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design: benefits of natural light in buildings

The benefits of natural light in buildings is varied and finding access to this light can be challenging for some sites.

‘I turn to light, the giver of all Presences, by will, by law.’

This is one of my favourite quotes from a much-loved architect, Louis Khan, and bringing plenty of natural light into homes is a guiding principle of our design process.

As you can see, this Sydney semi-detached cottage is flooded with winter sun, after we designed a central atrium which now sits between the old and new building.

“The amount of light that comes in now is amazing; it’s one of our favourite things,” says our client and homeowner.

Designing for natural light.

Over the course of each day the light quality changes, both subtly and dramatically. Depending on the season and weather, the light into homes often enters internal spaces from different directions, creating varying shapes and colours. The variety of experiences available mean that the internal spaces are never static, and this movement of light enriches habitation.

From the moment we first visit at a site, we are automatically addressing the light source. We determine the site orientation and optimise the location of the building, the rooms and outdoor spaces. The benefits of natural light in these spaces are based on daily and seasonal access. This is our initial thought process for each project.

Our next level of assessment is based on the how. How do we want to allow light to penetrate the building? We seek opportunity with windows, doors, clearstory windows and skylights. We vary the quality of this light with glass variations and external shadings.

Biophilic design

Natural light is one of the elements of biophilic design. The impact of daylight on performance, mood and well-being has been studied for many years.

Light stimulates the production of vitamin D and regulates hormone levels; our biological rhythms are attuned both to daily and seasonal changes of light levels.

Passive solar design

In this design the openings allow low winter sun to penetrate and heat up the concrete slab. Mass materials such as concrete, stone and brick, heat up slowly and retain heat for long periods of time. The ground floor concrete slab in this home serves as a heat store during the winter months.

Do you have a terrace or semi that is begging for more light? Research has found that some of the advantages of bringing natural light into homes include lower heating and lighting bills, a greater sense of space, better mood and mental health, even better sleep and elevated thinking! 


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