Let There Be (Natural) Light

We all want the office with the window, right? Turns out, there’s a good reason for that. One of the primary activators of our circadian system is light. And a growing body of research points to connections between the disruption of our circadian systems, which are responsible for regulating our sleep/wake cycle, and illnesses ranging from clinical depression to cancer.

It essentially works like this: Our bodies need variations in the intensity and quality of light throughout the day. Our natural human cycle basically wants us to live like cavemen, with high levels of bright white light during the daytime (like the sun), low levels of warm light during the evening hours (like firelight) before bed, and total darkness for quality sleep (like you are in a cave).

So what does that look like when we, as modern humans, spend a majority of our time indoors, and, for various reasons, need artificial light?

RNL’s lighting design team is at the forefront of the latest lighting design research and looking at the application of different types of natural and artificial light and the impact on the occupant. No matter the project size, our lighting design approach is rooted in a desire to create spaces that are good for people. This concept of ‘good’ manifests in several ways, but always comes back to one concept: health and wellbeing.

We start by maximizing occupant access to the most natural light possible through aggressive use of daylight harvesting.

Los Angeles: Division 14 Expo Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility

In a recent project for LA Metro’s Division 14 Expo Light Rail Operations & Maintenance Facility, daylight harvesting was a key component of the design. Instead of a dark, dreary facility designed purely for function, LA Metro and the design team opted for a light-filled, airy space that supported employee safety and well-being as well as increased functionality.

The Maintenance area, for example, was designed with large skylights that fill the entire space with natural daylight and large roof vents that naturally exhaust heated air. These features serve a functional purpose in the space, but they also make the maintenance area a healthier, more pleasant work environment for Metro employees.

Throughout the Operations areas, natural ventilation is used through repair positions and underfloor air distribution and natural daylight is maximized. The majority of these rooms also have fantastic views towards the north through a floor-to-ceiling glazed curtain wall.

To minimize unwanted heat gain and glare from sunlight, the glazing system and shading devices were designed to prevent direct sunlight from reaching the interior surfaces.

Los Angeles: Division 13 Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility

Like Division 14, the LA Metro Division 13 Bus Operations & Maintenance Facility was designed by RNL to meet LEED Gold standards and is net-zero energy ready. A sleek, sustainable, modern facility, Division 13’s unique features are emphasized and enhanced with thoughtful lighting design.  

To adhere to tight budget restrictions and a limited window for design, the lighting systems feature a blend of LED, metal halide and fluorescent sources, and capitalize on natural light to create a safe, comfortable and effective work environment for maintenance and administration operations alike. The use of natural daylight through windows and skylights, along with sensors on the light fixtures, not only reduces the amount of energy used by the buildings, but also addresses employee wellbeing.

Denver: FourPoint Energy

On the corporate side, in 2016, we designed an urban, two-floor 32,000-square-foot office space for FourPoint Energy.

Daylight harvesting on this project was just one component of a comprehensive lighting control strategy to maximize cost-savings, efficiency and ease of use for employees including local and global dimming capabilities, time-clock, and vacancy and occupancy sensors.

The result is an open and inviting space that supports the employees and clients who use it.


There is still a lot of research in the works, but it’s clear that the quality of lighting within a space can contribute to a healthier work environment. Balancing daylight with cost effective lighting controls, activity-specific zoning, and adjustable color temperatures can help support wellbeing and create a more comfortable work environment – no matter what type of work is occurring in the space.