The road to enlightenment: Five daylighting retrofits that will help you rein in office energy costs

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When considering how to cut energy use at your office, lighting is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle, accounting for roughly one quarter of total energy use, on average.

 

Technological advances are rapidly making lighting more efficient. However, technology is only one piece of the energy efficiency puzzle. Being attuned to nature – and making best use of sunlight – is just as important. After all, light didn’t first come on the scene when Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb.

 

Daylighting – the controlled use of sunshine to reduce artificial lighting – is a rapidly expanding corner of the sustainable building movement. The environmental benefits of this trend are obvious, but it’s not just a solid land ethic that has so many people invested.

 

According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, daylighting techniques can reduce energy costs by up to one-third. And the benefits don’t stop there.

 

Studies also have shown that natural light can increase worker productivity and decrease absenteeism, further contributing to the bottom line.

 

Today, architects are designing offices from the ground up to maximize these benefits, but you don’t have to start from scratch to see the light. Here are five retrofitting ideas that can help you cut energy consumption, increase productivity and save money:

 

  1. Install skylights. 

 

Skylights – though not possible in every space – can dramatically increase the amount of natural light in your office, eliminating the need for row after row of fluorescent tubes.

 

More advanced solutions – known as “active” skylights – incorporate a mirror system to track the movement of the sun and capture the optimum amount of light. Some systems even absorb less light during summer, to help balance daylighting and cooling needs.

 

As an added bonus, you’ll be able to host awesome stargazing office parties.

 

  1. Install daylight redirection devices. 

 

These devices take direct-beam sunlight and redirect it, generally onto the ceiling of a space. Doing so reduces glare by directing light away from workers’ eyes, while also ensuring light penetrates the space more deeply.

 

  1. Install automated shades. 

 

A successful daylighting strategy must balance the sometimes competing needs for light, comfort, aesthetics and efficiency. Automated shades help achieve this balance by minimizing solar heat gain, reducing glare and maximizing views without constant manual adjustment.

 

  1. Install an automated lighting system. 

 

Installing skylights, automated shades and expensive light redirection devices would be pointless if no one bothered to turn off the lights. There are many systems on the market today that use sensors, dimmers and predictive models to adjust to changing environmental conditions and make the best use of available natural light.

 

  1. Optimize your interior design. 

 

This final element of daylighting, though often overlooked, can make a big difference in your lighting needs. To maximize the use of available light, office partitions should be kept low, enclosed offices should be minimized, and walls and ceilings should be as reflective as possible.

 

Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way toward a healthier, more productive and more energy-efficient workplace.

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