Daylighting Activity

Carol Friedland, Kleinpeter, Shelly

Learning Outcomes:

Students should be able to explain passive solar design and daylighting.

Teacher Preparation

  • Grade Level: High School
  • Time Required for Lesson: 45-60 minutes plus tour

Materials needed for each group:

  • Cardstock (assorted neutral colors)
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Materials for the class:
  • Light Meter


Daylighting is a solar design strategy that helps to minimize energy usage. But utilizing the light provided free by the sun, we reduce the need to use artificial lighting and the cost. The size and shape of a space affects the way that it is lit. Different orientations make for different lighting opportunities.

  • North light is the most even light source, it is fairly constant all day long throughout most seasons.
  • South light is the next most constant light source throughout seasons, but will vary from morning to afternoon.
  • East light is morning light, but usually does not have the intensity of South light sources.
  • West light is afternoon light that has an intense quality of light.
  • Surface colors can affect the reflectivity and be useful in daylighting.
  • Floor surfaces: 10% dark grey, 30-60% light grey, 90% white.
  • Wall surfaces: 25% dark colors, 40-85% light colors.
  • Ceiling surfaces: 90-95% for white

Light sources placed high on wall surfaces will provide the best way to reflect light into a space on schemes relying on a wall surface as reflectors or diffusers. It is best to keep the light source as high as possible to keep the direct sun light out of the field of vision of the user as this can cause eye fatigue.


1. Architects and interior designers have to think about how daylight to affect the spaces that they are creating. Daylight is not scalable, so at a small scale you will get the same affect that you would get in the full-size finished project.

2. In our living room, we utilize daylighting. The porch overhangs are situated so that no direct sunlight

enters the space but creates enough lighting that artificial light can be minimized. An office would like to have 1000 LUX daylighting in their space.

3. Have students watch this video if there is time: Energy 101: Daylighting.

4. Split the class into small groups and give them their supplies. Have the students talk/design their room forabout 10 minutes.

a. Each room must be 6”x6” square, but no limit on height. Have students use a ¼ scale to make sure that windows and doors are to scale.

b. Each room must have a door and two window cut-outs.

c. Each room must have a roof

d. Each room must have an open bottom for the light meter.

e. The room itself must be made of a dark grey or black, and then use the other colors on the inside.

f. They must designate which side of the building will be their North and mark it with an N.

5. Once you feel the students have a good design concept, give them 20 minutes to build it. Reminding them to have a roof and to make sure the light meter can get into the bottom.

6. When students have completed their models, have them take them outside and orient them correctly with North. Use the light meter to test the LUX reading of their room.

7. Return to classroom, and discuss the approach each group took to their design and whether it was successful or not. 8. If there is time, have students make quick alterations (ie, changing size of windows, more of a roof overhang, etc) and then retest again.

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5/31/2023 4:23:34 PM
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