Celebrating Solstice: Daylight & Design


Celebrating Solstice: Daylight & Design

Design in Alaska seeks to find a balance amongst many unique Northern conditions and project demands. Daylight is one of those challenging Alaskan conditions that requires a thoughtful, deliberate approach to optimize daylight at the extremes of and in between summer and winter solstices.

The continuum that our extreme daylight cycle presents not only in quantity and duration of daylight but in the many qualities of daylight including angle, intensity, and color temperature. Rendition requires a deft hand in managing exposures and glare, optimizing daylight penetration deep into our buildings’ occupied spaces, and augmenting daylight with variably controlled artificial sources and lighting strategies both indoors and out, all to support a wide range of functions, activities, and users, and to contribute to a project’s energy efficiency.

We coordinate with our Partner Clients to consider where daylight is required, as a critical aspect of our health and well-being, with measurable physiological and psychological benefits. Our Architects develop our solutions with modeling software that allows us to test our solutions in the exact place on earth for the changing seasons and time of day, noting the exact sun angles. Glazing size, location, and types are vetted, exterior envelope details, and landscape architecture design elements are combined to provide an all-season response.

We look closely at the precious few hours of daylight at winter solstice as it is complemented with the soft warm glow of light that is reflected from the snow through the winter season as a key driver in the design. Summer solstice in Alaska gives us an abundance of daylight and creates opportunities to control solar gain and provide passive shading solutions.   

Nunn says that decades of research, industry standard, and best practices help determine the ideal brightness levels for various spaces, depending on their intended use, measured in foot-candles: full, unobstructed sunlight produces approximately 10,000 foot-candles of light, while an overcast day generates about 100 foot-candles.

-Dana Nunn, Interior Design Director

The extreme variation of sunlight in the North is something we at Bettisworth North value and integrate into our design solutions. Bettisworth North’s Fairbanks studio lights are not used from approximately Spring to Fall Equinox because the distributed window placements provide ample access to sunlight, saving electrical energy use and providing equal access to daylight for occupants.

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