be kept 42 inches or lower to allow light penetration as well as be placed perpendicular to windows to allow light to easily pass through. This also helps avoid visual discomfort occupants may experience when facing a window head on.

Advanced Buildings recommends interior finish reflections follow suit with reflective ceilings, fairly reflective walls and non-reflective floors. These finishes will help to diffuse light throughout the space. It is also important to use lighter finishes; using dark finishes in contrast to all the exterior daylighting will create a dark cave-like feel.

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