Daylight in Architecture Ben van Berkel & the Architectural Sustainability Platform

By July 01 , 2016
Ben Ven BarkelBen van Berkel Founder Principal Architect UNStudio, Amsterdam

UNStudio, founded in 1988 by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, is an international architectural design studio specialising in architecture, urban development and infrastructural projects. UNStudio Architectural Sustainability Platform (ASP) engages all UNStudio projects from the early phases in order to ensure that the correct choices are made and that the ofce’s high sustainable standards remain an integral part of the design process. The ASP is committed to the promotion and practice of sustainable design. This involves both active and passive design tools, which have a recognizable effect on the design of the building, product or urban plan. The ASP is continually involved in the development of new tools for an improved design process. Together with the application of the many international environmental regulations and an in-house assessment toolkit, new sustainable assets are created.

Throughout the history, daylight has been a primary source of lighting in buildings. As architects and designers, we continuously work on improving quality of daylight in buildings, its aesthetics and well-being benefits. It can contribute greatly to a dynamic user experience and impact human performance. Good daylighting design can result in energy savings, shifting peak electrical demand during afternoon hours, when daylight availability levels and utility rates are high.

The aim of designing for daylight is to get as much daylight as possible deep into a building while controlling the brightness of surfaces within the users’ fields of vision.

While most of the devices encourage daylight to penetrate the building, some other systems also attempt to reduce the daylight ingress.

Depending on location and building typology, the parameters of direct and diffuse radiation and sun impact studies lead to conclusions that have influence on orientation, massing, program and envelope. UNStudio project approach is always site and climate-specific. Digital analysis of the building geometry and amount of facade openings helps to find a tailor-made solution for the building complex and its environment. All these considerations are integrated into a designapproach as a holistic solution. This strengthens the concept, decreases the multitude of components and therefore reduces the costs of maintenance. UNStudio stimulates new developments of daylighting devices by digital but also physical prototyping.

Daylight Acrhitecture
Daylight Acrhitecture

Our approach to daylight in architecture is illustrated with the topics of:

  • Design Strategies
  • Architectural Elementws
  • Tools & Devices
UNStudio Tower

The 21 story UNStudio Tower forms part of the Mahler 4 urban complex, a cluster of six buildings located in the heart of the south axis in Amsterdam.

UN Studio Tower

Two main concepts are mainly shaping the building. Firstly, voids are forming a vertical accent and connecting the inside with the outside. Secondly, horizontal articulation is provided by white, aluminium bands which wrap the tower. The voids create an inside-outside relationship which extends the façade envelope and turns the surface of the tower into an active medium with a profound effect on the quality of the interior user space. The white aluminium bands differ in size, depth and transparency ensure the correct balance of sun screening, light penetration to the interiors and facilitate the daylight via redirection devices to the ceiling to ensure deeper light penetration. Thermal glazing allows for sufficient daylight, whilst reducing direct sunlight.

  • Daylight Massing Optimization
  • Daylight Redirection Devices
  • Light Well
  • Glazing Material
surface of offiesIncreased window surface of offies
inside outsideVoids connecting the inside with the outside
aluminium bandsThe white aluminium bands
suffiient daylightGlazing allows for suffiient daylight

Project: UNStudio Tower
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Building Typology: Office
Client: Mahler 4 VOF, Consortium G&S Vastgoed, ASR Vastgoed, ING Real Estate
Year: 2004-2009
Architect: UNStudio
Status: Realized
Total surface area: 28.280 Sq m

#Glazing allows for suffiient daylight

Education Executive Agency & Tax Office
# Integration of daylight devices

The design for the Education Executive Agency and Tax Office building, accommodating 2,500 employees, reflects and caters for the separate identities of both user groups, whilst simultaneously creating synergy by means of shared use of secondary spaces – among which underground parking facilities, public gardens, a central hall and a pavilion for commercial functions.

