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A Daylighting Design for a Student Lounge

February 23, 2011


Now that you’re all caught up on daylighting from my last post (ha), allow me to present my first attempt ever at a daylighting design. Ironically, it may be easier to introduce my concept via my renderings of the electric lighting design, as they offer the clearest images of the space:

lighting design daylighting architecture architectural academic school student lounge rendering

Student Lounge, First Floor Perspective

lighting design daylighting architecture architectural academic school student lounge rendering

Student Lounge, Mezzanine Perspective


As you can see, the space we were charged with designing was a small student lounge and study area, for which we developed both a daylighting and electric lighting design.  To give you an idea of the time frame we were working under, almost everything I will present here was developed and delivered in a presentation within the span of one week (hence, my complete and utter exhaustion at the end of last week).

To orient you a bit to the space, the room is theoretically located on the third floor south facade of the Parsons building on East 13th Street in New York City.  It measures approximately 20′ wide at the south facade, 40′ deep, and 24′ tall.  The location and dimensions are important because they help place the room in a precise location in relationship to the sun, which is necessary to know to maximize the amount of sunlight and daylight let into the room.

Site Context

The concept for the design was simple: to provide two different types of lighting environments for the two program spaces (the lounge and the study area) based on the tasks would be typically performed in those spaces.  Our inspirational image, from which we took our lighting ideas, was this one:

My partner, Mark, and I were drawn to this picture because it represents the two different types of light, or two different moods, that we wanted to achieve.  The streaks of sunlight represent the mood we wanted to achieve in the lounge, where pools of sunlight (or electric light) would create a warm, inviting space to sit, relax, and chat with friends in.  The clouds above represent the mood we wanted to achieve in the study area, where a diffuse glow would cast soft light down onto those reading or studying.  The process by which we arrived at the final design was a lengthy one, so I will try to condense here for the sake of space, however, it involved the analysis of the angles of the sun as they arrived on the surface of the building facade.

We wanted to create a facade wall that addressed both our concept and the need to control the direct sunlight entering the room.  We settled on the idea of using a thick wall pierced with hexagonal extrusions of varying sizes as a way to accomplish both of these tasks.  Here is a photo taken of our scale model to better understand the solution:

We realized that the shape of the hexagonal extrusion in the wall would “capture” some of the light, allowing it to bounce around inside the shape to the other facets, while allowing the rest of the light to pass through to the lounge, creating streaks and pools of light, similar to our inspiration image above. We sized the apertures according to the need to control the intensities of light and the glare  for the two different spaces, the lounge below, and the study area above.  Here is a diagram illustrating the effects of our solution:

To bring additional illumination to the study lounge on the mezzanine level, we incorporated six north-facing daylight clerestory windows into the ceiling to allow in tons of natural daylight, creating a diffuse, even glow to work under during the day.  “Light tubes” in the ceiling also allowed us to bring in an element of direct winter sun into the back of the room to interact with a hanging decorative sculpture we planned to place in its path.

Here are images from our computer-generated model of what the front facade and back of the room would look like if photographed with a “fisheye” lens (offering a 180 degree view in one direction):

Do you get this feeling?

Anyway, this design was accompanied by tons and tons of data and analysis that was used to perfect the conditions inside the room to allow the maximum energy savings in the design and operation of the electric lighting system.  For example, our analysis showed that the majority of the room could operate 75% of the daylight hours of the year (8AM-5PM) without needing any of the electric lighting turned on — we allowed so much daylight into the room that turning on the electric lighting would be unnecessary until dusk for 75% of the year.

For the electric lighting design, we wanted to mimic what was happening with the daylighting design.  Our focal point for that goal was, again, the facade wall, which we designed to illuminate with typical household A lamps placed intermittently at junctions between the apertures:

Again, we were trying to achieve the “cloud” effect from our inspiration image.  For fun, here is what the exterior would look like from the street below:

Everything else in our electric lighting design essentially responded to the hexagonal shape of our facade design, which we found worked well as a lighting device in itself.  Here is a detailed diagram of some of the specific solutions we implemented in our electric lighting design:

Again, the renderings are probably the best explanation for the mood and effects we were trying to achieve with the electric lighting design, and as you can see, we were aiming for a warm, defined mood in the lounge, and a more diffuse glow in the study lounge.

lighting design daylighting architecture architectural academic school student lounge rendering

lighting design daylighting architecture architectural academic school student lounge rendering

Unfortunately I have so much more that I can share about this design, from the analysis of the illuminance levels, daylight factor, and daylight autonomy, to controls and more specific information about both the daylighting and electric lighting design, however, I would have to expound for another ten full pages to explain it all.  Hopefully my brief explanation here offered a taste of this project and of what I am learning about here at Parsons.  Please, feel free to contact me if you would like a more thorough presentation of the design, because I am certainly well-rehearsed and prepared to do so!  Time is of the essence, though, so I must conclude somewhat abruptly.

