Mind & Matter


Sunlighting with Students

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Second Sky light distribution proposal, by Anastasia Gulinskaya and Aaron Regla Breton.


Last Friday, architecture students at the University of Minnesota completed the 2011 Catalyst—a week-long intensive studio aimed at high-risk, high-reward endeavors not easily included in standard semester-long courses. Several classes were offered, ranging from the use of social media communication tools following natural disasters to the production of short films on sustainable campus design.

My section focused on architectural core daylighting, giving students the chance to design and test light distribution systems for a 3M Light Guide system—a light duct clad in highly-reflective optical film. In the interdisciplinary spirit of the Catalyst, nineteen students and I hosted Brian Stacy, Arup’s Lighting Design Leader for the Americas; John Huizinga, a retired 3M Corporate Scientist; and Garrett Mosiman, a Research Fellow at the Center for Sustainable Building Research, who all helped guide the work.

Architectural core daylighting (also called “sunlighting” by Huizinga and colleague Lorne Abraham at the University of British Columbia) propagates light up to 80 meters from its original source, deep into the chasms of light-deprived buildings like hospitals and 1970s office blocks. In a time of renewed interest in daylighting, this technique is gaining interest for use in retrofit situations where skylights or full envelope replacements would be cost-prohibitive. Judging from the students’ creative proposals—including interactive light grids, jellyfish-like luminaries, and do-it-yourself sunlight fixtures—the system could have many promising means of future implementation.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.