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Human potential, real estate value, and shopping trends all associated with exposure to natural light.

All humans have an innate need to be in contact with nature. The U.S Department of Energy released research back in 2003 to support this, calling the human-sunlight relationship the biophilia hypothesis. The human body relies on sunlight to regulate a number of physical, mental and behavioral rhythms.

The positive effects of daylighting on the human body are undeniable, and include heightened energy, boosted immune system, increased metabolism, improved sleep patterns, and stabilized moods.

Unfortunately, our energy-reliant public infrastructures are interfering with this relationship.

Prolonged exposure to electric lights has been linked to higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Where Daylighting Can Make a Difference

Harnessing the power of the sun, or daylighting, has the potential to yield significant advantages to operations seeking to cut energy consumption, boost personnel performance, and increase property value.

The Workplace

Millions of people worldwide are subjected to a windowless environment for more than 40 hours a week. The confinement to a cubicle and subsequent continuous exposure to artificial lighting have been proven to cause sleep disorders, irritability, disrupted hormone release, and an overall detriment to quality of life.

daylighting benefitsWorkplace seating assignments have traditionally favored upper management, with coveted, enclosed offices monopolizing window space, creating a fenced-in field of cubicles clustered underneath buzzing, hot, electric lights. Freezing blasts of cold air might be pumped into the space to counter the heat from the overhead lighting.

Poor foresight and enclosed design trends over last few decades have forced commercial and public buildings to rely on interior artificial light sources that give off so much heat, the HVAC system has to work overtime to keep the room at a comfortable temperature. That’s why your office is always so cold.

The light/HVAC output is an expensive balance to maintain.

Artificial lighting accounts for as much as 40% of a commercial building’s energy consumption and HVAC systems are even more draining.

Daylight-friendly workstations are directly associated with better attendance, motivation, and performance. Higher retention rates will follow, as will the betterment of the company as a whole.


Educational environments are prime locations for daylighting retrofits. There is a lot to be gained as slashed budgets, workforce reductions, and the elimination of arts and fitness programs continue to weaken school curriculums.

Years ago, it was believed that windows were a primary source of distraction for students, and so newer structures were designed to limit the students’ view of the outside world. Now we know that natural lighting makes students significantly more focused, and reduces absenteeism. It was a costly misconception. Here’s why:

  • Schools spend more money on energy than on supplies or books. Energy costs are among a school’s highest expense, second only to salaries.
  • Energy-efficient enhancements have the potential to save $1.5 billion every year. That’s a 25% savings from the $6 billion spent on energy for K-12 schools in the U.S.
  • Natural light has a proven effect on learning speed. Students learning in naturally lit environments are scoring up to 25% higher on tests.
  • Children in daylit classrooms have healthier teeth, and are less susceptible to stunted growth and weight gain.


The retail industry has been using light as a sales tool for years; skylighting, specifically. Contemporary shopping malls are using glass-ceilinged atrium designs and outdoor complexes to allow natural sunlight in. Daylighting brings out the true colors in merchandise, and cheers up shoppers, who are more likely to make a purchase if they are in a good mood.

Real Estate

Commercial buildings employing energy-efficient solutions are more valuable, attracting faster, more competitive buyers and quality lessees as a result of their low operating costs.

Healthcare Settings

Patients that can enjoy outdoor views and exposure to daylighting recover from surgery faster, rely less on pain medication, and are released from the hospital sooner.

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes need as much daylight as possible. The elderly, by nature, tend to adopt an indoor lifestyle, and their eyes absorb less light. This can have an adverse effect on a number of the body’s systems.

Even veterinary clinics have discovered that natural light is a healing agent to animals, and has a calming effect.

Tax Deduction for Daylighting Retrofits

Even the U.S. government recognizes the potential benefits of daylighting, but acknowledges the need for wide-spread adoption to make a substantial impact on strained energy grids.

To encourage daylighting retrofits and other energy-saving solutions, Congress created a tax incentive that relates to the design and installation of energy efficient interior lighting in commercial and public buildings. Through this incentive found in section 179D of the Internal Revenue Code, qualifying businesses can receive up to 60¢ per square foot in deductions for eligible projects. Renovations that incorporate energy-cutting improvements to the building’s HVAC, hot water, and building envelope can be eligible for as much as $1.80 per square foot in deductions.

Who Can Qualify?

The 179D deduction is available to building owners and lessees who make energy efficient improvements to their commercial buildings including:

  • Retail buildings
  • Office buildings
  • Industrial buildings
  • Apartment buildings (at least 4 stories)
  • Warehouses

Congress created a tax incentive that relates to the design and installation of energy efficient interior lighting in commercial and public buildings.

In addition, designers of government-owned buildings can also get the benefit under a special rule for public property. Eligible designers include architects, engineers, contractors, environmental consultants or energy services providers who have done energy efficient design work for new government buildings or renovations/retrofits of existing government buildings such as:

  • Schools
  • State universities
  • Libraries
  • Town halls
  • Airports
  • Transportation facilities
  • Post offices
  • Court houses
  • Military bases
  • Government offices


For more information about qualifying for the 179D tax deduction, click here.