Striking a Balance: Daylight and Artificial Light

Finding the right balance of natural daylight and artificial light for indoor spaces is a crucial aspect of lighting design. 

Harnessing daylight to illuminate rooms has multiple benefits, from boosted productivity to improved mood. Exposure to sunlight links our daily biorhythms to the natural world and the passing of time. But often, our urban architecture creates deep spaces with little access to daylight that create a gloomy atmosphere during the day – or conversely, excessive contrast and glare.

To maximise the benefits of daylight, it must be carefully balanced with artificial lighting. This isn’t as simple as adding more light into the space to achieve uniformity. Daylight’s beauty lies in its constantly changing nature. Subtle changes in brightness, colour, and direction can easily be lost through artificial overlighting.

To create a subtle and dynamic balance, we can maximise the daylight where possible, and add artificial sources in strategic places. Here are some design ideas to consider.

Dynamic lighting controls
Use light systems that automatically adjust based on the time of day and availability of natural light. This can stop the space from being too either gloomy or too overexposed, while still maximising the benefits of sunlight and conserving energy.
Danish lighting manufacturer Louis Poulsen conducted an experiment with lighting systems set to a timer in the company’s Copenhagen head office. The overwhelming majority of staff members preferred the trial where both colour temperature and intensity of the office lighting changed throughout the day, to mirror natural lighting.

Illuminated vertical walls
Many lighting designs focus mainly on horizontal lighting, which, while functional, only takes advantage of half the surfaces on offer. Our eyes are naturally more sensitive to vertical illumination, which creates emphasis and makes for a more visually attractive space.

Lighting vertical surfaces like walls, located far from the buildings’ windows, can create a sense of balance while also helping to make a room appear bigger.

Task lighting
In many cases, daylight will provide sufficient ambient lighting for most tasks, especially in spaces designed to maximise natural light. This can be supplemented with task lighting, such as lamps or spotlighting, for activities that require higher light levels.

Task lighting in an office environment also has the added benefit of giving individuals a sense of ownership and control over their working conditions. Furthermore, it adds a variation in light levels which makes for a more visually interesting and defined space.

Create different moods in one space
Not all users require the same light levels, and not all tasks need higher illumination. Not only is it ok to have areas of a space with lower levels of lighting, but it’s actually something you should aim to achieve.

Even in the workplace, more softly lit spaces are good for strategic thinking or personalised conversations. The best balance between daylight and artificial light will allow for distinct spaces both near windows and away from them.

Light colours, light intensities, and light uniformities are best when they do not match across a room.

Control of glare
While the right amount of daylight in a space is good, excessive sunlight can cause glare, especially in the early morning and late afternoon.

This is an issue best addressed early on in the design process. Architectural shading devices or window treatments like blinds can go a long way in reducing glare and trapped heat.

Before construction, utilise sunlight studies to accurately predict daylight availability and sunlight penetration angles. The control of glare should be part of the design process rather than an ad hoc response to problems after moving in.

We have many more tips on how lighting elevates the overall design experience; contact me here to make a time to talk about your lighting opportunities.

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