Over the past couple of years, mainly in response to the lockdowns of the pandemic, outdoor space and natural light have once again become huge commodities in architectural design. This coincides with a strong push toward wellness and mental health–after all, natural light is proven to improve mood, promote Vitamin D production, reduce depression, and even improve sleep patterns. To this end, we’ve seen a growing demand for larger windows, skylights, atriums, and other features that allow more natural light into both public and private spaces, while also incorporating plants, vines, and even trees indoors to create a greater sense of calm and serenity. Let’s talk a bit more about these trends and discuss some ways that architectural design can meet these demands for more natural light and nature integration.

Passive Daylighting

Increasing natural light exposure is more than just about designing buildings with more and bigger windows–although that’s a large part of it. One of the most effective ways to bring natural light indoors is through an architectural approach called “passive daylighting.” This strategy involves using the building’s geometry, orientation, materials, and other features to capture and direct natural light where it’s needed most. For instance, in the Northern Hemisphere, a south-facing building will get more direct sunlight year-round, so passive daylighting strategies will often involve orienting a building with plenty of south-facing windows. A well-placed atrium can bring sunlight deep into a building, while roof overhangs can shield windows from direct sun in the summertime. Other daylighting techniques include strategic placement of skylights and clerestories (high-placement windows), using light reflective paint on interior walls and mirror placement to reflect and diffuse the light, and creating external shading systems to prevent sun glare in the heat of the day.

Optimized Outdoor Spaces

Outdoor spaces have always been in demand, but even more so with people spending more time at home in recent years. Landscape design has seen a huge surge as people scramble to revitalize their existing outdoor spaces or create new ones. From single-family homes to luxury high-rises and even office buildings, architects are being asked to focus almost as much attention outdoors as indoors. Strategies include developing outdoor gathering areas, green spaces, gardens, and seating areas, as well as beautifying the spaces with water features, sculptures, and other hardscape designs. In some cases, it might even mean rethinking a building’s facade to allow more natural light and views of the outdoors.

Bringing the Outdoors In

Another resurging architectural trend is to “bring the outdoors in”–to integrate nature into building design by creating indoor spaces that feel like a natural extension of the outdoors. We can accomplish this goal in many ways, but often it involves using plants and other natural elements indoors to create a sense of calm and relaxation–sometimes even going so far as to use live trees and vines indoors (for example, in a sunroom or atrium). Other approaches include using natural materials like wood, stone, and bamboo in both the construction and furnishing of indoor spaces, as well as incorporating water features and using color schemes inspired by nature. Yet another popular trend is to build “indoor-outdoor” spaces in the home–for example, designing a great room or sunroom with movable glass panels opening up to a covered patio, effectively doubling the living space in the warmer months.

If you’re among the millions of us who crave more natural light and nature these days, we can design your next building project to capture as much of both as possible. From commercial/retail to residential to education, healthcare, and beyond, the firm of Landow and Landow has been leading our industry in quality architectural exterior and interior design for over a century. Contact us today to discuss your next project.