According to Ed Clark and Marty Brennan in an article in Metropolis, entited “ Why Light Matters”, for most of human history, daylight drove building form, codes, and regulations; in 600 A.D. the Justinian Code enforced “sun rights” to protect property owners from illegal shadows. Even early skyscrapers were daylit. In 1916 New York City adopted a zoning resolution that prescribed setbacks and street width to allow light and air to reach the streets. These designs optimized the daylight resource. Since then with the advent of modern indoor lighting and cooling, financial incentives moved toward increased floor area ratio or FAR, resulted in greater floor-plate depths at the expense of natural light. This in turn resulted In generations of workers and residents experiencing daytime with an absence of natural light, negatively affecting their body clocks and putting their health at risk.
Fortunately, recognizing this grand deficiency, architects who regularly incorporate metrics-based daylighting strategies are pushing toward solutions that are in tune with our natural heritage, that support human physiology and the cycle of the day.
Three new condo projects in varying stages of development in downtown Seattle: Emerald, First Light, and Spire all recognize the importance of natural light to the health and enjoyment of life of homebuyers, and each promotes natural light as a selling point to potential buyers.
In striking contrast, Escala residents had to go to court to get the Seattle Hearing Examiner to order Douglaston, the developers of the 5th & Virginia tower proposal, to study the health effects from the deprivation of natural light of their proposed project.
And when they do, they will understand that adequate natural light is the essence of life, and absolutely necessary for the residents of their building as well as those at Escala.
The real shame with the Douglaston project is that the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections [SDCI] did not require a Daylight/Health study at Design Review to ensure adequate Tower Separation before they passed the project on toward approval, despite repeated requests by Escala residents and their expert consultants. The result of this short-sighted, citizens-be-damned approach by SDCI in concert with the developers is that everyone loses…Escala residents who have had to spend thousands of hours of volunteer time and hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal funds to literally fight for their lives; the City who doesn’t get their affordable housing money on the timeline they expected; and the developer who is delayed in getting a return on their investment while they take their project back to the drawing board to get it right.