Between Research and Practice:
A Comparative Analysis of Daylight Design Predictions in Atriums
Internal, multi-story atria present an opportunity to harvest daylight as well as create connections to the outdoors in commercial and educational buildings. They also have the potential to help moderate well-being for occupants and provide informal gathering spaces that form social interactions for buildings’ users. Despite the increased deployment of atria in contemporary, sustainable buildings, there is a lack of studies investigating the relationship between atrium design strategies, expected outcomes, and their realized impacts on occupants’ comfort, health, and experience. The intent of this paper is to investigate the effectiveness of two different atria typologies in two LEED campus buildings from both building performance and occupants’ perspectives. A comparative field study was conducted in these two buildings to assess how the shape, form, orientation, and geometry of the two atria impacted daylighting autonomy, glare, chronobiological light response, occupants’ perceptions, and functional use of both spaces. This paper concludes with insights on the relationship between daylighting design metrics employed in practice and their consequential impacts on the real space as perceived by the occupants. It attempts to answer whether an atrium that meets building performance standards necessarily translate to a healthy indoor environment and positive human experience. Results from this study suggest that atrium design can be optimized to balance daylight quantity and quality through prescribed design parameters. However, the success of the design with the intent of a space that encourages social interaction requires more attention to human behavior, atrium function, and typology.