Light Tubes Provide Sustainability, Lighting Comfort

Tubular daylighting brightens Goodwill’s office space and mission.

LightFlex CCT tubular daylighting system from Sunoptics Prismatic Skylights brings natural light into suspended-ceiling applications that have no direct roof access.

Goodwill Industries Intl Inc. (goodwill.org), the nonprofit organization known for repurposing used clothing into assets for its mission to employ people with barriers in full-time work, has doubled down on their sustainability efforts with a building in Hampton Roads, VA. Goodwill administrators converted an abandoned Target retail store into a support center with three retail stores and a Community Employment Center. In doing so, the organization added yet another means of reaching its ultimate goal: lifting up people and strengthening communities by repurposing that which society too quickly abandons.

Most notable for its design and sustainability is a new skylight technology in the open-office area of the Hampton facility. Ed Mack, senior manager of real estate and construction for Goodwill Virginia, is a proponent of sustainable building practices throughout the organization’s stores he builds—especially natural interior daylight. Mack is responsible for identifying and building new Goodwill locations throughout the organization’s 39 cities and counties. In upgrading the Hampton support center with skylights, his primary goal was to offer its staff the same appealing workspace characteristics as those of the Richmond, VA, office. Unlike Richmond, the Hampton office had no windows.

“We’ve gotten to the point where the executive team is 100% on board because they see how skylights enhance our work environments,” explained Mack. “Natural light just has a better feel to it.”

A tubular daylighting system was installed in Goodwill’s Hampton, VA, conference room. The system produces an even light during bright daylight with no hot spots and no glare.

Tubular daylighting

To provide daylight for the Hampton Roads office staff, the Goodwill organization was an early adopter of LightFlex CCT, a tubular daylighting system from Sunoptics Prismatic Skylights, Atlanta (sunoptics.acuitybrands.com). The system brings natural light into suspended-ceiling applications such as offices, schools, healthcare facilities, and retail environments that wouldn’t otherwise have direct access to a roof with common skylights. Converting the cool-white color of sunlight into warm 3700 K, the system provides the common color temperature of indoor electric lighting. It is designed to minimize the color dissimilarity that ordinarily exists between electric lighting and natural daylight when they are near each other in a ceiling. It can also be used where warmer-color daylight is simply preferred.

“In a retrofit project, tubular devices just make sense. They work, and they get you natural light,” explained Bruce Perretz, architect and president of Perretz & Young, Ashland, VA (perretz-young.com). “That was why I chose them for Goodwill. There was so much space above their drop ceiling, tubular was the best decision. We had a 15-foot drop ceiling. It’s a big space, and too many systems were in the way—a lot of hanging wires, duct work, lighting fixtures, sprinkler systems,” he explained. “There was just no way to channel daylight that distance with a skylight, so we put in tubes.”

Equally important to visual comfort in an interior space is the quality of light distribution, as Mack noted in describing the conference room where the tubular daylighting system was installed. “It’s a very even light during bright daylight,” he said. “There are no hot spots. There’s no glare.”

The energy savings from skylights is notable. Mack observed that on a typical day, the electric lights are turned off by the control system for most of the day, thereby creating, he estimated, a 75% savings in lighting energy costs. The electric lights switch off automatically whenever the daylight from skylights provides sufficient illumination.

Goodwill Industries is the familiar nonprofit organization known for repurposing used clothing into assets for its mission to employ people with barriers in full-time work.

Installation and Savings

Tubular daylight devices (TDDs), also referred to as tubular skylights or light pipes, are constructed of three components: a dome (skylight), a tube made of reflective material, and a diffuser. Sunlight is captured through the dome installed on the roof and is transported through the tube and diffuser into the interior space. TDDs differ from traditional skylights in that the tube allows slight bends around pipe or sprinkler lines. Daylight reaches through dropped ceilings into interior spaces that otherwise have no direct daylight access. In the Goodwill facility, TDD systems were retrofitted long after the building was constructed. The installation did not adversely impact the integrity of the roofing system.

Skylights provide human-centric benefits. For Goodwill, the value of skylights includes energy savings as well as the benefits that natural interior daylight offers customers and employees. Retail companies often see an increase in sales in stores with skylights, and office managers report lower absenteeism in workplaces. When human performance results are included, the return on investment is significant.

In conjunction with the tubular skylights, Goodwill installed BLT LED electric light fixtures. The LEDs can be “tuned” from warm white light to cool white light. This allows occupants to optimize the light to match their task.


— Get more information on daylighting.

— View information on the LightFlex system.

— Read about human-centric lighting.

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