It is not uncommon for building manufacturers to launch initiatives that promote their companies and their products. However, Velux, a Dutch company with a global reach, founded in 1941 and best known for their product offerings of roof windows and skylights, has redefined this paradigm to look more broadly at issues impacting architecture and design. Focusing exclusively on the topic of daylighting, the company's three major programs—the International Velux Award for Students of Architecture “Lights of Tomorrow” (see “Lighting Competitions, Scholarships, and Grants,” Architectural Lighting, Nov/Dec 2007, p.29); the Velux Daylight Symposium; and a publication entitled Daylight & Architecture Magazine—are making significant contributions to an expanded design dialogue.
The Velux Daylight Symposium has been held twice to date—in 2005 in Budapest and in May 2007 in Bilbao, Spain. With the goal of ‘creating an international platform for exchange of knowledge, viewpoints, and vision,' the two-day conference brought together approximately 500 architects and lighting designers from around the globe. Discussion in Budapest centered on the need ‘for a common language about daylight' and ‘how to define or perceive daylight quality in buildings.' The Bilbao event continued the dialogue, focusing on two important aspects of daylight, one, the impact of daylight in schools and the relationship between daylighting and student's performance, and two, the tools necessary to teach students and practitioners daylighting techniques.
Moderated by lighting designer James R. Benya, principal of Oregon-based Benya Lighting Design, and architect Jan Ejhed, director of the lighting program at KTH, Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, the symposium included formal paper presentations and informal breakout sessions where conference attendees could interact one-on-one with presenters and peers.
Notable speakers included Lisa Heschong, who presented her firm's work on “Daylight and Student Performance.” For more than three decades, Heschong, principal of Fair Oaks, California-based Heschong Mahone Group, has studied the effect of spatial conditions and classroom characteristics—room size, orientation, and access to daylight—on student performance.
Also attending the conference was lecturer Richard Hobday who discussed “Health, Architecture, and the Sun.” Using historical architectural precedent coupled with current medical research Hobday argues that sunlit spaces are an absolute necessity, otherwise conditions such as vitamin D deficiency will continue to increase at an alarming rate.
As the symposium confirmed, the interest in and desire to work toward a more informed understanding of daylight and its impact on humans and the environment continues to grow. In fact it must, if designers are to meet the challenges of today's building issues. As Benya remarked in his opening comment, “Beyond good design practice, it is perhaps time to demand dayligted environments through codes and standards that make well-daylighted buildings the rule, rather than the exception.” Full conference proceedings are available at www.thedaylightsite.com.