The (r)Evolution of BIM Lighting Design in Sustainable Laboratories

Joshua Gassman, Lord Aeck Sargent

Technology is accelerating at a rapid pace, and the design and construction community are being asked by laboratory owners and other clients to keep up. In the last 15 years, BIM has revolutionized the design and construction processes and allowed for ever increasingly complex and predictive capacity during the design process, while also allowing faster design and construction schedules.

Historically, the inclusion of daylighting had always been critical to the success of buildings and had significant impact on both their form and feel (e.g. interior light wells and courtyards, large operable windows, high ceilings to allow daylight penetration, etc.). After the widespread distribution of electricity and improvements in artificial lighting, many of these lessons were forgotten; a fact compounded by the increasing technical demands on laboratory space. While the benefits of daylighting laboratories has been studied extensively, this presentation will look at the last 15 years and the acceleration of technology during this time and how that has impacted the performance and predictability of daylight.

Beginning with a Labs21 Case Study project designed in the late 1990s and revered for its daylighting strategy, the presentation will explore design strategies developed based upon rules of thumb and designer intuition, with little assurance or quantitative analysis demonstrating the design would perform as intended.

Progressing to a research lab designed in 2003, the presentation will explore the use of physical models to predict daylight performance. Finally, the current state-of-the art use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) on a new research lab will be illustrated, including post-occupancy analysis conducted to assess and validate BIM performance predictions as well as the full use of BIM in the design and the daylighting systems in the open laboratories.

The presentation will also look forward at how the increase of available technology and sophistication will continue to change the design process; by looking at all of these examples, attendees will be able to draw from a spectrum of design strategies ranging from intuitive, to quantitative and now even qualitative analysis. The presentation will also illustrate the available output from various visualization tools, including photo realistic renderings, virtual reality and Google Cardboard (yes, that's real, google it).

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will learn how intuition, and quantitative and qualitative daylighting analysis can be harnessed to improve building quality and performance.
  • Participants will learn about the latest building design visualization tools.
  • Participants will gain an understanding of the benefits of an integrated daylighting design process.
  • Participants will learn how the evolution of design visualization tools has impacted the design of daylighting systems and how effective each of them are in predicting the performance of these systems.


For more than 15 years Joshua Gassman has lead large, multi-faceted design teams focused on sustainable design. During his career he has managed a broad spectrum of projects, ranging from large research labs for major universities to interpretive and education centers. He has worked extensively on projects involving challenging sustainable criteria, including net zero water and net zero energy projects. He holds degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and Arizona State University.


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