Balancing thermal performance, comfort, and daylight are critical factors in WELL designed green and sustainable buildings. New commercial buildings are designed with an abundance of glass to provide natural light and views of the outdoors, however, this design strategy comes with inherent challenges, especially when it comes to energy-efficient windows. Traditional windows let in too much heat in the summer, and block desired solar heat in the winter. To compensate, HVAC systems work overtime, resulting in higher costs and increased energy consumption.
While energy performance building codes are becoming more stringent, design decisions are increasingly being based on human performance, health, and wellness. It’s a fact, companies on average spend 9-10 times more on employees than rent, and even more when compared to utilities. Sad to say, but an estimated 90% of our time is spent indoors and more than 40-50 hours per week are spent in the office which brings concerns about human comfort and productivity to the forefront.
Dynamic glazing, active or passive, provides a strategic solution by controlling solar heat gain and glare while maintaining views and connection to the outdoors. Daylight and circadian rhythms, a 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, go hand-in-hand with promoting health and wellness in buildings.
Scientific studies consistently show that people, almost universally, prefer natural sunlight to electric lighting. These studies also prove that natural light improves mood, performance, and overall well-being. In addition, studies supported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory confirm that natural light has a positive effect on everything from enhanced immune system functioning to more productive behavior.
Building occupants who close blinds, and shut drapes to block solar heat spend their days in what can be considered a “windowless space.” New research proves that people spending time in windowless spaces with little exposure to daylight get on average 46 fewer minutes of sleep a night and experience broken sleep patterns. Daylight synchronizes the sleep-wake cycle promoting daytime alertness, positive moods, and restful sleep at night. A disruption of circadian rhythms can have severe, adverse health effects, including:
Disrupted sleep-wake cycles
Neurological problems (depression, bipolar disorder, etc.)
A recent study conducted by the American Society of Interior Designers indicated that 68 percent of employees complain about the lighting situation in their offices. This is a substantial number of employees identifying a serious problem with their workplace that affects their efficiency, effectiveness, and mood. The two most common scenarios for poor office lighting are lights that are too dim and lights that are too harsh.
One good solution for blocking UV radiation, mitigating glare, and reducing solar heat gain without disrupting the view is the use of dynamic glaze.
Harmful UV rays pass through traditional windows. These ultraviolet rays are an invisible form of radiation, passing through skin and damaging cells. Experts have found that sun passing through windows is a contributor to people’s daily accumulation of indoor UV exposure that may lead to skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States.
Dynamic glazing mitigates harmful indoor sun exposure, a leading cause of:
Ocular cell damage
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Digital eye strain
There is a growing trend in commercial architecture toward integrating dynamic glass windows as a key component of design, not only for the obvious energy efficiency benefits, but also to promote the health, productivity and overall wellness of the occupants in the building. This exciting new generation of window technology responds to changing climatic conditions 24/7 and can play a vital role in making a space more comfortable, balancing the flow of natural light while managing solar heat. Dynamic glass makes life better indoors, season after season. Building occupants will enjoy increased comfort, increased productivity, enhanced health effects, and improved quality of life.
Lance Kling, LEED AP BD+C, is National Sales Manager for RavenWindow, the next generation of dynamic glazing incorporating wireless, solar-intuitive, thermochromic technology. He started his career in the fenestration industry selling single-glazed aluminum windows in San Diego in the early ‘90s. Twenty-plus years later he’s promoting, educating, and training about the benefits of daylighting, and how high-performance dynamic glazing can increase energy-efficiency, health, wellness, and productivity for building occupants.