By Tara Roberts
An office illuminated by diffuse daylight streaming through the windows doesn’t just offer comfort –
it could save energy. Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, director of the University of Idaho’s Boise-based
Integrated Design Lab (IDL) hopes to inspire designers to incorporate natural light into energy-efficient
Van Den Wymelenberg and University of Washington research associate professor Christopher Meek’s
new book, “Daylighting Design in the Pacific Northwest,” highlights buildings that use natural lighting
“Architects are inspired by elegant, beautiful, well-designed spaces, and daylighting can accentuate the
good in these spaces,” Van Den Wymelenberg says.
Several Idaho buildings profiled in the book were projects of the IDL, which has helped incorporate
energy-efficient design elements into more than 200 new and existing structures statewide by working
with architects and engineers. In conjunction with the University of Washington and the New Buildings
Institute, the IDL team also developed the Daylighting Pattern Guide, a free interactive tool that features
simulations and real-world examples of effective uses of natural light.
Daylighting can serve as a touchstone for a building’s architects, engineers, owners and occupants to
begin discussing energy and comfort design issues.
“We would like to help influence design for both improved comfort as well as improved energy
efficiency,” Van Den Wymelenberg says.
He cites the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, or CAES, building in Idaho Falls as one of the most
notable Idaho buildings in the book. CAES is home to collaborative research and education projects
supported by U-Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University and Idaho National Laboratory.
The IDL worked with state officials and the institutions that use the center to set goals before
construction, and daylighting and energy efficiency rose to the top.
“This is an institution about collaborating on energy in the state of Idaho, so it was going to be a really
energy-efficient building,” Van Den Wymelenberg says.
CAES' building, completed in 2009, f, compecceatures a central, two-story atrium and large, high windows.
Van Den Wymelenberg notes the windows are good examples of glass that was carefully selected and
shaded for energy efficiency.
He says the center is one of IDL’s more complete projects, though it’s still a work in progress. The
building didn’t operate as efficiently as intended when it opened, but an energy management plan is in
place to continuously optimize its performance.
Van Den Wymelenberg says it’s humbling when not every aspect of a project works out as intended, but
notes this is common on building jobs.
“It is really part of the process. Often, owners do not know exactly how facilities will be used during
design and construction, so changes are inevitable,” he says. “However, the difference with the CAES
facility is that the leadership team has made energy performance a priority and is working toward
improved functionality, human comfort and energy performance in a continuous manner.”
Being involved in multiple phases of the CAES project, now several years into occupancy, has provided
the IDL team with a thorough understanding of the building and the challenges of optimizing energy use.
“The project has really gone through a unique life cycle,” Van Den Wymelenberg says.
In fact, the IDL has teamed up with researchers in the U-Idaho Department of Computer Science and
at CAES on a three-year research project to make it easier for building operators to access and act on