Learn to Design - with Light
In recent years, the interest in daylighting has experienced an unquestionable growth, not only among architects but also among the general public. At the same time, many people are also pursuing a healthier lifestyle, caring more about their bodies and their nourishment. If this weren’t true, how else could we explain the success of fitness centres and natural foods? In my opinion, this is a direct consequence of the saturation of the model that I call “artificial life”, which has become so widespread from the mid-twentieth century onwards, and has included numerous everyday practices that encouraged the non-movement of the body. After all, cars are there to be used! Why should we lose time with a meal? Fast food is so versatile! And, related to buildings, why daylighting? Technology can provide all the light we desire, at a low cost. Why bother with environmental questions? Mother Nature is so generous!
Such thoughts were commonplace in the second half of the 20th century but, nowadays, increasingly appear outdated. Besides the well-known effects related to energy saving, other important benefits of daylight in buildings are being recognised, such as visual contact with the outside and its stabilising effect on the circadian rhythm. This is due to the spectrum of daylight, which is the only one that is completely adequate for humans when compared with other, man-made sources of lighting.
The renewed general interest in daylighting has motivated new research projects and prompted the development of new products that are slowly changing the manner in which buildings are conceived. Increasingly, the dynamic properties of daylight are now already considered in the design process of buildings, in a manner that was unimaginable until a few years ago. Numerous new products and devices for improved daylighting in buildings are now available. But the greatest contribution to a new way of designing buildings will come from a better comprehension of the non-visual effects of lighting, which are still not fully understood by scientists. This is the scenario we are currently facing: a growing interest in daylighting, the recognition of its importance, plenty of new research related to the theme, new concepts and tools for daylighting design, as well as new products that have become available. But things are not quite as simple as they seem. Unfortunately, a significant part of the new developments is still restricted to the realm of researchers and specialists, and tends to be considered merely an ephemeral 'fashion' by laymen. So to ensure that we harness the full potential of daylight in future buildings, we must first educate the future generations of architects, showing them that it is possible to design with daylight, and teaching them how to do it.
Architects are primarily visual beings; hence visual stimuli should primarily be used to introduce them to daylighting. Looking at drawings, photographs – including HDR (high-dynamic range) imaging - and physical scale models are excellent for this purpose. Such exercises teach us to see, which is a condition sine qua non in order to understand lighting as a threedimensional element of the architectural space. Once this has been achieved, it will be relatively simple for students also to get acquainted with the most relevant daylight calculation methods and lighting standards, as well as software programs for daylighting design and simulation.
Prof Dr Paulo Scarazzato is a Brazilian architect and lighting designer who teaches at the universities of São Paulo and Campinas. In addition to residential, industrial, commercial and religious buildings, his professional portfolio also includes lighting projects in heritage listed buildings as well as hospitals and transportation interchanges. Paulo Scarazzato is a member of the Daylighting Committee of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) and sits on two technical committees of the Commission Internationale de L´Éclairage (CIE).
This article is featured in D/A magazine #24, for more information visit DA.VELUX.com.