Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Daylighting guide recommends design practices for schools
Photo: A daylit hallway at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, N.C.
A daylit hallway at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, N.C.

A forthcoming publication from the LRC will offer guidelines and best practices for daylighting schools. The “Guide for Daylighting Schools” was created for the Daylight Dividends program by Innovative Design of Raleigh, N.C., an architectural firm specializing in energy-efficient, sustainable building design. The guide is a “how to” for creating effective daylighting in schools without dramatically adding to the initial cost of the building. The secret, according to Mike Nicklas, president of Innovative Design, is to fully integrate the daylighting design into the building from the very beginning, rather than making it an option to be bid separately.

The guide shows that human factors as well as energy ramifications must be considered for daylighting to be successful. As Innovative Design states, “Daylighting is not just adding a lot of windows.” The placement, size and purpose of the windows play key roles in the acceptance of the daylighting design and are important factors to controlling glare. The key ingredients for correct window design are included in the guide. 

Energy use for lighting, cooling and heating also determine the acceptance of a good daylit building. According to the guide, the resulting reduction in energy costs offsets most of the increase in construction costs. If the daylighting design is done properly, dramatic decreases in lighting and cooling energy will occur. Heating energy actually will increase because the internal load normally created by the lights is reduced. Additionally, the integration of a daylighting design with the building’s mechanical systems many times leads to a downsizing of the school’s cooling system. This, in turn, can reduce construction costs.

Do the suggestions in the guide work for daylighting schools?

“The answer is a resounding yes,” says Peter Morante, director of energy programs at the LRC. The LRC conducted a detailed evaluation of Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, N.C., which was designed by Innovative Design using the criteria contained in the guide. “The positive evaluation of this school led the Daylight Dividends program to ask Innovative Design to develop this ‘how to’ guide for properly designing daylit schools,” says Morante. The Smith Middle School evaluation will be published later this summer and will be available through the Daylight Dividends Web site (

The school daylighting guide will be available shortly on the Daylight Dividends Web site. Companies wishing to reproduce the guide for use with their clients should contact Peter Morante at the LRC,

Daylight Dividends, a program administered by the Lighting Research Center, is a national effort to help people reap the human and economic benefits of good daylighting design in buildings. Daylight Dividends is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, California Energy Commission, The Connecticut Light and Power Company, Iowa Energy Center, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and the North Carolina Daylighting Consortium.

About the LRC

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. Founded in 1988, the Lighting Research Center has built an international reputation as a trusted and reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. Its mission is to advance the effective use of light and create a positive legacy of change for society and the environment.

2004 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180 USA.

Rennselear Polytechnic Institute