    • The stretched oorplate guarantees a longer exterior façade in order to illuminate every office with daylight, at the same time ensuring an optimum width of floorplate – ca 23m for a double-loaded scheme.
      #View axis – elongated florplate

      View axis – elongated florplate
      Daylight Massing Optimization
      Daylight Redirection Devices
      Exterior Shading and Control Devices
      Glazing Material

  • The white façade elements work on the one hand as a sun shading and on the other hand as a daylight redirection device to generate deeper daylight penetration. Doubling- up on functionality leads to less components and less maintenance.
  • Reduction of direct sunlight, whilst allowing sufficient daylight is allowed by thermal glazing.

Project: Education Executive Agency & Tax Office
Architect: UNStudio
Location: Groningen, Netherlands
Building Typology: Office, underground parking and public city garden
Client: Dutch Government Buildings Agency
Year: 2006-2011
Status: Realized
Total surface area: 75.540 Sq m

Mirai House / Astellas Leiden

The new headquarters building for the Japanese firm Astellas houses both offices and laboratories. Essential to the design of the building is the creation of a pleasant, open and transparent working environment for Astellas employees, in addition to an agreeable and welcoming gesture to their international visitors.

  • Lamellas are incorporated on each level of the façade in order to deflect direct sunlight and redirect daylight. These lamellas differ in depth from 4 cm in the north to 20cm-30cm in the east, south and west.
  • While the north façade`s windows are installed from the oor to the sealing, the east, south and west façades are introducing a parapet of 90cm height.
  • The glass panes are coated to additionally reduce heat load to the interior.
South/East Facing FacadeSouth/East Facing Facade
Louver distributionLouver distribution

Project: Mirai House
Location: Leiden, Netherlands
Building Typology: Offices and laboratories
Client: G&S Vastgoed
Year: 2009-2012
Architect: UNStudio
Status: Realized
Total surface area: 21.300 Sq m

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

Singapore University of Technology

The academic campus for the Singapore University of Technology and Design reflects an in-depth understanding of the changing requirements of learning institutions today. Connectivity, collaboration, co-creation, innovation and sociality are at the basis of UNStudio’s design thinking on New Campuses.

The SUTD is a driver of technological innovation and economic growth, with the new campus bringing together people, ideas and innovation.

  • The massing block orientations are configured to minimise East/West solar exposure with considerations of inter-block shading
  • Courtyards enlarge the exterior façade and increase the amount of daylight penetration.
  • The depth of the corridors is in relation to sun and wind exposure.
  • Horizontal sun blinds are designed to reduce solar gain, reflect and diffuse daylight into the internal spaces.
Textured appearanceTextured appearance
different façade elementsInterplay of different façade elements
Solar & Daylighting Analysis


Natural VentiationNatural ventilation
Outdoor lightingOutdoor lighting.jpg
Solar RadiationSolar Radiation
Outdoor Shadingoutdoor Shading
East WestEast West

Project: Singapore University of Technology and Design
Location: Singapore, Republic of Singapore
Architect: UNStudio
Client: Singapore University of Technology and Design
Year: 2010-2015
Status: Phase 1 completed 2015
Building Typology: University campus
Total surface area: (Phase 1) 106.000 Sq m

Daylight in ArchitectureDesign Strategies Architectural ElementsTool+ Devices
1. Mahler Tower Amsterdam, NetherlandsDaylight Massing Optimization Daylight-optimized interior designLightwell
Daylight Redirection Device
Glazing material Analysis+ Measuring
2. Education Executive Agency & Tax Office Groningen, NetherlandsDaylight Massing OptimizationDaylight Redirection Device Exterior Shading and Control DevicesGlazing material Analysis+ Measuring
3. Mirai House Leiden, NetherlandsDaylight-optimized interior design Daylight Massing OptimizationCourtyard Exterior Shading and Control Devices Daylight Redirection DeviceAnalysis+ Measuring
4. Singapore University of Tech. And Design Singapore, Rep. of SingaporeDaylight-optimized interior design Daylight-optimized exterior space designCourtyard Exterior Shading and Control Devices Daylight Redirection DeviceAnalysis+ Measuring