Volume 35, Number 1, January 2000

See the Light

Selling Daylighting Benefits to Your Skylight Customers Can Help Your
Company See the Light of Success

by Kenneth E. Urban

wpe14.jpg (69184 bytes)You may know the benefits of daylighting. But, have you ever wondered how to sell these benefits to your customers successfully? If you have, this article will be helpful to you as it offers tips on how to sell daylighting to potential clients.

As with any product, education and training are the keys to success. This article will take a two-pronged approach, addressing both the benefits that daylighting provides, as well as dispatching common misconceptions about the products. Finally, the article will outline what training you and your staff will need to sell more daylighting products.

Daylighting Benefits

The value of daylighting is hard to dispute when you ask people what they like. This is true for nearly all environments, from the family room to office space. This should come as no surprise, since humans have lived in concert with the sky for thousands of years. Beyond our natural affinity for daylight, studies have proven that daylighting exerts a profound effect on a person’s mood. Scientists believe that sunlight can affect our internal biochemistry.

On the other hand, there are things people don’t like about daylighting, and skylights in general. For instance, poorly designed skylights can be uncomfortable to be under. They’re sometimes hot, and the glare can be too intense. Choosing the right daylighting system for the application can eliminate all of these problems.

Besides the emotional impact, well-designed daylighting has been shown to have significant economic payoffs. As we explore several case studies, it will become obvious that daylighting is more than nice to have. In most cases, it is financially justified.

There are numerous studies that demonstrate the benefits properly designed daylighting can provide. One in particular, Greening the Building and the Bottom Line, shows how energy-efficient design can increase worker productivity. Two of the case studies in the article used daylighting as a significant part of their design. Although this article can’t deal with each case in depth, following are some of the highlights.                                                                                  The White Residence in Crown Point, IN, utilizes Auburn™ 5-                                                                                                                                                       by 5-foot pyramids and a 5- by 8-foot hip ridge glass skylight.

 Lockheed Building 157

In 1979, Lockheed commissioned a new 600,000-square-foot office facility to house 2,700 engineers and support personnel. The building used daylighting for ambient light and electrical task lighting at workstations. The results were staggering: Lighting costs were 75 percent lower, with energy savings amounting to $500,000 annually. Additionally, absenteeism dropped 15 percent, and productivity was 15 percent higher on the first contract performed in the building.


In 1993, Wal-Mart tested a new type of retail store it called the “Eco-Mart.” The store’s purpose was to experiment with environmentally-based design strategies. Daylighting included a large glass arch at the front of the store and skylights over the sales floor. In a cost-saving move, Wal-Mart decided to install skylights over only half of the roof. To the company’s surprise, sales per square foot were higher in departments in the daylit side of the store—even higher than the same departments in other stores.

wpe15.jpg (91947 bytes)Historical Prejudices

The most common misconception about daylighting (and skylights in particular) is that they leak. And to be frank, poorly designed systems do. That’s why it’s important to educate your customers on the features to look for when choosing a system.

Today’s best daylighting systems stress water management. In the final analysis, a skylight is a hole in a building’s roof. We all know that structures settle and building materials age. Just as siding and shingles need to be maintained, so do skylights. A poorly-designed system exacerbates the natural changes a building undergoes. The best daylighting solutions use compound gasketing systems (for instance, butyl exterior and EPDM or neoprene interior) and integral gutters. These design features stop most water infiltration. The water that does get through is redirected to the building exterior by an integral gutter system.

Another prejudice you must address is heat. Most often, this is the result of a poorly-chosen daylighting system. In the United States, choosing a glass-glazed daylighting system for a southern exposure can result in a space that’s uncomfortable if people spend considerable time beneath it, without thermal mitigation through blinds, shading, or biological screening. When most people think of daylighting, they think of glass. However, there are several competing technologies, including twinwall polycarbonate and translucent FRP panels that provide most of the benefits of glass, while minimizing solar gain.

Stewart Memorial Hospital in Lake City, IA, utilizes a 20-foot
diameter translucent polygon skylight.

 Training your Staff

The single most important factor in selling daylighting is training (although some would argue all the training in the world won’t create good salespeople!). You must teach your staff to understand the different kinds of daylighting, and which systems are appropriate for the specific application. Once they understand this, they can communicate it to the customer. Studies have shown that consultative selling, where the customer fully understands the options and tradeoffs, results in repeat business. In such an environment, the customer feels that their needs have been met, and they haven’t been manipulated.

How do you get your staff the training they need to become a daylighting expert, especially when that’s not their full-time job? The best way is to build a partnership with your daylighting suppliers. That way, you’ll be able to provide the right system for the application. In fact, training and support should be one of your prime criteria when choosing a daylighting partner. And it helps to find a daylighting supplier who manufactures a broad range of products and is able to provide all types of glazing systems. That way, you’re not locked into coordinating multiple suppliers to meet the needs of a project.

 The Bottom Line

Skylights are a highly-technical product, customized not only for the building’s physical characteristics, but also for its geography, climate and customer requirements. Selling such a product requires training in the basic technology, industry issues, and product limitations. Take the time to learn the benefits, and then communicate those to the customer. Do this, and you’ll successfully sell more daylighting.

 Sources: Greening the Building and the Bottom Line: Increasing Productivity Through Energy-Efficient Design. Romm, Joseph J. (U.S. Department of Energy), and Browning, William D. (Rocky Mountain Institute), December 1994. Published by the Rocky Mountain Institute, Snowmass, CO.


wpe17.jpg (3116 bytes)Kenneth E. Urban is manager of information systems and technology for Major Industries Inc. in Wausau, WI.




Copyright 2000 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.