There are many ways to brighten up dark spaces without mechanical assistance, but few are as efficient as the groundbreaking LightCatcher from EcoNation. The LightCatcher is a polycarbonate light dome with an integrated mirror tracking system that searches for the brightest source of available light and directs it into a building. The system is more efficient than standard skylights, so a smaller opening can be used – a 185.35 square ft opening in a roof brings in 646-1,202 square ft of natural light without using a lick of energy. Skylights also expose buildings to wide temperature fluctuations during the winter and summer months, while the LightCatcher does not. Designed by Maarten Michielssens in collaboration with the University of Ghent, this energy-saving technology earned EcoNation a nomination as one of the top small to medium-sized enterprises (SME) eligible for a Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP) award.
Although EcoNation did not scoop the $1,500,000 prize awarded to SMEs, the company has had an amazing opportunity to present their brilliant technology during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW). So, how does it work? The mirror integrated within the dome captures incoming daylight that is then reflected, filtered and amplified in a light shaft before it spreads through a building. Images demonstrate how this solar-powered system brightens a room more effectively without mechanical assistance than a standard light bulb. In fact, the LightCatcher is so efficient that it is possible to enjoy daylighting for an average of 10 hours a day, which reduces energy usage by up to 70 percent.
The Belgian company also has an interesting business model. EcoNation installs LightCatcher light domes on the roofs of commercial or government buildings, absorbing the entire investment, and then monitors energy savings. Whatever money is saved by the system is then shared between the client and the company. According to EcoNation, this LightCatcher Light Energy model provides businesses and governments an opportunity to reduce energy bills without an upfront cash outlay. Whilst the dome is probably not sufficiently aesthetically pleasing for many residential projects, it could still have ripple energy savings in commercial or industrial settings. And did we mention they support one of our favorite social design projects — a Liter of Light?