2019 - Daylight Symposium
"The Value of Daylight in Office Buildings" by Christoph Reinhart
Building scientist and architectural educator
We know that natural light in workplace environments improves human health, well-being and organizational productivity. Given these well-documented benefits, occupants prefer spaces with good daylight access. However, does the public’s positive perception of daylight translate into economic values measured by what they are willing to pay? Being unable to provide a definitive answer to this question has – in the eyes of many real estate developers – relegated daylighting to a mere energy saving opportunity which has made it difficult for design teams in many projects to justify the costs associated with more intricate envelope designs and glazing selections.
To develop a quantitative understanding of the impact of daylight on rent, the MIT Sustainable Design Lab teamed up with the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab. Using a sample of 5,154 office spaces in Manhattan, we paired urban daylight simulation with a financial hedonic pricing model to determine the marginal value of daylight inside the offices. We find that spaces with access to high daylight (as measured by 55% spatial daylight autonomy) have a 6 to7% value premium over spaces with very-low access to daylight (as measured by less than 25% spatial daylight autonomy), holding all other factors constant. We simulate the distribution of daylight on each office floor individually, taking into account architectural and location-specific characteristics. Then, we pair the daylight autonomy values with lease contract, building, and neighborhood data in a hedonic pricing model to determine the added value of daylighting office spaces throughout Manhattan.
The results show, for the first time, that 74% of office space throughout Manhattan have low or very-low daylight levels, and that offices with high daylight levels are valued more in a dense urban environment. The premium for daylight is independent of other building, neighborhood, and contract characteristics, including sustainability certifications. By revealing the added value of daylight in commercial office spaces, we argue that daylight is a key design driver and thus, should be considered in design, policy, planning, and financial briefs.
Christoph Reinhart is a building scientist and architectural educator working in the fields of sustainable building design and environmental modeling. He is the Director of MIT’s Building Technology program and head of the Sustainable Design Lab (SDL), an inter-disciplinary group with a grounding in architecture that develops design workflows, planning tools and metrics to evaluate the environmental performance of buildings and neighborhoods. He is also the CEO of Solemma, a technology company and Harvard University spinoff. Design tools originating from SDL and Solemma – such as DIVA, DAYSIM, UMI and ALFA – are used in practice and education in over 90 countries.