Green design and smart technology for visual comfort
Buildings that are built specifically to be lived in or act as office spaces must take into account human comfort from the design stage all the way to construction. Comfortable indoor environments increase occupants’ productivity, health and overall well-being and thus it is important to ensure occupants well-being is a key decision driver when planning a building.
There are different performance indicators, such as visual comfort, acoustic comfort, thermal comfort and air quality, that can be monitored in order to promote occupant's overall well being, health and performance in indoor spaces. In this article we will explore how visual comfort contributes to occupant wellbeing and how green design and smart technology can be implemented to support it.
Optimal visual comfort increases the level of vitamin B and D in the body as well as synchronizes the natural body clock, improves the quality of sleep and concentration while reducing the need for extra energy used for artificial lighting. Thus, this performance indicator plays a key role in occupant health, productivity, and the building's energy consumption.
So how can green design and smart technology improve visual comfort?
What is visual comfort?
Visual comfort is a key indicator of the performance of our indoor environment. It is a combination of the amount of daylight, the lighting quality from both natural and artificial lighting sources as well as our access to outdoor views. It plays a key role in the occupants well-being, physical capacities, memory, focus and health.
A diverse range of factors can affect visual comfort and two of the most significant ones relate to daylighting and glare.
Daylight pertains to the incoming natural light entering our visual space. The necessary ratio of this natural light to artificial light should be taken into consideration when designing spaces for optimal visual comfort. Meanwhile, glare is the result of discomfort caused by excessive brightness. As is the case for daylight, we can also design building spaces to avoid it.
Starting the design process with passive green design strategies to optimize the provision of daylight and limiting the amount for glare and then implementing smart technologies to correct any shortfalls will improve the overall visual comfort in buildings.
Green design strategies create visual comfort
“During a typical day, we spend approximately 80% of our time in indoor environment, with mostly only artificial light” - Lucibel
To design for daylighting, architecture would be the place to start. As a matter of fact, simple things such as the orientation and shape of a building will greatly affect the way light enters the building. In addition, accurately placing and sizing windows and skylights will define the daylight availability of spaces and enhance the visual comfort performance of the indoor environment.
In regards to glare, it is important to avoid direct or reflected sunlight reaching the occupants eyes. By correctly orienting and sizing shading devices, on windows direct light rays can be deflected and this will drastically reduce the glare effect while bringing in the right amount of light needed for the various occupant needs. Good daylighting design relies as much as possible on natural light integration while avoiding glare issues. The Green Design Brief includes information on Green Design Metrics and Bioclimatic Architecture, click the link to learn more.
Smart technology enhance visual comfort
The optimization of visual comfort can be pushed further by incorporating technology to supplement the green design strategies integrated in the design phase of the building process. By using smart devices or IOT(the Internet of Things), the daylight intensity and glare issues can be managed autonomously in buildings through the use of sensors.
Lucibel has developed a brilliant technology, Cronos, which reproduces artificially the same light intensity as daylight, therefore providing the same benefits as daylight itself. To counter glare issues, technologies such as FlipFlic uses embedded sensors which, depending on the light intensity, will adjust window blinds accordingly and automatically. Additionally, they can be powered by solar energy therefore reducing energy demands for the building.
The combination of green design strategies and smart technologies does not only create but enhance the overall visual comfort performance of buildings.
This article is part of a series of four articles on design metrics for human well-being, health and performance. Find out which other metrics contribute to a positive human experience in indoor environments.
Design Metric Series
Design Metric # 1 - Visual Comfort