A Framework to Support the Development of Manually Adjustable Light Shelf Technologies

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Active daylight harvesting technologies that are currently available in the market have often suffered from wide-spread market acceptability due to their high cost and imperfect performance. Passive systems, though simple and affordable, typically cannot harvest higher potentials of daylight, which is dynamic over days, months, and seasons, due to their static nature. There is a research and market gap that calls for investigation towards the development of low-tech, manually adjustable, high-performance daylighting mechanisms to be used as an alternative to active daylighting solutions, which are often controlled by building automation systems. This research proposes a framework to support the development of daylight harvesting mechanisms, which will allow for low-tech yet temporary adjustable systems, merging some of the advantages of active systems with passive ones. The hybrid of the above two categories will be a manually adjustable light harvesting device that will allow for quick adjustment through mechanical means to few predefined positions. These positions will be customized to each location to achieve optimum daylight harvesting. The resulting device will allow for flexible adjustment to daily and seasonal variations of the sun's path, while retaining a level of simplicity and elegance towards low-cost installation and operation.

Significant effort was made in the initial phase of this research to use experimental studies as the primary method of investigation. However, given the nature of daylight and practical constraints in the field, the experimental method was found to be not productive enough for extent of this research. As a result, simulation studies were ultimately used to generate the necessary data for the development of this framework. For the simulation phase 'DIVA4Rhino,' a climate-based daylighting software and 'Grasshopper,' a graphical programming tool for Rhino, was used to first construct a parametric simulation loop. Next, a reduced set of parameters for a manually adjustable light shelf system were tested for daylight performance, as a 'proof of concept'. Finally, based on the previous two steps, a framework to help the development of manually adjustable light shelf systems has been defined.

This research shows that light shelves, even when kept fixed at a single optimum configuration for the whole year, can increase interior daylight performance in most locations and orientations. It also shows that indoor daylight harvesting can be further enhanced if the light shelf is manually adjusted on a seasonal basis. Amongst the variations tested, rotational adjustability has been found to contribute most to the increase in performance. Segmented adjustability, e.g. where the inner and outer sections of a light shelf are manipulated separately, was found to extend performance of light shelves even further though not by significant amounts.



Light Shelf, Daylight Harvesting, Framework Development