Tuesday, January 28, 2020
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Technologies for Daylighting

New and improved ways for buildings to see the light of day.

Energy consumption and electricity use in the United States continues to grow at high rates. This is especially so for commercial buildings and lighting has been one of the largest single consumers of electricity. However, effective daylighting tools and technologies are producing new and successful ways to bring healthy, natural light deep into buildings. In addition to reduced energy consumption, the natural light prompted by these technologies can increase attitudes, energy levels and productivity of building occupants.

Guardian Glass Daylighting Technologies
PHOTO: JAMES EWING OTTO, COURTESY OF GUARDIAN GLASS

“Modern daylighting technologies have developed and adopted product application technologies and construction details that ease the application of fenestration to metal building construction,” says Neall Digert, Ph.D., MIES, vice president, Solatube International Inc., Vista, Calif. “New materials, flashing designs and application technologies have been developed. [These] allow fenestration systems to be applied and integrated into the metal building envelope with strictly controlled thermal breaks (minimizing/preventing the transfer of heat between outside and inside through thermal conduction), effective air and moisture seals to prevent air infiltration/exfiltration and the potential for moisture buildup that could cause long-term damage of metal building components and systems, and improved long-term durability and performance of metal buildings.”

VARIETY OF TECHNOLOGIES

There is a wide array of products and technologies available when designing for daylighting. “Just as a building may have a variety of lighting fixtures to design from, having a variety of daylighting technologies is equally important,” says Bruce Bilbrey, president, Daylight America Inc., Phoenix.

“Too many designers use a single size/type of skylight/daylighting unit, when different sizes, configurations, plastics, etc., should be employed. For example, a classroom daylighting unit should not be the same unit as a gymnasium unit, and a warehouse unit should not be used in a manufacturing zone. Systems must be designed to produce adequate light levels to have the lights off most of the daytime hours, and should have full distribution of the light so there are no dark areas or hot spots when the lights are off.”

Mark Mitchell, marketing director, Major Industries Inc., Wausau, Wis., says because of the wide range of daylighting technologies, “Buildings can be more efficient, better lit and offer occupants more benefits than ever before. I don’t know that there has been a better time to incorporate daylighting into a space. With such a wide range of glazing material options as well as new 3-D modelling technologies and advanced daylight studies, the ability to see how a system will impact a space makes it easier to choose the most beneficial configuration. With the range of glazing materials and options out in the marketplace, don’t be afraid to experiment a little with a mix of glazing materials—glass and translucent panels for example—as you can sometimes get the benefits of both types of materials in one system.”

“New daylighting technologies give architects and designers freedom to create memorable spaces without sacrificing design or energy code requirements,” says Rafael Rivero, vice president of sales, Kingspan Light + Air, Lake Forest, Ill. “The newest technologies are being integrated with building envelope systems. You can now design a building envelope that has tested integrations between the daylighting system and metal insulated panels. Our UniQuad system takes advantage of how metal buildings are constructed. We can maximize spans between structural supports to help minimize the need for structural steel or girts.”

GLASS

Advancements in glass technology daylighting are meeting the challenge of providing optimum daylighting yield, while reducing solar heat gain (heat energy) from flooding into the building. That is done by using highly sophisticated, transparent glass coatings that essentially split the solar spectrum—blocking the IR (heat) part of the spectrum and allowing as much visible light transmittance in from the sun as possible. Magnetron sputtered vacuum deposition (MSVD) has been the predominant coating technology for creating these products—known as solar control, low-E glasses.

A Gruppo Architects
PHOTO: DROR BALDINGER, COURTESY OF A.GRUPPO ARCHITECTS

“MSVD coating technology has enabled glass manufacturers to progress from single-layer solar control, low-E coatings to triple-silver solar control, low-E coatings, which has dramatically enhanced glass’ ability to reduce heat gain and increase light transmittance,” says Robert Struble, brand and communications manager, Vitro Architectural Glass, Cheswick, Pa. “In addition to containing three layers of silver, our triple-silver-coated solar control, low-E glass may contain up to 14 additional layers of metal oxides, primers and specific materials designed to make the silver less shiny and, therefore, more transparent. Despite the increasing number of layers being engineered into solar control, low-E glasses, the coatings themselves are still about 500 times thinner than a strand of human hair.”

Alan Kinder, architectural design manager at Guardian Glass, Auburn Hills, Mich., agrees that adding layers of silver drives down solar heat gain while maintaining high levels of visible light transmission and low levels of reflectivity. “A clear aesthetic is highly desirable right now,” he says. “Designers want the appearance of clear glass—in and out—and abundant natural light penetrating interior spaces to aid with daylighting.”

Kinder says because of the increasingly common request in building design for improved sight lines, requests for oversized glass are increasing. “Oversized glass with high-performance coatings [can] deliver this desired energy performance, acoustics and appearance. [We can] assist the metal supplier in ensuring all technical considerations for oversized glass are addressed: wider sealants can offset movement, thicker glass addresses deflection and heat-treated glass improves strength and resistance to wind loads. Glass is getting bigger, coatings are becoming more capable and functionality has exponentially grown over the years. What we deliver in terms of value to the architect, fabricator, glazier and building owner really is well beyond what was even thought achievable just a short number of years ago.”

Alan Kinder, architectural design manager at Guardian Glass, Auburn Hills, Mich., agrees that adding layers of silver drives down solar heat gain while maintaining high levels of visible light transmission and low levels of reflectivity. “A clear aesthetic is highly desirable right now,” he says. “Designers want the appearance of clear glass—in and out—and abundant natural light penetrating interior spaces to aid with daylighting.”

