Volume 23, Issue 3 - May/June 2009

From the Editor

Light Effects
By Ellen Rogers

Anyone who still thinks glass is just glass is wrong—and I think that by now most people working with glass in their designs and construction plans are well versed to this fact. While it was not that long ago that most people thought a window simply provided a nice view and protection from the rain, we’ve all come a long way in our thinking. And thanks to manufacturers’ efforts in educating not only architects, designers and specifiers, even home and building owners are more aware of terms such as R-value, U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient.

Aside from the energy-efficiency level of the building, studies have also shown that glass can play a significant role when it comes to the overall comfort level of those working inside the building. As the Department of Energy’s website states: “The quantity and quality of light around us determine how well we see, work, and play. Light affects our health, safety, morale, comfort, and productivity.” Simply put, daylighting is the use of windows and skylights to bring light into a building. With this in mind, in recent years we’ve seen an increase in the number of projects designed with daylighting effects in mind.

Take, for instance, the Helen Diller Cancer Research Building, which you can read about starting on page 16. Located in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, the project was designed by architect Rafael Viñoly to maximize the interactions among everyone working there. This was done by using glass extensively; most significantly by way of an atrium that is visuall and physically accessible from surrounding areas and exterior terraces.

As project manager Bethany Lundell explained, “We’re trying to stimulate the researchers and the way they operate … there are different types of light in different spaces and we wanted to provide daylight in tough spaces … because it really does make a difference in terms of how you experience and enjoy a space.”

It’s true; you can’t very well have natural light when bricks and concrete are your primary building materials. With glass you not only get the benefit of visible light transmittance, but nice aesthetics, too. I’d love to hear about how you’re designing with daylighting in mind. Send me an email at and tell me about it. AG

Ellen Rogers is the editor of the Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal.

Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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