While natural light can be used at building structures, to get into the rooms that are on the surface of the construction, MIT started a project (that was developed later on at EPFL), designing windows that conduct natural light into the depths of buildings. This technology is implemented into six floors of a modern building in Tokyo.
After Japan faced the consequences of the Fukushima tragedy, there was a major concern in finding new ways to build structures – mostly for office buildings – that can use natural light in their lighting systems. Some of these stem from the problem that office spaces are often populated by people working under artificial lighting, and in many cases these reach twice the European level standards.
With the changing of these standards, there is a need of finding new technologies that can be incorporated in building structures, so less electricity is used, and most of this should be replaced by natural lighting. It should also be regarded, that many office buildings have spaces that are deeper in the middle of the structure, with no possibility for natural light to get in.
This September, an office building in Tokyo was redesigned, so that six floors of the building are using special windows to efficiently get natural light in. Marilyne Andersen, the head of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Performance-Integrated Design (LIPID) has developed a new type of windows for office spaces.
The incipient part of the project began at MIT, and then it was taken over to EPFL for further development. By using these specially designed windows it is possible to get natural light into office spaces at 15 meters from the surface walls of the construction.
Residing on the top part of the glass, the system makes it possible to collect and redirect natural light so it can fill a whole room. In this case, an important matter is, that sunrays can not get below horizontal, or it will be glaring, unwanted in this case. Going by the design of standard windows, and with optimal illumination, this prototype can double the range of 6 meters delivered by old fashioned windows.
The concept of these windows is based on two layers, using two technologies for the two panes to push the light and disperse it. One of the devices used is made out of parallel aluminum pieces, and also a double parabolic curvy part. Placed on both sides of the device, it is designed to capture the natural light and deliver it toward the ceiling of the room. The second function of this device, is protection from glare caused by direct sunrays that are transmitted downward.
The second device is attached to the first one, described above, and it is a transparent cylinder made out of acrylic material. This acrylic cylinder has a diameter of half a centimeter and it is used to diffuse the light into lateral direction in the desired room. The catch of this whole machinery is the reflective ceiling. This is a mirror with granules in its composition, that helps the lateral diffusion of the light.
Marilyne Andersen has collaborated with Hulic, the real estate developer for some years now, and Hulic was her industrial partner in the research she conducted at MIT. Her present natural light catcher project has turned out to be a safe and stable one, with great use in office buildings.