Innovative interior lighting design: optimizing natural light for greener spaces

By Paul Benton

In past


, we’ve touched on a number of different strategies for greener architecture, from solar panels to energy-efficient structural elements to landscaping.

Interior lighting design

is yet another area in which sustainability initiatives can come into play. As noted in a recent piece for

Design Build Source

, natural lighting is both a necessity and a hindrance when it comes to energy-saving architecture, challenging designers to strike a balance between light allowance and solar shading. With the right innovations, however, it is possible to achieve this balance – and to create stunning, contemporary and sustainable spaces built to last.

Here in Southern California, our sunlight can be very strong. While this may be intimidating, we can use controlled designs to get maximum lighting from minimal sun exposure. A well-placed skylight can give us a lot of benefit, and the light can add character to the space into the bargain. Add to that some baffles and other controlling surfaces, and strong or harsh rays can be transformed into soft, inviting indoor light. Architects call this approach “daylighting”, a technique for controlling and using available natural light. I like to use it because the quality of the natural light varies dramatically with the time of day and change of the seasons, both in intensity and direction. By working to accommodate these variations, we can add a whole new dimension to our appreciation of the quality of light.

For example, we can incorporate daylighting into a well-placed trellis at the exterior of a home to control the light entering the space, reduce glare and improve views. Add some wisteria or other greenery to the trellis, and all of a sudden you are in the middle of a garden. Sitting next to such a window on an otherwise bright and sunny day becomes a pleasure: thanks to daylighting, there are no hot spots, no fading and no sense of overheating.

In the final analysis of every project, we architects balance the owner’s desires with achievable results; and in many cases, daylighting is an easy way to do just that. We have a number of houses in the design stage where daylighting is a part of the overall sustainable approach to the design. While it is true that we get a lot of points for including daylight and reducing the energy consumption of the home, we also realize that daylighting brings a unique quality to the space, and bears design benefits that extend beyond functionality.


Alcorn & Benton Architects

, each and every project represents our commitment to superior quality, architectural innovation and environmental responsibility. We love a challenge, and believe wholeheartedly in the adage that necessity breeds inspiration. From complex coastal structures to historic renovations, from residential projects to urban planning, we excel at converting difficulty into opportunity. To learn more about our approach to interior lighting design,

San Diego green building

and other projects, get in touch today: