Sunlight Effect

In his major work Sunlight as Formgiver for Architecture, Bill Lam asks the question ... The Sun: Problem or Opportunity? and then proceeds to show how the answer can really be both, depending very much on the location of the building. Clearly in hot climates where the sun is overhead for much of the day the problem is not so much one of welcome, but of exclusion.

In Britain where the sun is all too rare the answer must clearly be one of welcome, and an early decison when an architect is planning the orientation of his building is to encourage the entry of sunlight. Sunlight adds to the overall level of light when it is available, and adds to those other environmental factors such as variety and change, modelling and the creation of delight. There is a different level of experience when getting up in the morning to a sunlit world, as experienced from the interior of a building, and it is important that an element of sunlight is available for some part of the day.

Architects have used the sunlight effect in buildings to create a specific atmosphere, as for example the shafts of light entering the south side of our great cathedrals; and on a much smaller scale the use in houses of daylight and sunlight entry from above to provide necessary functional light to interior areas, where otherwise little natural light would be available.

The impression of sunlight is also important seen from windows which themselves admit no sunlight, but where the view of a sunlit landscape or buildings may be enjoyed. Whenever sunlight is available there is a strong desire to perceive it, and disappointment when it is unnecessarily excluded.

There is of course the obverse side associated with heat gain and glare, depending upon the orientation of the glazing, and whether people working in a building are confined to a fixed position. The effects of direct sunlight can be a disadvantage. Some control may be required in certain circumstances at certain times of year, and as far as heat gain is concerned this is best done beyond the window, and is of a sufficiently

Pathway in Hertfordshire. Daylight orientation in countryside.

flexible nature to be available only when required, or if fixed, not to inhibit the view.

One of the methods adopted to control the glare effect is to use forms of glazing which cut down light transmission; these need to be treated with care to avoid the impression that the interior of a building is permanently dim, and some glazing is available which reacts to the external light available, only cutting down the light when the sunlight is too bright, and might cause glare.

To sum up, the need for the admission of sunlight is important, the architect must consider this as a first requirement in planning the location and layout of the building, but in certain circumstances controls will be needed.

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