Bring In The Sun With Daylighting

The building envelope can serve as a tool for facility management to tap into renewable energy resources.

By Rodger Russ
From The February 2017 Issue

Advocating to cut holes in a facility’s roof is a bold move. As recently as five years ago, few facility management professionals have recommended this course of action, no matter what the benefit was. It was too great a risk, and no one wants to deal with leaks. But, what was once written off is now an important opportunity to help companies gain a competitive advantage. And now, there’s reliable technology that allows facility executives to achieve the energy saving benefits of daylighting without the inflated risk for roof leaks.

daylightingNow, more than ever, daylighting is worth consideration, especially because so many of its benefits align with helping solve critical organizational challenges:

  • Productivity improvement. Multiple research studies dating back to the 1920s show that worker productivity increases with better light quality. Not only can employees see better to perform tasks, their moods improve and absenteeism declines.
  • Employee recruitment and retention. As many as 68% of employees complain about the light in their offices.¹ Natural lighting is an easy way to improve employee satisfaction, reduce turnover, and make the workplace more appealing to new recruits. Plus, as the economy continues to recover, finding and keeping top talent is a high priority.
  • Operating cost control. Some companies that rely on daylighting systems are able to operate for most of the day without supplemental artificial lighting. Given that lighting is second only to employee salaries in terms of employer operating expenses, savings can add up fast—especially when daylighting is paired with lighting management and control systems. Typically, daylighting can provide a return on investment (ROI) in just three to five years.
  • Corporate social responsibility. In many industries, companies are under increased pressure to reduce carbon footprints by employing sustainable business practices. In tangent with controlling operating costs, implementing daylighting can offer quantifiable sustainability benefits, such as comparing electricity use pre- and post-system installation.

When looking to achieve the full benefits daylighting offers, it is critical to select the right technology. Here are several features that facility management executives might evaluate.

  • A self-curbing solution. Whether focused on new construction or a facility retrofit, there are self-curbing daylighting units available. Not only does the self-curb design help maintain weathertightness, it’s also faster to install because it reduces the number of required roof penetrations by as much as 30%.
  • Prismatics. This technology completely diffuses the natural light as it enters the building, which is critical to avoid the glares and hot spots common with more traditional fiberglass skylights.
  • A domed unit. Adding as much as three times the amount of natural light earlier and later in the day compared with flat options, domed daylights further help reduce the amount of electricity needed to light a space.

In addition to finding the right daylighting technology, identifying a solid partner will help ensure facility professionals maximize their daylighting ROI results. In addition to being knowledgeable about the technology, a strong provider should also be able to help identify incentive programs to help reduce the cost of the project.

It’s not unheard of for daylighting projects to actually be profitable. One 300,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania sought to implement a daylighting/lighting controls system, but needed to keep the project off the balance sheet. Working closely with providers, the company identified and leveraged a $100,000-plus rebate from a local utility company (helping cover the hard costs for the daylighting units) and engaged in a low-cost equipment rental program for the controls system to net an extra $1,000 per month.

It’s one thing to be bold, but it’s another to be bold while still playing it safe. Third-party testimonials can help reassure that daylighting is a smart decision. There are early adopters who have already integrated daylighting into their building designs. Project partners should be ready to provide case studies or contact information for past customers who can share their feedback and results.

Daylighting is a strong recommendation for many reasons, from helping solve for strategic business challenges to simple budget savings. With better technology and an increasing number of companies employing this approach, the risk factors have been reduced. It’s never too early to start saving money using the renewable energy of the sun.


¹ Lighting & Productivity. Lighting Design Lab. (accessed August 16, 2016)

daylightingRuss is the North American sales manager for the roof division of Butler Manufacturing, where he focuses on applying solutions for the retrofit segment of the metal roofing market. With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, he is an industry member of RCI, an association of professionals focused on the building envelope.

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