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Daylighting in Sports Halls

Gaia Research were commissioned by sportscotland to investigate guidance and best practice in the use of natural lighting in sports halls. The overall term used for natural lighting of an interior space is daylighting. Sports halls are those that usually contain all indoor dry sports, including gymnasia and squash courts.

The aim is to generate contemporary guidance on the use of daylighting in sports halls and to disseminate this in an appropriate format to designers, clients and quantity surveyors. This is intended to assist all involved to make informed decisions regarding the use of daylight in a beneficial and integrated manner.

The area of particular interest is to explore best practice within the context of delivering attractive, healthy, affordable and manageable sports facilities that minimise pollution and hence are environmentally responsible in relation to users and in their impact on the wider world.


Environmental pollution prevention and environmental protection are key objectives in government sustainable development initiatives. The subject matter is also closely related to work by the Scottish Executive to develop a Policy on Architecture which addresses issues of quality and of sustainable development.

Initial work has involved a desk study of the technical issues and a survey of published technical, professional and best practice guidance [including sport specific guidance] and available design tools. A telephone survey of practitioners known to have experience of daylighting in sports facilities has enabled us to summarise practitioners needs and requirements and principal concerns. Existing guidance is limited to two sports hall projects built in the early 1980's which have been reviewed by BRECSU. There is a dearth of published examples of daylighting in sports halls in Scotland and indeed of daylighting in general in Scotland. A range of recently built and refurbished facilities across the UK, in which daylight has been incorporated, have been surveyed. This will contribute significantly to the development of design guidance. The Final report is due in August 2001.

The project overlaps with work also been undertaken to produce a Daylighting and Lighting module as part of work to develop a Sustainable Design Accreditation Scheme Sustainable Construction CPD .


Daylight is a major factor in determining the way in which people experience the internal environment and how they are able to respond to certain tasks. It can be used to generate distinctive and attractive architecture and optimised in conventional forms. This intrinsic value of daylight is increasingly recognised. If appropriately designed and integrated, it can improve amenity value, significantly offset the cost and reduce the environmental impact associated with artificial lighting.

As a consequence of evolving attitudes, guidance in respect of lighting has changed dramatically in recent years. However, the design issues are complex, as proper provision of natural daylight requires that the form, fabric, internal layout and systems of a building are arranged and integrated appropriately. Architects and engineers need to be properly and fully informed in order to recognise and balance a number of factors if they are to optimise the use of daylight without the inherent problems. Capital and running costs need to be understood.

Also it is evident that this “black box” approach has become incompatible with the resource conservation, pollution prevention and cost -in-use savings which attention to energy efficiency can provide. Lighting strategies are a significant aspect of delivering energy efficiency and the situation in sports halls is exacerbated by the constraints that this approach to design places on other servicing strategies, in particular ventilation.

Guidance on day lighting can be very building type specific. Schools, for example, are predominantly occupied during the day and both the amenity value and energy savings have been investigated extensively in principle and practice. Much has been documented. Office buildings have their own constraints and there has been extensive research into the need to balance heat gains, cooling requirements, reflection, glare and human factors as diverse as personal control and eye strain. There is little comparable information on sports halls. Until recently it was felt adequate that natural lighting was advised against, on the grounds of safety and to allow constant lighting and climate conditions thought to be conducive to sporting activity.

This research will assess the arguments against the traditional sports hall design, in order to identify whether more contemporary and creative approaches to the design of naturally lit, energy efficient and safe, modern sports hall design are widely achievable. Evidence will be gathered from buildings designed largely outwith present guidance. Long standing assumptions by individuals and organisations will be revisited to determine the extent to which they are still appropriate.

Primary Objectives

The report to be published on completion of this research in August 2001 should assist the reader to:

  • Understand the benefits of utilising natural lighting in sports halls;
  • Appreciate that daylighting can contribute significantly to the energy efficiency of a sports hall;
  • Appreciate that daylighting can contribute significantly to the architectural opportunities of a sports hall;
  • Communicate to clients the importance of daylighting to running costs savings;
  • Appreciate good practice in natural lighting design in general and in sports halls in particular, and its integration with artificial lighting and other building services;
  • Understand the requirements and constraints of individual activities and standards of play, in relation to patterns of use, lighting levels, variations in light quantity, subjective responses and spatial needs;
  • Understand and be able to access the guidance, tools and techniques available for daylighting design;
  • Be capable of making informed decisions to assist in designing a sports hall that uses daylighting without detriment to the activities;
  • Understand the requirements and constraints of different design and control strategies, in relation to building operation and maintenance;
  • Work creatively with others disciplines [architect, engineer, cost professional and client] in the design process.

Sportscotland is keen to encourage participation in sporting activity by people of all ages. In pursuit of this objective they are aware of the need to promote buildings with low running costs, thereby enabling cost of participation to be maintained at an affordable level. They are particularly keen to attract small children and their carers, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and the elderly, all of whom can benefit from enhanced fitness and social interaction. Improving daytime indoor environments is seen as a significant aspect of improving utilisation by these groups. Daylight is perceived as offering particularly attractive opportunities which for reasons mentioned above has been significantly under utilised.

Sportscotland is also aware that in recent years an increasing number of sports halls have been built where daylight is used. Only the earliest examples are documented. All are in largely unchartered territory. Hence this study has been commissioned which will gather additional information on the most contemporary designs, their perceived successes and failures, designers needs and failings of present guidance.

The result will be up-to-date guidance on the beneficial, integrated use of daylighting in sports halls, presented in an appropriate format for designers, clients and quantity surveyors. It will address architectural, engineering and cost issues side-by-side and be comprehensible to all disciplines. It is not intended to be a technical digest with prescribed do's and don'ts but rather to encourage an improved understanding of daylighting design principles, and provide assistance in communication between the disciplines which can, if appropriate, follow through into successful design.


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