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Spending Dollars for Daylighting- How Much Is It Worth to You and Your Tenants?

Submitted by Louisa May

Horse and windowBuilding green is often easier and cheaper than incorporating green features into an existing building. But one improvement that can be made to an existing building is in the retrofitting of natural daylighting features.

To keep costs down, do this when major building retrofits are in the planning stage anyway, such as when you find that it’s necessary to invest in mechanical replacements or roof replacements.

What is daylighting? Daylighting combines architectural and engineering design to bring indirect, natural daylight into a building at a lower cost than even the most efficient electric lights. Many systems are available including

  • light shelves
  • mirrored louvers
  • internal blinds
  • solar control glazing, and
  • outdoor shading devices.

It pays to place the emphasis on smart floorplans and window design:

  • Interior rooms hold the heat better but are darker.
  • The placement of transom windows above doorways lets the light in, but maintains the privacy of the space.
  • Punched window openings, such as small, square windows are less expensive in a remodel, but they result in uneven illumination, as do skylights.
  • Horizontal strip windows allow for a more even distribution of light.

One thing to remember when considering changes to your floorplans or buildings is that light has no scale, architecturally speaking. Proportions are more important than dimensions. For example, a room with a higher ceiling has potential for a deeper penetration of light than does a bigger room.

You’ll need a permit before you can begin any retrofits to your building. A permit is signed by a builder or architect, and talking with a builder or architect can save you time and money.

Some systems to ask about include:

  • light shelves which are horizontal, light- reflecting overhangs placed above eye level with transoms
  • light tubes, also called solar tubes, that can be placed into a roof to admit light into an interior space
  • skylights, and
  • clerestory windows.

People are beginning to care about green building and to understand the benefits of living in green spaces. Spending some dollars on daylighting to attract tenants is a good place to start.

“It’s still an issue of how much green is worth dollar-wise to the tenant,” says Jack (Buddy)Tompkins, senior director of Dallas-based GVA Cawley Realty Services. What many green developers are finding out is that selling green depends on how tuned in the community is to sustainable design and to the long term energy savings of green building. Some developers are taking it upon themselves to educate brokers and other members of their business community.

More than six years ago, Zimmer Real Estate Services in Kansas City found out that green wasn’t a big selling point to their LEED certified EcoWorks office building at Southlake Technology Park in Lenexa, Kansas. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a green building rating system. LEED certification provides independent verification that a building project is:

  • environmentally responsible,
  • profitable,
  • and a healthy place to live or work.

Back in 2001, Zimmer realtors found that in their area not that many prospective tenants cared about green.

But green is growing in popularity. What’s apparent now when leasing these very same spaces is that 2nd generation tenants are paying much more attention to green design and energy saving features. 

Click here to learn about energy-efficient replacement windows and argon jargon.

Check out our Green Pages for information on money saving tips that help the environment.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your commercial housing investment, including real estate forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing.  Find out more at

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