Untangling Daylighting and Mesh
Environmental Design + Construction
By J. David Carduff
“Light every building using the sky.” That’s the vision of the Daylight Collaborative, a program created by the Energy Center of Wisconsin to provide information on daylighting. It sounds implausible, perhaps. But then again, many of the most successful trends and inventions sounded far-fetched at one point. Think flying. Telephones. Cars. The Internet. As with these other endeavors, those who seek to mainstream daylighting need to “find the light,” so to speak. Which is exactly what some architects, designers and product manufacturers are trying to do through the use of innovative products and technologies. One such product is woven metal mesh fabric, which when used for daylighting purposes has proven to save energy by reducing the use of artificial lighting and heat gain. For this reason, woven metal mesh fabrics have been on the cutting edge of daylighting technology throughout the world. That’s forward thinking.
Let’s take a look at the concept of daylighting. It seems simple enough: As buildings are illuminated by the sunlight, they are less dependent on electric lighting. And because sunlight produces less heat per unit of light than electric lights, buildings lit by sunlight have smaller cooling loads and don’t require as much energy fromHVAC systems.
While the concept of daylighting is straightforward, successful implementation of the practice is more challenging. Daylighting requires creativity and expertise. “Good daylighting creates beautiful, appropriately lit spaces while saving energy. A successfully daylit building is the result of a combination of art and science, of architecture and engineering. It is the result of an integrated design process, according to www.daylighting.org. Daylighting is more than simply installing windows; it involves foresight, innovation and ingenuity. Not to mention planning – planning is key.
During the planning process, consider all of the available materials that can help in successfully daylighting a building. As daylighting becomes an increasingly significant component of a building and a successful means of energy efficiency, more architects are integrating it into their designs. In a 2009 survey performed by GKD-USA, architects throughout the United States were asked how big a role daylighting played in the design of their buildings. Seventy-two percent of respondents said they always try to incorporate daylighting into their design, while 22 percent responded that the incorporation of daylighting was dependent upon the type of building. Because of this, building product manufacturers are developing a variety of new products to help the process, including woven metal mesh fabric.
Aside from enhancing the aesthetics of a building, woven metal mesh offers a unique way to control solar heat gain and extreme daylight and is commonly used as a sunshade. Depending on the location of the building and type of heat and light a window is exposed to, different patterns and sizes of mesh can be utilized. When used for sunshading, mesh can help contribute to Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) certification points.
The first to place flexible mesh on buildings, GKD recently began to explore ways in which their products could be further utilized. Through commissioning several studies and experiments, GKD found that woven metal mesh could indeed be used for daylighting purposes. While mesh can be used to block glare, GKD has also collaborated with ag4, a mediatecture company, to create Illumesh and Mediamesh – high-grade architectural woven stainless steel mesh fabric with interwoven LED profiles. This unique product has been used to replace solid LED boards on buildings, allowing daylight to enter a building without obstructing interior views or exterior architecture.
Using woven metal mesh for daylighting purposes saves energy by reducing the use of artificial lighting as well as heat gain. At the request of GKD, a study of several metal mesh products from GKDwas conducted by ift Rosenheim, an independent party research team. The purpose of the study was to determine the solar characteristics of metal meshes and to calculate solar heat gain of glazing in combination with solar shading devices. The materials tested were each of different thickness and design. Results showed that GKDwoven metal fabric exhibits improved sun protection, which leads to reduction of required cooling loads and allows for smaller cooling generators and HVAC systems.
Daylighting is also valued for its benefits to building occupants. According to www.daylighting.org, recent studies show that daylighting creates a stimulating environment – much better for occupants than the environment created by any type of artificial light. Natural light contributes to increased concentration among occupants and positively affects their emotional well-being and overall mood. Studies reveal that students in rooms lit by an increased amount of daylight consistently progress 20 percent faster in math and 26 percent faster in reading.
Time magazine discussed the way unlikely inventions became reality: “[Flight] did not come about by luck or accident. It was vision, quiet resolve and the application of scientific methodology that enable Orville and Wilbur to carry the human race skyward.” Likewise, a combination of vision, education and application will allow daylighting to become commonplace so that maybe one day, every building will be lit using the sky.
-- J. David Carduff is the product manager for GKD-USA. Having spent the past 28 years in the technical metal weaving and forming business, Carduff is an expert in the benefits of woven metal mesh.
GKD ED+C byline 5.1.2010