Chasing daylight: Enhancing building design

Posted in: Aviation, Buildings


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The Award of Excellence for New Construction was the General Aviation Terminal at Appleton International Airport designed by Mead & Hunt in partnership with the Sustainable Engineering Group.

What if I told you that a source for nearly unlimited energy lay just outside your door? And if this same power source can be harnessed and spread through your building so that during daytime hours, artificial lights are not needed. And lastly, what about if this apparent alchemy affected a building’s occupants in such a way that they felt happy, performed better at work and tended to dwell longer in this stress free environment?

These are the qualities of capturing and utilizing natural daylight for enhancing building design. Ideal for airport terminal design, the use of natural daylight delivers emotional and economic benefits in any region. As airports are rarely tall structures and surrounding obstacles are regulated, the benefits of the daily solar cycle is the easiest and most profound design strategy in an architect’s toolkit.

Not understanding the angle of the sun during the day can bring in unwanted glare and heat. Coupled with unproven window technologies, this caused many buildings to cover windows with shades and film or closing them up entirely. Technological advances in high performance glazing, exterior operable louvers and computer simulation allows the science of daylighting to be more exacting. From a performance standpoint, reducing your dependence on artificial illumination lowers your carbon footprint and your operational bottom line.

Using lessons learned anecdotally and through the advances of behavioral science, views to nature and the movement of light though buildings restores a circadian rhythm to those who use the building. While air travel is inherently stressful due to security measures and ever moving schedules, understanding how a building affects its occupants leads to a calming environment of repeat users. Blending careful manipulation of all of the senses for a positive effect is what great design has been doing for millennia.

Such was not lost on the United States Green Building Council Wisconsin chapter when they announced their recent Transformation Awards. Their mission statement is to “provide recognition to people and organizations in the state who are transforming our built environment and our community into a healthier, more environmentally friendly and prosperous place to live, work and learn.” The Award of Excellence for New Construction was the General Aviation Terminal at Appleton International Airport designed by Mead & Hunt in partnership with the Sustainable Engineering Group. The Net Zero Energy terminal has been recognized in publications and awards alike and has achieved LEED Platinum certification.

Take an afternoon off and sit in the atrium spaces and watch the light and shadows perform their daily dance.

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Matt Dubbe, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

About the Author

Matt Dubbe, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, is an architect in our Minneapolis office. He specializes in sustainable aviation architecture projects. His projects, large or small, each reflect a practical sensibility joining performance and beauty. Matt urges clients to look not only at the initial investment in a building project, but at the total cost of facility ownership.

Read more posts by Matt Dubbe, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

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