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Pushing the boundaries of Daylighting

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Modern plants are using tubular daylighting device (TDD) to push the boundaries of sustainable design, employing creativity and innovation in the application of robust and purposeful daylighting applications. Throughout the world, advanced optical daylighting systems are illuminating manufacturing, warehousing, office, and maintenance facilities.

Unlike skylights, TDDs are distributed optical systems with relatively small, highly engineered rooftop apertures designed to selectively capture and deliver daylight into the building. These efficient, high-output systems allow for the overall glazed area to be significantly smaller than skylights for an equivalent interior illumination with improved consistency.

A TDD uses sophisticated refractive and reflective optical technologies that provide a range of controlled light distribution patterns, similar to electric lighting equipment. At the core of the advanced TDDs are unique, highly engineered optical materials and systems that selectively capture, redirect and transport, and then deliver focused or diffused daylight.

These new technologies increase the effectiveness of how daylight can be applied, and can be very effective in spaces with ceiling and roof heights higher than 60 feet. These small, advanced optical daylight-collection devices on the roof can be designed to maximize the harvesting of the daylight from early morning to late afternoon, even in winter.

Advanced versions of these optical light guide systems are designed to filter out unwanted ultraviolet and infrared (heat) wavelengths of energy, providing only the beneficial wavelengths of light that are used in human vision. TDDs can be designed to reflect overpowering light and heat in the summer, even when the sun is directly overhead at noon.

A TDD’s optical design and lens technologies can shape the light output, placing it precisely where it is needed. Modern TDDs have a wide range of optical daylight-collection fixtures that either diffuse ambient daylight or focus daylight to areas as task lighting.

In addition, complex and convoluted tubing systems and highly engineered daylight fixtures can direct and deliver (transfer) the light over long distances. The optical devices can redirect daylight around the structural, mechanical, plumbing, and supply systems that typically populate a manufacturing facility’s congested overhead ceiling space and high roof.

The TDD’s components are designed to work in concert with one another to minimize or eliminate undesirable shifting patterns of daylight. As a result of these technology improvements, the TDD provides useful and consistent levels of daytime illumination, even under varying sky conditions throughout the year. It can be the primary source of interior illumination during the day, displacing a significant amount of electric lighting equipment in production, warehouse, package/product sorting, quality control and inspection, shipping and receiving, fulfillment and offices.


New TDD systems have emerged that integrate daylighting with electric lighting, providing seamless, 24-hour illumination from a single combination daylighting/electric lighting fixture.

To maximize lighting energy savings, it is critical that manufacturers use daylight-harvesting controls that fully integrate daylight with the plant’s electric lighting system. While this had been problematic with traditional daylighting and sky lighting systems in the past, advanced optical TDD systems are equipped with optical control of lighting patterns and can provide consistent output.


The complex roof structure of Camp Lejeune, N.C., required the rooftop apertures of the TDD system to be confined to a small area. Yet, the lighting requirements necessitated that the daylight be distributed throughout the plant.

30-foot Distance

When designing and building an energy-efficient and sustainable tobacco processing facility, the Hangzhou Tobacco Co. in Hangzhou, China, installed tubular daylighting device (TDD) systems to provide critical task illumination for the tobacco drying, processing and inspection areas of the facility. The TDDs’ optical light guide systems collect and then “duct” daylight around existing interior obstructions and barriers through the 30-foot vertical distance between the roof system and the suspended ceiling structure in the Hangzhou Tobacco Co.

Daylight Grows Algae

In addition, daylight technology is also being harnessed to support new industrial applications, including manufacturing algae in bioreactors and algae-growth chambers using daylight. Algae to Omega Holdings Inc., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., produces, markets, and distribute algae-derived products. One of the company’s core practices is using environmentally clean technologies and innovative production methods to cultivate and harvest algae biomass. The manufacturer supplies organic raw materials for functional foods, nutraceuticals, animal feed, and personal care products such as Astaxanthin and contaminant-free omega-3 oil. “Solatube International makes great products for bringing daylight indoors, and we use them to grow algae,” said Geronimos Dimitrelos, Owner – Algae to Omega. “Too much light and it will be destroyed; too little and it won’t grow.”


By Neall Digert,
Ph.D MIES, Vice President – Product Enterprise
Solatube International Inc.

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