Kinder says because of the increasingly common request in building design for improved sight lines, requests for oversized glass are increasing. “Oversized glass with high-performance coatings [can] deliver this desired energy performance, acoustics and appearance. [We can] assist the metal supplier in ensuring all technical considerations for oversized glass are addressed: wider sealants can offset movement, thicker glass addresses deflection and heat-treated glass improves strength and resistance to wind loads. Glass is getting bigger, coatings are becoming more capable and functionality has exponentially grown over the years. What we deliver in terms of value to the architect, fabricator, glazier and building owner really is well beyond what was even thought achievable just a short number of years ago.”

Kingspan Light+Air
PHOTO COURTESY OF KINGSPAN LIGHT + AIR

Kevin Smith, director of product application and design, EXTECH/Exterior Technologies Inc., Pittsburgh, says structural cellular polycarbonate systems allow for diffuse and generous wall daylighting, while controlling excessive heat gain. “This interlocking polycarbonate translucent wall system takes advantage of typical metal building girt design, allowing for long, economical, horizontal bands of daylighting at many elevations to allow for daylight penetration deep into the building and/or localized daylighting along the exterior walls. This daylighting is achieved without sacrificing thermal performance due to its cellular structure and subsequent high R-values, which reduce energy consumption and increase occupant comfort, especially along exterior walls.”

SHADING AND TUBULAR DEVICES

Architects are designing facades with advanced solar shading. Struble says this is done by adding solar shelving, solar shades and/or louvers or by sculpting elements into façade that block heat and/or reduce glare as the sun crosses its face each day. “This trend is not only increasing the functionality of the façade, it also is leading to some highly creative and striking façade designs.”

Clint Childress, LEED AP, solar control solutions product manager, Draper Inc., Spiceland, Ind., says exterior shading is a rapidly growing segment because it prevents solar radiation from entering the building. “When you combine exterior shading with more traditional interior shading, it can provide a significant impact on the natural cooling and glare control of a building. To maximize efficiency, we’re using automation to put the shading into motion. Automation has created more energy-efficient shading options than ever before. Slats or louvers rotate, or the system extends and retracts in response to the sun’s location or to commands from a building management system.”

Childress says he is seeing more custom shading requirements. “Shading needs to be flexible and work with different glazing and curtainwall requirements. This means providing 3-D prints for design consideration is important. Manufacturing with CNC and laser-cutting equipment means we can customize features to fit the project. No longer does a building need to fit the available shading options. The shading plan can be configured according to the building conditions and needs.”

Solatube International
PHOTO COURTESY OF SOLATUBE INTERNATIONAL INC.

Tubular daylighting devices (TDDs) are a modular fenestration product with advanced optical technologies and systems to overcome the building architectural application, operation and maintenance limitations associated with windows and traditional skylights. TDDs use optical technologies to more-effectively capture daylight at the rooftop dome, transfer (duct) that light over long and/or convoluted distances within the building and deliver it to nearly any interior space in a highly controlled and predictable manner. “The unique design and technological facets of a TDD serve to provide a highly consistent and controllable source of daylight,” Digert says.

“The modular design of the TDD product also allows for incredible architectural design flexibility, allowing for daylight to be effectively applied in nearly any interior space in any building type in nearly any climate. Additionally, the optical technologies used in TDDs have a smaller aperture area on the roof, minimizing the impact to the roof structure. The minimal roof impact combined with materials used in the production of TDDs provides a solution to the thermal performance limitations of windows and traditional skylights.”

SKYLIGHTS

Even skylights, the traditional daylighting product, is benefitting from new technologies. Digert says new materials, glazing technologies and enhanced aperture geometries have improved both the thermal and daylight harvesting performance over skylight products of the past. Rivero says skylight design flexibility has evolved. “Skylights can be everything from standard commercial industrial units to monumental architecturally designed statements,” he explains. “Single manufacturers are now able to provide all solutions to maintain consistency throughout the project.”

Draper Inc Glass
PHOTO COURTESY OF DRAPER INC.

Bilbrey says there are many new technologies for skylights including motorized darkening screens, active sun-tracking technologies and hybrid lighting that integrates electric lighting/controls into the daylighting system to create a single-source/seamless lighting system. Mitchell says skylights remain very versatile tools, especially for challenging spaces—allowing light to penetrate deep into interiors otherwise cut off from natural sunlight. “New technologies have created lighter, more efficient glazing solutions that rely less on a heavy and aesthetically unappealing support structure and can easily be retrofitted into existing framing,” he adds.

SOFTWARE

During the building design process, modern design and analysis software tools allow the dynamic nature of daylight and its interaction with fenestration systems, architecture, space and occupants to be effectively analyzed and predicted using a building’s design and varying climatic conditions on an hourly and aggregate-annual basis. Mitchell says this BIM technology and daylighting analysis software is letting designers go far beyond the simple benefits of natural light to craft a site-specific program to optimize daylight.

“Design teams can make highly educated design decisions not only with respect to the daylight resource but also by being able to predict occupant response due to potential times of the day or year when occupant discomfort might occur and/or require occupants to control their day-lit environment, accordingly,” Digert says. “Additionally, after the building is occupied, control software allows buildings to automatically modulate building fenestration and electric lighting systems to maintain occupant comfort in response to the dynamic nature of the external daylight resource as the time of day/year and weather conditions vary.”

A Gruppo Architects Glass
PHOTO: ANDREW NANCE, COURTESY OF A.GRUPPO ARCHITECTS

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