Daylighting: Designing for Natural Light In-store
DAYLIGHTING IS A COMPLEX
COMBINATION of science and art.
When executed well in a retail store, it can
enhance the shopping experience, attract
people to the store, and reduce energy
costs. Daylighting design is all about balancing quantity of light, glare, and heat
gain to create an aesthetically pleasing
and comfortable space. Unfortunately, the
complexity of daylighting design often
prevents it from being addressed in retail
Daylighting in a space can affect sales and
even employee longevity and sick days. For
example, if an area of the store is too bright
or too hot from sunlight, shoppers will tend
to avoid merchandise in those areas of the
store. And if the cashwrap is placed by the
windows, store employees are forced to
deal with visual and temperature stressors,
which often result in headaches and other
symptoms, reducing their ability to fight illness like colds and the flu, and ultimately
resulting in missed workdays.
Why not close the blinds?
Unless they are automated, window coverings in a retail environment are only as
effective as the person who notices direct
sunlight creeping into the space and makes
an effort to fix it. Additionally, the angle of
sunlight changes constantly, requiring window coverings to be adjusted every few
minutes. If the store is busy, no one will
leave a customer to adjust the blinds.
Because blinds are often opaque or nearly
opaque, closing them can darken that area
of the store to the point where it can be
hard to see merchandise, countertops, etc.
If enough artificial light is provided to compensate for this, then reopening the blinds
would again provide too much light.
If blinds are not the answer, then what
is? A few key themes can help improve
your next retail environment design: control direct sunlight, avoid glaring situations,
and balance artificial light with natural
Photo: Mark A Steele Photography Inc
At Fixtures Living in Costa Mesa, Calif., skylights help to create an outdoor patio ambiance
indoors so that grilling enthusiasts can fully appreciate the store’s offerings. The store has
eight skylights as well as glazing that minimizes glare and heat gain. Integrated lighting
controls and occupancy sensors reduce energy costs. (Design: Fitch, Columbus, Ohio )
1 Control direct sunlight
Direct sunlight coming into a retail environment causes uncontrolled light and
temperature situations. For new construction projects, carefully selected glazing can
help reduce heat gain and diffuse sunlight.
For retail renovations, films with varying
transparencies can be placed over existing
windows to help reduce direct sunlight infiltration, while still allowing a clear view for
The top portion of the glazing, typically
7 feet 6 inches above the floor and higher,
is called “daylight glazing” and carries the
majority of daylight into the depths of the
space. Horizontal light shelves or screens
placed on the interior of the building can not
only significantly reduce the amount of direct
sunlight coming into the space, but also serve
as a reflective surface to carry more natural
light across the ceiling, increasing the amount
of diffuse natural light for functional use.