Stay on the lookout for future updates on this and other projects, including my final lighting studio project which will be an extension of this one — the design of a full five-story academic center!

Daylighting on the Brain

February 7, 2011


Oh the irony!  It figures I would write a post about finding a healthy balance between life and work, only to find myself four weeks later mired in a state of 24/7 school work. With the limited free time I have right now, though, I wanted to briefly post an update about the things I am learning about at Parsons this semester, because it is really fascinating work that deserves to be shared.

This semester in the Parsons MFA Lighting Design program is all about daylighting.  Yes, we are learning spells to control the movement of the sun and the clouds with our magic wands.  It’s really not that difficult … it’s just Quidditch practice takes up so much of my free time that I can’t keep up with all the homework!

But I digress … Parsons, alas, is no Hogwarts.

Daylighting, briefly, is actually the use of natural lighting (from the sun or from the sky itself) to light the interiors of buildings, saving energy and improving the quality of the indoor environment.  It involves the study of the movement of the sun in relationship to a building in order to maximize the natural light available inside it, through the use of strategically placed windows, skylights, etc.  It’s the exact opposite of our area of study last semester, which was artificial, electric lighting.

Let me present an example to clarify:

"kroon hall" daylighting lighting design green sustainability leed architecture

Kroon Hall at Yale University in New Haven is an example of a recently completed project (in 2009) that was designed to maximize daylighting.  Notice how, in this photo, the building is completely bathed in sunlight — this is because the architects (smartly) oriented the building on an East-West axis on the Yale campus.  The positioning of the building drenches the building (and the 100kW solar array visible on the roof here) in sun throughout most of the year, minimizing the need to use the electric lighting on the interior of the building and creating a pleasant environment inside.  Interior photos offer an even more dramatic illustration of the capabilities of the daylighting design of this building.

"kroon hall" daylighting lighting design green sustainability leed architecture

Here, on the fourth floor, the long East-West skylight allows direct sunlight into the building and the stairwells below, negating the need to use the electric lighting (which is turned off in this photo) for most of the day.

Daylighting design is really a fascinating topic, but it’s ten times more complex than it might appear on the surface.  The complexity lies in the amount of scientific data that needs to be analyzed in order to effectively design a daylit building.  Let me offer an example of one of my recent small projects as an illustration:

daylighting lighting design green sustainability architecture

In this project we are analyzed the daylight available to a room in the Parsons building (visible here as the small yellow area inside the large purple building in the center of the image) as if the room had no front window or ceiling.  Here’s a closeup of the room:

In order to find out what times of the year direct sun is available to the room we created a virtual 3D model of the city (and the room) in a computer program, then inserted it at the proper longitude and latitude on the Earth to analyze the path of the sun around it.

daylighting lighting design green sustainability architecture

This diagram, generated by the computer program, allows us to see exactly what times of the year a point in the room will be in the shadow of other surrounding buildings (hence it’s name: an overshadowing diagram).  The blue lines indicate the path of the sun, from sunrise to sunset, at every day of the year.

daylighting lighting design green sustainability architecture

This diagram, called an illuminance grid, allows us to see exactly how much light would fall on the floor of the room at a given date and time.  This diagram, for example, represents the light available on February 17th at 3:30PM in the afternoon.

insolation daylighting lighting design green sustainability architecture

Finally, this diagram allows us to see how much radiant heat from the sun will penetrate into the building at a given date and time, allowing us to analyze how our design will impact the need for cooling/heating systems in the building.

These are just a few examples of some of the types of data that we have been asked to analyze in our first two weeks of this semester.  Of course, there is a lot more where this came from, but more news about that in another post.

I’m really excited to learn more about this new area, especially since I know so little about it.  Our professors really know their stuff, though, so we’re in good hands.  It’s exciting to be on the cutting edge of building design since sustainability and environmental responsibility are becoming such important factors in our lives today. Hopefully, with this knowledge, we will eventually be able to design zero-energy buildings that are both highly sustainable and pleasant to live and work in.

Now off to lighting studio to work on my daylighting design for my next project!