Industry Insights

Daylight Matters in Building Design

Daylight is good for people. This is the basic point that few would debate. In a 2012 survey, 99% of US architects either agreed or strongly agreed that people perform better in buildings when exposed to natural light1. Findings are nearly identical when asked about the benefit of preserving a view of the outdoors2.

Unfortunately, too many people don’t get enough daylight, with about 33% of office workers in the US3 and 42% in Europe and the Middle East4 saying they have little/no access to natural light.


Why the Gap?

Some reasons are obvious, others less so. Here are 5 key reasons why this gap exists:

  1. New vs. existing buildings. 
    More of today's new buildings are constructed with daylight in mind, as evidenced by the growth of glass-centric façade designs. However, the vast majority of the building stock is older, and in many older buildings daylight is a scarce commodity. 
  2. Balancing Daylight and Views with glare and heat.
    With increased light comes the unwanted side effects of glare and heat gain, which can compromise occupant comfort. Too often natural light and views get sacrificed to limit heat gain and prevent glare. This occurs during both the design phase, by architects, owners, and engineers, and the operation phase by facility managers and occupants.
  3. Want vs. Need. 
    People want to maximize light for their buildings, but they need to maximize usable space, manage costs, meet deadlines etc. A great many “wants” in buildings get sacrificed during the long and difficult planning, design, bid, and construction process.
  4. Daylighting experts vs. the rest of us. 
    The world of daylight metrics is a challenging one to understand, even for experienced building industry professionals. Other metrics, such as those for energy efficiency, are comparatively easy. This complexity presents a challenge when asking people to invest in natural lighting strategies.
  5. Believing the value vs. seeing the value. 
    Perhaps the most significant hurdle is demonstrating that sunlit spaces deliver on the promise so many believe them to on an individual project basis. It is one thing to believe generally that daylight and views are better for people, it is another to see and even measure that benefit project by project. 

Bridging the Gap and Latent Demand

In some ways, all of these connect to the economics/marketing concept of latent demand. The classical definition of latent demand is “Desire or preference which a consumer is unable to satisfy due to lack of information about the product's availability, or lack of money.” While accurate. While accurate, a more inclusive definition would also include a lack of information that is accessible, easy to understand, and actionable.

In layman’s terms, people need to be convinced! The benefits of daylight are real but intangible and still frustratingly hard to measure. The more we can make the benefits measurable and real the more people will trust in them. With increased trust in the outcomes comes increasing investment. While this alone will not bridge the gap it is a critical step.


  1. 2012 study commissioned by SageGlass and performed by Hanley Wood, surveying 479 architects across the US
  2. Ibid
  3. Saint-Gobain and SageGlass commissioned Amplitude Research, Inc. to survey 400 team members across the U.S. between March 22 and April 1, 2016
  4. The Impact of Biophilia report by Human Spaces