Who is Bringing in the Light?

An ever-increasing implementation of green building practices in the architectural community has put natural light at a premium. New construction projects through the U.S. are using glass and glazing to maximize daylighting for energy efficiency and occupant health purposes. However, much of the commercial building stock still seems to be stuck in the dark.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) released the results of its 2012 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey. The survey collected specific data on the commercial building stock in the U.S., which totaled more than 5.5 million buildings at the time.

[This is the second part of a two-part series breaking down the EERE data. For analysis of multi-glazing, tinted and reflective glass, read the first part here.]

One of the data sections highlights windows, breaking down the number of commercial buildings in each subsector that include certain glazing features. Among those features were “skylights or atriums.” Another category was “daylight harvesting,” which can be achieved through glass and glazing.

USGNN.com™ crunched the numbers to present the percentage of buildings in each subsector that utilize skylights or atriums, as well as daylight harvesting. The data gives an indication of which sectors use these types of glazing the most, and which don’t. (See bottom of story for total number of buildings in each sector.)

More than 10 percent of buildings utilize skylights or atriums. The in-patient healthcare sector leads the way by a longshot, as 30 percent of those buildings have these glazing systems.


[Categories that didn’t produce relevant results for skylights/atriums include food sales and public order/safety.]

The in-patient healthcare sector is also the most prominent user of daylight harvesting. According to the survey, just over 2 percent of all buildings fit EERE’s definition of daylight harvesting.


[Categories that didn’t produce relevant results for daylight harvesting include service, religious worship, food service, food sales, lodging, out-patient healthcare and public order/safety.]


– The healthcare sector, particularly in-patient buildings, dominates both categories. Like the sector’s supremacy in the multi-glazing, reflective and tinted glass categories, it’s not necessarily a surprise, given the strong emphasis put on hospitals on occupant comfort. Studies also suggest natural light can affect healing time, in addition to improved mood. In-patient healthcare buildings continue to be ahead of the game in terms of green building practices.

– The mercantile sector is a prominent user of daylight harvesting, finishing second behind healthcare in that category. From a percentage standpoint, it also implements skylights and atriums at a higher rate than all segments except healthcare.

– The office segment was also strong in each category, as was education. Studies have shown occupant comfort in work and educational settings, especially when natural light is involved, improves productivity and ability to learn. This has also been emphasized further in recent years and should result in an increase in these numbers.

– The lodging sector is a big user of skylights/atriums but didn’t make the list for daylight harvesting.

– Energy efficiency and green building practices in general are now the standard in new construction. The glass and glazing industry continues to fight to not only maintain but expand its presence in the battle for the wall. This should result in notable increases across most sectors in the EERE’s next survey.

[Total number of buildings per sector: all buildings – 5,557,000; office – 1,012,000; warehouse/storage – 796,000; service – 619,000; mercantile – 602,000; religious worship – 412,000; education – 389,000; public assembly – 352,000; food service – 380,000; food sales – 177,000; lodging – 158,000; in-patient healthcare – 10,000; out-patient healthcare – 147,000; public order/safety – 84,000.]

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