HMFH Architects

Design for Daylight

Let the sunshine in.

Who doesn’t like sunshine? Most of us do, but we don’t appreciate the excess heat and glare or the higher energy bills that can accompany natural light. There are plenty of design techniques that let us enjoy daylight without leaving us sweltering at our desks and squinting at our monitors.



To optimize the use of natural light, we first consider the orientation for each of the building’s activities. Classrooms and offices facing north and south receive even and controllable light—ideal for comfort and energy savings. Western light can be harsh, but is not problematic for spaces used primarily in the morning.

Next, we employ devices to shade the building from the brightest sun. Deciduous trees create diffused light through their full canopies in the summer, but allow full sun to reach the building during months when they are bare. Horizontal louvers block the high summer sun while allowing low winter light to stream through, and when combined with a light-shelf, bounce daylight deep into the building interior.


Another method includes stopping the harsh sun at the window glass. High performance “heat-mirror” glazing includes an invisible film that literally reflects heat while allowing visible light in, creating day-lit interiors that are cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Fritted glass, which imbeds dot-matrix paint on the glass surface, reduces glare without masking the view.

For rooms that need to be darkened completely from time to time, electro-chromic glass can transform from clear to opaque with the flip of a switch.

The best solution for each building depends on multiple factors—climate, program, site, energy goals, and budget—and will employ tactics to achieve comfortable, beautiful, naturally lit spaces. So, go ahead, let the sun shine in!