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Let there be daylight

Lutron Forum Series

Last month, senior lighting designers sat down with leading architects for the first part of the Lutron Forum Series to nut out how their different fields can work together.

Ray Molony: There’s a belief in the lighting community that architects don’t love lighting as much as they should, don’t take it as seriously as they should, and don’t consider lighting early enough in a project. Do architects think it’s part of what you do, or is it another discipline to be farmed out? 

Jude Harris: That’s quite a bold statement. Architects probably regard themselves as taking lighting very seriously. We do try and get to grips with the basics of lighting design and do consider it, at least from a crude point of view, from the outset. 

Rob Honeywill: One of the questions in my mind is whether enough is being done to look at how daylight is being integrated in a proper way. To take an example with hotels: the client has a building and has a number of rooms, but if you’re trying to create a bedroom corridor and it effectively either has no light or it has some light at one end, trying to penetrate the corridor and put more daylight in means the client potentially has to lose some of these rooms. 

Graham Large: There is a role that the lighting consultant can bring in terms of importing daylight, which impacts at an early stage because most of the time you want the light collectors put into the façades, so we need to talk to the architects very early on about the design of the façade, the glass space, the window ratio, how much is left and whether we can put panels into the fades. So daylight planning is extraordinarily important at the early stage. 

“The main problem we’ve got is that architects no longer understand daylight”

Dominic Meyrick, Hoare Lea

Anna Woodeson: To put the challenge back to the lighting profession, we’d love to get more involved with consultants at an early stage, but they’re not willing to carry out the quite onerous lighting models and analysis at the very early stages. We’ve recently bought software so that we can do this, to do very early daylight analysis, because we haven’t been able to develop those proactive relationships. 

Dominic Meyrick: The problem we’ve got fundamentally is that architects have given up their first love. I spend my life talking to architecture firms about what they lack. They lack an understanding of artificial lighting, and they certainly lack an understanding of daylighting. Architectural colleges do not teach daylighting any more, which they did in the past. In the past, the main conversation with any architect was “How do I get daylight into a building?” It’s just not taught. I see architects who don’t understand visible sky component, or reflected sky component, they don’t understand anything about the basic building blocks of daylighting. Anyone can get daylight into a building that’s in a field, but how do you get daylight into the West End, on the ground floor, and a million other places? 

Damien Hodgson: It’s not necessarily down to the way we teach, but because we’ve moved away from physical models to 3D graphics, and that’s potentially taken the edge off. 

Anthony Hudson: This is extraordinarily worrying that you think architects aren’t getting their daylighting right, so you have to compensate artificially, especially in a world where we’re trying to save energy. 

Ray Holden: I find it’s starting to come back a lot, in terms of the sustainability argument. When we now look at a building, we’re looking at it quite seriously in terms of the energy it uses, so that we can improve the amount of light coming in, reduce the amount of artificial lighting and get those energy numbers down. 

Anthony Hudson: Our experience with consultants is that they do their daylight analysis much too late. It is to do with fees, and we always find that M&E unfortunately are the weakest in the link of the consultants, in terms of expertise and coming in when they need to come in. 

Felix Mara: So it’s an understanding at the strategic level that’s missing. I wonder if it’s related to changes in responsibilities in projects, where the architect traditionally would have been more of a generalist, and perhaps be the one person on a project who can communicate with everyone. I wonder whether some of that responsibility has been taken away by project managers and contractors. Is that why this is happening? 

Graham Hoad: In the old days, we could concentrate just on the design, and daylighting, and all these good things. But now we have so many other considerations that are practical and to do with letting and all these other little equations that get thrown into this planning, so you’re not just thinking about the subjective thing. There are so many more objective criteria to take on board that we’ve got to go back to thinking more holistically, and this is a very, very good thing. We’ve got to think about energy, and daylighting is good because it’s free. 

Damien Hodgson: Daylighting has only recently been given a value. If I’m designing a factory, there’s one wall glazed so people can see outside. That’s better for morale. All these value things have come in part through the regulations, but they mean a client has a perceived value of daylighting that may have been missing previously. 

“When we now look at a building, we’re looking at it quite seriously in terms of the energy it uses”

Ray Holden, Fletcher Priest

Graham Hoad: There’s another driver as well. We’re getting involved with naturally ventilated, naturally cooled buildings, so windows are coming back. A few years back we were talking about sealed boxes, a controlled environment, sorting it all out with the technology, and suddenly we’re rethinking it. 

Anthony Hudson: The automation can be completely nightmarish. The complexity in the M&E stuff always seems to go wrong. I’ve had some really strange experiences of where we’ve brought natural light into a building, and then you have these systems where you move the detectors and they turn the lights on. It’s not sophisticated enough. 

Dominic Meyrick: The sophistication is there in the buildings but not in us. We had an MSc student who came to us and said she wanted to go and monitor daylight sensors in buildings and asked us to tell us some buildings to go to, and we told her, and she went and looked at ten or so, and in every single one of them the sensors didn’t work. It was all down to human problems. Some had never been commissioned in the first place. Some were facing windows with blinds, and were facing the top part, where the blind was, so were registering no daylight and all the lights were on. We’re not sophisticated enough. 

Andrew McCann: Sometimes what people really want in a space is a feeling that they’re in control, so they can open a window if they want and put a light on if they want, not that it’s controlled by a computer down in the basement somewhere. 

“What people want is a feeling that they’re in control, and can turn a light on if they want to”

Andrew McCann, Moreysmith

Ray Molony: When lighting control is sophisticated, what it can do for a building is amazing. But at a lot of the high-rise in London they’ve gone for the basic controls. They’ve cut back, and they end up with people putting chewing gum on the sensors and all the rest of it. 

Guy Simmonds: Most of it comes down to detail and planning. At the New York Times building, energy is right at the fore. There’s a control system that fairly tightly regulates what goes on in there, but attention to detail in the way it was set up doesn’t really make it restrictive. There are concessions to control of personal space so you can make changes based on how you feel. A lot of it is based on sensors and daylight harvesting. They have a code there, just as we do here, and the designer made it so that it comes in at four watts per square metre. It’s ridiculously low, way beneath the code limits. It’s absolutely key to have people who understand how it should work involved from the very beginning. Then when it’s done, it’s fantastic both for your own working environment but also from a sustainability and energy-saving point of view. When you’re looking to make savings as a building owner, lighting’s where you make the biggest save immediately. That all ties back into daylighting, because daylight harvesting has a direct effect on the amount of artificial light we use. The whole thing needs to be rolled into one.

Around the table 

The participants at the Lutron lighting and architecture forum were: 

  • Guy Simmonds, Lutron 
  • Ray Molony, Lighting magazine 
  • Felix Mara, AJ Specification magazine 
  • Rob Honeywill, Maurice Brill Lighting Design Associates 
  • Rebecca Weir, Light IQ 
  • Andrew McCann, MoreySmith 
  • Ray Holden, Fletcher Priest 
  • Damien Hodgson, 3DReid 
  • Jude Harris, Jestico + Whiles 
  • Anthony Hudson, Hudson Architects 
  • Anna Woodeson, Wilkinson Eyre 
  • Graham Large, Waterman Lighting Design 
  • Graham Hoad, GMW Architects 
  • Anoushka Sulley, Lutron 
  • Dominic Meyrick, Hoare Lea

In part two:The participants discuss energy, LEDs and the poetry of lighting. 

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