Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Brief History of Daylighting

Early man started living in caves because they offered protection from the elements. The downside was that the interior was always dark. Caves with large entrances did allow more light to enter, but also made the entry of predators, cold and rain easier. This was how man lived for millennia until he learned how to make shelters of wood and leaves which were more comfortable and allowed more light to enter, but the problem of more opening for light meant less protection.

The Advent of Glass

There is evidence that glass was first developed in Egypt over 5,000 years ago. However, it was not used in construction until the 1st century BC when the Romans used it to allow light to enter buildings while keeping the elements at bay.

From small squares of glass fixed into walls to larger panes and skylights and finally windows that could open and close was a slow progress that took centuries. As architecture developed and became more complex, glass played an increasing bigger role not just in lighting indoor spaces but as an integral element of design. By the medieval period, stained glass was being used in cathedral architecture and ever larger window frames allowed light to play an increasingly important role in interior design.

Daylighting at Work

By the 17thcentury, large panes of glass were being manufactured in England and this allowed the first organized indoor manufacturing to begin. By the time of the industrial revolution, glass walls and wrap around windows were being used to maximize the light available in workplaces. The problem was that the high ceilings that this required meant that space could not be economically used. Lowering ceiling height added more space, but reduced the amount of light available.

The Arrival of Electricity

When electric lighting became available at the end of the 19thcentury, it was thought that daylighting was no longer essential. Work could now go on day and night in factories and offices and at home people did not have to live with dim candle light after nightfall. Since daylight was no longer essential, windows became smaller and ceiling lower. Interior spaces became more cramped but at least lack of light was no longer a problem. In fact, there was a time when there was a trend in constructing windowless factories and schools.

And Then There Was the Energy Crisis

When the energy crisis hit in the 1970s, people and governments realized that they could no longer be totally dependent of fossil fuels for power. Geopolitical considerations and the fact that the supply of fuel was not unlimited, prompted a search for alternatives. At the macro level renewable energy became the buzzword. But at the home, factory and office, daylighting became the viable and cost effective option.

Daylighting Today

Modern daylighting systems allow for even the most interior spaces in a structure to get daylight. Once installed, the light is free and there is nothing to wear out. New technologies mean that there is no excess heat that enters the building and so no increased air conditioning costs. For the homeowner, it is the ideal way to cut electricity bills and be environmental friendly.

Electricity is going to always increase in cost. Installing a modern daylighting system in your home, office or factory today will pay itself off faster than you may think and from then on, the savings will only increase. Contact a company that specializes in daylight systems to learn more about the economics and benefits of installing them in your home or place of work.