(Photo above | Courtesy of www.cammackphotography com)
As Central Oregonians we understand the value sunlight has upon our health and well- being. I’m always amazed to see how we gravitate to outdoors environments following our long dark winter/spring seasons. Our homes should be designed with the same approach in mind. Their interior layout should follow the path of the sun infusing eastern light into morning spaces like kitchens and coffee bars while also having the ability to control our intense western summer sun in the late afternoon. Northern, southern, eastern and western light are unique in their nature and must be considered during the design process. With a few creative lighting and shading techniques, homeowners can overcome many of these issues to create a more comfortable living environment while reducing dependence on electrical heating, cooling and lighting systems.
Standard ‘view windows’ are obviously necessary for any building design but are surprisingly limited when it comes to providing significant quantities of natural light. These need to be located adjacent to vertical or horizontal surfaces, which in turn, reflect the natural light deep into interior spaces. Designers can accomplish this by incorporating creative tools such as clerestory windows, vertical wall washers and light shelves to create a truly luminous environments. As the sun moves across the sky, these allow the quality of light to continually evolve not only during the day, but also throughout the seasons.
When designing for smaller lots with tight setbacks, providing an interior courtyard or a U-shaped floorplan can be a smart approach. This allows window placement on two or even three sides of every room, thus flooding spaces with light. If these techniques are not achievable, high windows or cleverly positioned skylights can be incorporated into roof systems. I’ve always felt the ceiling plane is the most underutilized component in residential design and should be taken advantage of.
While the introduction of natural light is certainly important, certain times of the year may require taking the opposite approach to control this light. Many of our homes are oriented to take maximum advantage of our beautiful western Cascade Mountain views. Unfortunately, this often results in the intense glare and solar heat gain during Central Oregon’s late summer afternoons. Installing an exterior vertical shading system including roller shades, louvers or even outdoor curtains can help prevent the sun’s rays from ever reaching or penetrating the building envelope. If designed properly, these light mitigating approaches will significantly help cool not only the indoor environment but also exterior patios and decks.
In conclusion, designing homes with a focus on natural light results in a more comfortable, cost effective and improved living space. Central Oregon is a truly unique environment, it should be designed for accordingly.