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Day Lighting Strategies for Log and Timber Homes

The Crown Point Floorplan Greatroom by Expedition Log Homes features plenty of natural daylight.

The Crown Point Design by Expedition Log Homes features plenty of natural daylight.

Designing For Daylight

Adding lots of natural light to your new log and timber home can improve your mood as well as your energy bills.

Have you noticed how the newest shopping malls, schools and office buildings incorporate lots of natural daylight in their design? Walls of windows and clerestories (peaked roof sections equipped with windows) bring indirect sunlight deep into these buildings.

That’s because architects, engineers and social scientists have discovered we humans are drawn toward areas illuminated with daylight.

What’s more, we’re often happier and healthier when exposed to daylight on a regular basis, according to the experts at the Log and Timber Homes Council, which is part of the National Association of Home Builders.

Countless studies have proven that when we are exposed to natural light, we are happier and healthier. Students improve their concentration (and test scores), shoppers linger far longer in malls (and spend more) and office workers are far more productive (and miss fewer days of work) if their space is lit naturally.

You can follow the lead of these commercial designers when creating your new log and timber home. As an added benefit, day lighting can save you money on heating and cooling costs, create a more desirable home and even make you happier.

Daylight plays a profound role in our lives. It’s not something we often consciously realize, but the amount of daylight affects our moods, relationships, health and productivity. It allows people to be in touch with the rhythms of nature and the weather.

What’s more, having lots of window space can also help extend your living space, by bringing the outside in.

Sunny Side of Life
Because logs and timbers absorb light compared to the drywall in conventional housing, you need roughly twice the lumens to illuminate a log and timber home. You can dramatically reduce this cost during day light hours if you follow some basic design rules when planning your home.

Start by analyzing your lifestyle and how your home’s orientation should relate to the path of sun. If you’re a morning person, then position the master suite on the eastern side to receive the morning light when you awake. Likewise, if you favor evenings, you may want to place your living space to face the west to take advantage of the setting sun.

Define how your home will interact with the positions of the compass. Your home will have at least four walls, so decide what areas will need light at what time of day.
During winter months, sunlight doesn’t have to be bright or strong to help heat your home. By installing tile flooring near south facing windows, your log walls and flooring will absorb heat and radiate it during evening hours.

You won’t get rich on this passive solar approach, but you will shave your heating costs. Perhaps the greatest satisfaction will come in knowing that you are consuming less energy, reducing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions.

Cool Day Lighting
Worried that you’ll suffer from heat and glare during summer months with a daylight friendly floor plan? Architects account for this with what’s known as “cool daylighting.” Designers control heat, glare and light with a variety of strategies that include:

  • Carefully placing windows at an exact height to encourage sunlight to enter the home at an angle, striking the ceiling and diffusing deep into the floor plan.
  • Extending overhangs or eaves, to protect the interior of the home from the midday sun’s hottest rays in the summer.
  • Planting deciduous trees and shrubs near south-facing windows. This landscaping shades the home in summer months, but allows passive solar gain during the winter.
  • Choosing “low-e,” windows, which will prevent glare from entering your home and interfering with TV watching or computer use.

People build log and timber homes typically in places where the vista is great. However, the placement of the window and your choice in window products will heavily influence whether your daylighting design is successful.

Experts recommends you budget more for energy-efficient windows in your home. The technology has come so far in the last six or eight years. It’s well worth the cost.

Choose Experienced Builder
Choose an experienced contractor or designer familiar with the rudiments of building science to ensure a daylight design will work for your home. Every building site is unique.

That’s why your builder should visit your site, preferably at different times of year, to understand how the topography of the land interacts with the sun’s path.

Some builders go as far as to create scale models to test concepts of daylighting and sun control.

If you’re really interested in daylighting design, get your builder involved as soon as possible—long before the development of construction drawings.