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Daylight - a perspective

"The most important benefit of daylight in buildings, in my perspective, is the connection of the inside to the outside. We are human beings, we are a part of nature, and we have been, in a very basic way, conditioned by natural light and the natural landscape. Daylight, as well as access to views outside, is an essential part of our health – biologically, psychologically and spiritually."

This our relationship with light has been an important part of our rich history of building, of our desire to incorporate openings into our buildings and of our drive towards technological progress that allows us to do so in increasingly sophisticated ways. As we extend the boundaries of building design, research in the area of new, smart building materials that transmit daylight is of utmost importance. These materials can be a game changer in defining what a window is in the future, and how the inside and outside are mediated over time in a building.

In our present design process, which is largely informed by sustainability models (including green building labels), there is a balance that needs to be struck between the extent of openings in a building (size, position, material, etc) and its thermal efficiency. With material that has greater thermal efficiency, levels of photosensitivity, and intelligence to change with the external climatic conditions, we will be able to bring more daylight into a building without compromising its thermal efficiency. These materials also need to be developed to a point of economic feasibility and ease of use for mass integration into buildings.

Finally, with evolving technology, our perspectives, legislation and sustainability rating tools need to evolve further too, so as to be instrumental in creating architecture that is both sustainable for the Earth’s ecosphere and energy resources as well as for human health. Strictly enforced quantitative evaluation sometimes results in designs that simply seek to meet numbers but, as a result, offer compromised quality of space to the human being. Rating tools need to evolve beyond this, into tools that inspire and enable design processes which result in more wholesome spaces. Truly sustainable building and healthy, nourishing architecture are but the same thing, and we need to recognize and validate this.

Vellachi Ganesan is an artist, designer and educator who works primarily with the medium of light. So far, she has worked with a diverse range of institutions and companies including the ICEHOTEL, Arup, Nanayang Technological University and ION Orchard. She received her Masters in Architectural Lighting Design from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, and Bachelors in Architecture from the National University of Singapore.

This article is featured in D/A magazine #24, for more information visit DA.VELUX.com.

By Vellachi Ganesan