The benefits of daylighting and embracing nature to create a better building

Atrium, open space, daylight

There are many benefits to considering the aspects of daylighting, sound/air pollution, and other natural elements such as trees and plants in the process of architectural design. Human-centric lighting considers how light affects the wellbeing, productivity, and comfort of building users. It is well known that with the increase reliance on technology comes the trade-off that we are living in an age where the effects of global warming can be readily seen.

It is not enough to stick an air conditioner/dehumidifier in a building to offset the harmful aspects of air pollution, nor is it enough to build mass concrete walls or install double/triple glazing to overcome the issues of sound pollution.

We spend substantial amounts of time indoors – whether that is in an office, a home environment, or another setting which is more fleeting, such as a shop. The recent pandemic of 2020/2021 has increased our reliance on modern technology and adapting to an indoor lifestyle.

However, there is an overreliance of artificial lighting which is averse to how the human body works. As a result, there is a higher percentage of people residing in poorly lit environments which are not dynamic or varied over the course of a day. No amount of electric light can match the quality of natural light or mimic its changeable qualities throughout the course of a day, season, or year. 

The human body works with a circadian rhythm; the body automatically knows when the quality and quantity of natural light changes throughout the day and when the sun falls to bring on the darkness of night-time. This natural response governs our pattern of wakefulness and sleep, our productivity and activity, our energy and lack of.

As Velux’s whitepaper on daylighting points out, “the human body’s natural response to changing light levels includes the production of different hormones at various times. Exposure to cooler blue-rich light during the day suppresses the production of melatonin and maintains alertness by effectively encouraging the production of serotonin, dopamine, and cortisol. Warmer and more focused light during the evening stimulates the release of melatonin and helps us feel sleepy. “

A building fabric which responds well to the patterns of natural light offer a wealth of advantages including physical and visual comfort, and a space that works with our circadian rhythms and not in opposition to it.

So, what are the design principles to encourage and foster better human comfort? At Bluebead Architects, it is the following:

  • Incorporate daylight as much as possible.
    To provide comfortable, dynamic internal spaces, bringing daylight deeper into the building
  • Utilise colour and texture.
    To provide visual/tactile feedback that settles the mind, not confuse it – not to mention rich playful colours are better than boring magnolia!
  • Bring more of outside in.
    We should not be afraid to embrace nature with the use of plants and small trees. Countless clinical studies have proved that plants are indeed good to reduce stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
  • Harness the power of sustainable materials for heating and cooling
    We are in the age of an environmental crisis. We should always factor the materials we are specifying based on its sustainability. An air conditioner might be easy to install, but why not harness the power of the wind by using cleverly placed louvres and vents, or even window openings that are responsive to its environment?

Our ethos – through the process of designing vibrant spaces – is enabling better relationships between our clients/end-users and the buildings they interact with. This fosters better health, wellbeing, and comfort – whether that’s a carefully crafted office space, a house, an apartment, or a retail space.

Bluebead Architects – architects in Uxbridge, London.
Contact: studio@bluebeadarchitects.co.uk | 07874 946 231