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Have you ever noticed that lighting can change your mood, depending on whether it’s natural or artificial? Going beyond occupancy sensors, the right lighting mix can also reduce energy consumption and save homeowners and commercial building operators’ money by using natural light with coordinated design. The Commonwealth is leading by example in this area, implementing “daylighting” and lighting design in state buildings, from UMass Lowell to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Field Headquarters in Westborough.

So how does it work? Daylighting, also known as daylight harvesting, can be achieved through building design that maximizes the amount of light that can enter the building. This design should account for the energy performance of natural light sources (such as windows and skylights).

This strategy can be used in buildings of all sizes, from homes to large commercial-sized facilities. With natural light pouring in, light-sensing photosensors connected to a smart lighting system can reduce reliance on electrical lighting during the day and automatically dim their output, thus reducing the need for energy during these times.

UML University Crossing DaylightThe lobby of University Crossing at UMass Lowell (UML), for example, has reflective panels near the skylight that reflect light towards a This diffuses natural light throughout the space and maximizes the amount of it inside the center of the building. Photosensors automatically adjust artificial lighting levels, reducing lighting use and costs. UMass Lowell Energy Manager Paul Piraino says, “It makes me smile to see people working under natural light. We save $0.15 for every hour that a typical 100 SF office uses sun light rather than electricity.” Daylighting as an energy-saving strategy is being expanded through UML’s campus as part of the largest Accelerated Energy Program project to date. Across thousands of square feet and thousands of annual daytime operating hours, these energy and cost savings can quickly add up!

As with many energy-saving strategies, daylighting is most successful when effectively integrated with appropriate design strategies, such as right-sizing light sources to minimize thermal gain or loss, and the inclusion of design elements like ‘light shelves.’ These architectural structures allow light to enter far into a building by reflecting it upwards towards the ceiling with a ‘shelf’ placed on the upper portion of a window.

The General Services Administration offers a detailed informational resource to help you make it happen. Even better, Mass Save offers incentives (subject to eligibility) that support the implementation of daylighting technologies in Massachusetts. The potential of this energy-saving (and cost-saving) strategy is bright.

Written By:


Sustainability Project Coordinator

Trey Gowdy coordinates efficiency and sustainability projects with the Leading By Example Program (LBE) in DOER. LBE meets the ambitious clean energy goals for state government in Executive Order 484. Trey is especially interested in using innovative technologies and outreach strategies to reduce the environmental impact of operations in the Commonwealth. Prior to joining DOER, he worked as the Campus Sustainability Associate at Florida State University. Outside of the office, Trey enjoys running in Boston and traveling to new places.

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