Sweeney Architects

Light plays a central role

Light plays a central role in the design of your home. Architecture, people and objects are all made visible by light; it influences our well-being, the aesthetic effect and the mood of a room or area.

In planning the natural light in your home, you need to take into consideration the many positive effects of natural light has on well-being, as well as the challenges that natural light presents.

“In the right hands sunlight is a medicine”, besides the well-known link between sunlight, vitamin D production and overall health, we know that natural light is part of our biological needs and intuitively; we prefer daylight to electric light. In addition, natural light helps kill bacteria and is quite capable of doing so even when it has passed through window glass.

In a typical building, lighting accounts for 25-40% of energy consumption. By allowing more natural light to penetrate and controlling both its’ light and heat components, the financial savings could be considerable.

In addition to its health and financial benefits, natural light also provides an almost “perfect white light” that has a number of visual benefits. Best of all, natural light is of course, plentiful.

Natural light is not without its issues. These include glare, overheating, variability and privacy issues, since transparent materials must be used. Addressing glare means keeping sunlight out of the field of view of building occupants while protecting them from disturbing reflections. Addressing overheating means adding appropriate exterior shading, filtering incoming solar radiation or even using passive control means such as thermal mass.

Furthermore, addressing the variability and privacy issues requires creative ways to block or alter light patterns and compensate with other light sources. There is a lot to consider and architects have to find new and innovative ways to simulate the effects of natural light on those who occupy their buildings.

Interior spaces are most pleasant to occupy and most effective when they provide lighting that is as natural as possible. The warmth and comfort provided by direct sunlight is difficult to get by other means. Particularly in temperate climates like Ireland, it is important to provide indoor places where people can sit in direct sunlight.

If it does not come from only one direction, lighting inside a room will be much more natural with less harsh shadows. Whenever possible, rooms and other spaces should receive natural light from windows on at least two sides. Arrange rooms within a building so that they receive maximum daylight during the times of day that they are most likely to be used. For example, place rooms used mostly in the morning on the east or south east side of the building. Likewise, place rooms used late in the day on the west side of the building.