Daylight naturally depends on the geographical orientation. From North the light is primarily radiation from the sky, whereas the light from the South, East and West is characterized by being more direct. That needs to be reflected in the design of façades. Use larger, more clear window areas when facing the North and smaller, more defined, when facing other orientations.
The standards often favor even daylight – that is where the light is spread out evenly. But we did a research project on two of our libraries, where a team of students were asked to evaluate the experience of Gentofte Library and Albertslund Library. Gentofte Library has a very contrast filled lighting environment, whereas Albertslund Library is a setting of very even daylight. The tendency was clear: More of the students preferred to stay longer in the Gentofte Library than the one in Albertslund - and at the same time felt the lighting supported the architecture more and was more inspiring and attractive (Jørgensen et al., 2010). Other research shows that a smaller window with clear glass gives a better experience of daylight than a big window with reflecting glass (Volf, 2013). Daylight is not a standardized asset; it is about how you experience it, and often it is experienced as more present when there is a high brightness contrast. Always work with dissimilarities and contrasts in daylight design.
Research shows that we are attracted to light when it does not blind us (Khanie, 2015). Lights draws us, we turn towards it. Basically, we act like flowers. We are therefore naturally drawn to a building’s façade. Thus, the façade needs to be more than a climate screen. It needs to be a sojourn, a place for pauses and a learning space. We achieve that by integrating bay windows and niches. At Frederiksbjerg School in Aarhus, the window niches in the façade are used actively as a design element. The window niches are now actively being used as hanging out spots that enable the pupils to detract themselves from the bigger class room and find their own smaller space in the room. It gives them daylight, and as a plus, their integration in the façade entwines them with the surrounding city. Make sure to consider the façade as a place for hanging out.
It is important that we care for good daylight design. Often building regulations and demands from working environment authorities do not necessarily support good daylight environments. Rules need to secure the common denominator, but it is up to us to secure the quality of daylight in our buildings. In this case, really good quality has a lot of faces.