Give your eyes a quick rest from staring at your computer and take a look around the office. Do you notice your co-workers losing focus and grumbling about their daily tasks? You might even feel ill, like your body is growing weaker. Before you storm out of the office to erase these problems, maybe you should look around, specifically looking for the windows. If you don’t see any, or they aren’t large enough or providing adequate light, you may have found the hidden problem.
Daylight harvesting or daylighting uses natural light and energy from the sun to light buildings, instead of, or as a supplement to, artificial lighting. It not only saves energy and money that artificial lighting would use, but can lead to a happier, healthier, and more productive work environment. There are some automated systems which can detect the amount of natural light available, and adjust the artificial lighting accordingly, to save the optimal amount of energy, without depriving workers of adequate lighting. Using these controls can provide up to a 45% savings in energy. Studies have also shown that these systems can result in a 5.5% increase in individual worker productivity. This has been linked to the fact that the windows provide not only natural light, but a window to the outside world and a change of scenery from the office, which has been shown to increase job satisfaction and lower stress. The increase in productivity could also be the result of an increase in vitamin D, which comes in with the natural light, and is an essential vitamin in maintaining a healthy immune system and in regulating people’s circadian rhythms.
When building an office, it’s important to remember that more is not always better, especially when deciding on the amount and size of windows. Having too many windows, or ones which are very large can negate some of the positive effects. These large or numerous windows can bring in too much heat and light, leading to glare, hot spots, and distracted workers.
Ideally, when establishing a new office building, the architects will be consulted and factor in an appropriate control system for daylight harvesting. However, if you find yourself in an already finished office, all hope is not lost. If there is sufficient light outside, you can dim or shut off your lights to save energy. You can also use blinds or even plants (which can help filter out some of the sunlight) to control the amount of light you let in. However, with an approximate, one-time cost of $600, and significant savings per employee, each year (when adding together the energy savings and increase of productivity in employees), it may be more beneficial to consider a self-monitoring daylighting system.