by the VELUX Group

New ideas, tools and methods for design of buildings that promote happiness and health emerged at the 6th VELUX Daylight Symposium in London 2-3 September. For two days, researchers, architects, engineers and building professionals discussed how daylight can drive change in today’s 24/7 society. 

“As designers, we should focus on creating positive mental well-being for people rather than building to avoid illness. In this, daylight plays a crucial role, said Professor Koen Steemers from Cambridge University in his introductory speech at the 2015 Daylight Symposium.”

Koen Steemers introduced his new concept; ‘nudge-architecture’, where buildings actively encourage people to connect, be active and keep learning for better health and happiness in life.

Getting people outside and more daylight inside was the call to action from Christoph Reinhart from the MIT Sustainable Design Lab. He broadened the perspective of daylight in individual buildings to daylight as a driver of change, health and happiness in ever-denser urban environments.

To design proactively with daylight for happiness and health ran as a red thread through the 35 lectures at the Symposium attended by more than 350 participants from all parts of the world.

“Daylight research is maturing. The Symposium showed how tremendous amounts of insight and knowledge will enable us to create new solutions that combine classical design virtues with modern technology to promote health and happiness in the built environment, said Michael K. Rasmussen, Senior Vice President, the VELUX Group.”

David Nelson, Head of Design at Foster+Partners, demonstrated the versatile opportunities in designing with daylight through the impressive global design portfolio of his company. Other examples from China to the US and Europe showed that daylight as a key to sustainable buildings – is a global movement.


Exposure to light is like a drug, changing something in your body

A recurrent theme at the Symposium was how daylighting design can support the natural daily and seasonal rhythms of human beings who spend more than 90 percent of the time inside buildings.

In her thought-provoking lecture “First – do no harm”, Deborah Burnett from Benya Burnett, USA, advocated for a closer cooperation between designers and medical doctors to make sure that proposed lighting solutions are truly beneficial to human health.

“Exposure to light is like a drug that changes something in the body. It impacts heart rate, blood pressure, immune system, metabolism, and mood. As designers, we may believe that what we practice is good for people’s health, but we need to work more evidence-based in close cooperation with medical scientists to make sure that we propose the right lighting solution, said Deborah Burnett.”

More specifically, the Symposium looked at how daylight can benefit rapid recovery at hospitals and enhance learning capabilities of children at school.


Need for new regulation

Goodwill of individual building owners and designers are important steps towards healthier buildings, but to actually accelerating new practices, legislation and legislators play an important role. Daylight metrics and regulation was therefore a main topic at the second day of the Symposium.

We need to create new methods to appraise daylighting performance linking building location, orientation and seasonal data and displaying the information in ways that are easy for decision-makers to understand and use, said Bernard Paule from Estia in Switzerland.”

Marc Fontoynont introduced the draft for the new European Daylight Standard, which will be sent out in public enquiry shortly. Marc is the covenor of the CEN TC169 work group. The standard comprises recommendations for minimum daylight provision and view out, exposure to sunlight and protection from glare.

Internationally renowned artist Olafur Eliasson concluded the Symposium by presenting highlights of his work and also introducing the winners of the Natural Light International Design Competition, Mariana Arando and Luca Fondello from Argentina. “Link it up” is the name of their prize winning solar lamp concept, unifying and connecting people by providing light to off-grid areas of the world.

The VELUX Daylight Symposium celebrated its 10th anniversary with this sixth event held in the `International Year 2015´of Light – proclaimed by the United Nations and Unesco. John Dudley, the originator and chairman of the Year of Light emphasized in his opening speech on the first day of the Symposium, the importance of promoting public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world.

All 35 presentations and Q&A sessions from the 6th VELUX Daylight Symsposium are available here: