Illuminating Natural Light Opportunities
Explore options early in the design process
Summer solstice is a much-anticipated milestone here in Alaska, when music, festivals, outdoor recreation, and more help us celebrate June 21, that glorious day of seemingly endless daylight. The quality and quantity of this daylight should be a key consideration whenever a new project is being planned. Natural light is one of a designer’s most important tools. Frank Lloyd Wright said, “More and more, so it seems to me, light is the beautifier of the building.” We agree.
For most projects, maximizing natural light begins with site planning. A landscape architect will study the property to determine options for siting, or where to place, the building or certain site elements. Exposures are reviewed in conjunction with variables such as wind, internal and external views, topography, vegetation, and adjacent buildings and streets. A building’s siting, including orientation, will lay the foundation for equality of light both inside and outside of the facility and help avoid the extremes of too much or too little natural light.
Orientation uses solar studies to identify sun paths and shadows for any specific day, month, and year, along with solar analysis to optimize solar gain on a seasonal basis. Throughout the site planning process, the landscape architect works closely with project architects, interior designers, and the owner to align space planning with daylight access. An important consideration is space utilization. Spaces within the building that have high occupancy rates (such as an office or a patient room that is occupied 95 percent of the time) are generally prioritized for natural light access.
Natural light is a design driver across Alaska. Addressing this issue at site planning, one of the earliest stages of design, will result in more opportunities for tailored solutions that meet the owner’s needs and support the health and wellness of the facility’s occupants.
Let us know if you have questions or would like to talk about natural light. Want to get a preliminary idea of sun paths for a specific location? Try SunCalc.
by Tracy Vanairsdale, Principal Architect