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March 07, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario

NRC has created new tools for next-generation building projects, but they won't fit in your tool belt. Daylight 1-2-3 and IA-QUEST are computer programs to help design practitioners create buildings that are suitable for the Canadian climate, environmentally friendly and comfortable to live in.

Daylight 1-2-3 is meant to initiate a dialogue between different members of the design team (architect, owner, engineer).
Daylight 1-2-3 is meant to initiate a dialogue between different members of the design team (architect, owner, engineer).

Sustainable building technologies are increasingly in demand, particularly among government and corporate clients who want to promote a healthier, less resource-intensive lifestyle. Growing scientific evidence demonstrates that green building practices can be achieved at little or no capital costs while leading to enhanced occupant satisfaction and reduced maintenance costs.

Maximize your sunshine

Daylight 1-2-3 is a new software to help architects, designers and engineers with no previous experience in computer simulation to develop climate-responsive, energy efficient daylighting design concepts for offices and classrooms. The tool was created in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada and specifically focuses on the early design stages when key decisions are typically made. Daylight 1-2-3 builds on NRC's DAYSIM, an advanced daylighting analysis tool that is currently being used for 'high end' building projects such as museums and atria. Daysim has been downloaded and used by individuals representing over 800 Architecture and Engineering Firms and 500 Research Institutions located in 94 countries.

Good daylighting is critical but is challenging to assess, according to Dr. Christoph Reinhart, Associate Research Officer in the NRC Lighting Group. "Visual quality and energy savings should both be considered when designing for daylight," said Dr. Reinhart. "Electrical lighting has the highest energy savings potential in commercial buildings, where up to 25% of energy used for electricity is for lighting. Enhancing daylight is a double win; it's better for the occupants and it saves energy."

Daylight autonomy distribution in a private office located in Ottawa, Canada.

Daylight autonomy distribution in a private office located in Ottawa, Canada, for a minimum illuminance level of 500 lux.

The office is daylit through a clerestory of bronze double glazings as well as a single skylight located towards the back of the office.

Daylight autonomy is defined as the percentage of the occupied hours of the year when there is sufficient daylight in a space for the occupant to work without the need for electric lighting.

One clearly sees that most of the daylight is available either close to the façade or under the skylight.

According to a recent NRC survey of nearly 200 design practitioners, daylighting-related decisions in buildings are currently mostly based on the architect's and the designer's experience from previous work and a few 'rules of thumb'. In contrast, the Daylight 1-2-3 software allows users to assess and quantify each building's particular lighting situation. "It gives immediate feedback at the design stage," said Dr. Reinhart. "In addition to providing a quantitative energy analysis, it allows them to develop a feeling of how large a window should be for lighting while keeping cooling loads in check. The software considers a variety of common glazing types as well as building orientations, and can be used for hundred of climates all over the world."

Buildings that maximize their use of sunlight can qualify for credits under various green building rating system such as 'LEED', which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is disseminated by the Canadian and US Green Building Councils. LEED certification encourages builders to take five areas of human and environmental health into account when they design buildings: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources as well as indoor environmental quality.

  • Daylight 1-2-3 will soon be released to architects and building engineers via their community mailing lists. It will be available from a joint NRC-NRCan Web site.
  • Practitioners can also learn about this and other tools in the NRC Construction Innovation newsletter and on the NRC site at

The Quest for Better Indoor Air

Among the major emitters that affect indoor air quality are building materials such as carpets, paints, ceiling tiles or furniture. Collectively they emit 100s of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the indoor environment.

To use the IA-QUEST software, users first model the room and input the ventilation rates. Next, they populate the virtual room with new materials such as paint, carpet and furnishings. They run the simulation for as long as they want – from a few hours to several months. IA-QUEST gives a profile of the total VOCs in the room over time.

"Due to decreased ventilation rates to save energy, VOCs increase in concentration in indoor environments," said Dr. Hans Schleibinger, Leader of the Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality sub-program. "In North American buildings we have up to 90% return air." "Some VOCs are known to be hazardous to health and some are not," said Bob Magee, an Engineer with the same program. "You can't always sense these emissions. You may not smell them and what you can smell is not necessarily related to toxicity."

NRC staff measures emissions of floor material with the help of IA-QUEST
NRC staff measures emissions of floor material with the help of IA-QUEST

The continually evolving list of approximately 90 'VOCs of Concern' is determined in conjunction with Health Canada. It is a consensus list of compounds that are found in indoor environments, are used in building materials or furniture, are measurable by current detection methods and have a known or suspected impact on health.

"Users can be homeowners or businesses, but the most common users are architects who want to better understand how their indoor material, design or ventilation choices will affect indoor air quality," said Dr. Schleibinger. "The program can help with construction or renovation decision-making. It can also be applied to the evaluation of building materials for manufacturers." For example, renovators could use IA-QUEST to assess when to schedule painting and carpeting to avoid overly high total concentrations of VOCs. "Say you retrofit an office during the weekend and on Monday morning people have headaches or irritation. If you had picked a different paint, there may have been less toxic emissions" added Dr. Schleibinger.

In the year since its release, IA-QUEST has been downloaded by architects, researchers, individuals and government organizations in more than 30 countries.

IA-QUEST is one of the major outcomes of the Consortium of Material Emissions and Indoor Air Quality Modeling (CMEIAQ), an international group of researchers, trade associations and government agencies with the goal of developing guidelines for indoor material selection and ventilation strategies to improve indoor air quality.

Software Availability

IA-QUEST is currently available for download at the NRC-IRC Web site (


Daylight 1-2-3 is expected to be launched in spring 2007.


Both software tools promote architectural design that not only improves health and energy efficiency, but, equally important, enhances user comfort. These tools will not only help builders respond to the growing demand for sustainable design features in new buildings; end-users will also appreciate the 'fringe benefits' of working and living in well-lit, energy efficient and healthy indoor environments throughout the year.

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