Many internal corridors of buildings do not have natural lighting due to a lack of windows. Skylights have provided natural lighting for years, but light tubes (or solar tubes) offer a new option for bringing outside light into buildings. The technology, discussed briefly in a post earlier this year as part of the Science Channel’s Ecopolis series, allows the units to have a smaller physical footprint than skylights and can subsequently fit into more confined spaces.
On a recent visit to a school in the Denver area, I had a chance to see these devices in action. In a dark interior hallway, bright white natural light streamed down from above. The contrast was stark compared to the rest of the passageway. Some of the people on the tour commented on the harshness of the light, however, it provided a nice change from the orange-yellow glow of incandescent and florescent lighting prevalent in most buildings. Different options are available, as seen here from Solatube, to soften the light.
Solatube, an international company based in California that offers residential and commercial service, installed the devices. The company also served as one of the major sponsors of the US Green Building Council’s (Colorado Chapter) Green Schools Summit last month. Several of the company’s products qualify for the 30% federal tax credit available on energy saving devices. Inside the tube a highly reflective surface allows exterior light to pass into a structure’s interior. For a more detailed explanation of how the daylighting system works, click here. Furthermore, their products are Energy Star certified.
Innovative yet simple technology like Solatube’s daylighting systems ensures that sustainable development does not require massive energy inputs. If humankind achieves true sustainability, it cannot rely on consuming non-renewable energy sources at current rates. Making use of natural light in interior spaces provides a great example of thoughtful design that reduces energy consumption and replicates more natural lighting situations.
[image source: Solatube]