The new SunBeamer skylight is a clever and surprisingly simple daylighting solution that directs sunlight exactly where you need it most. Developed by SunCentral, the sun-tracking circular skylight uses rotating mirrors to shoot beams of light deep within a building. We caught up with Peter Busby, LEED Fellow and head of Perkins + Will’s San Francisco office, at Greenbuild 2013 to talk about how the firm’s new building will use the SunBeamer.

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The idea may look simple, but it took years of development to miniaturize and perfect the tracking technology. It’s is a bit like the air grill in a car: the fins can open or close, and the entire assembly rotates. A GPS chip tracks the sun and enables a motorized mirrored louver to pinpoint the reflected light on to any surface all day long. A spotlight was hung from the convention hall ceiling to demonstrate the SunBeamer’s ability to direct daylight anywhere on the show floor.

“We are building a 24,000 square foot office on Embarcadero and I am trying to do a zero net building. Lighting is the 2nd major load after plug loads” said Peter Busby.  “We want natural light but the problem with skylights is they create hotspots that move around. We want to use the Sunbeamer because it doesn’t matter where the sun is – we can produce collimated light, put it where we want, and put a reflector under that which bounces the light onto the ceiling.”

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The Sunbeamer is sandwiched in glass and put on a curb like a typical skylight, and it comes in three sizes. The largest measures 670 mm round (approximately 26.5 inches) and provides up to 9,100 lumens of daylight. They can be placed in groups to maximize daylight that hits a roof, and they can direct beams of light deep inside a building. SunCentral even proposes to mount SunBeamers on the edges of buildings to direct light down to the sidewalk far below. Alternately, the SunLuminaire can take light from facade mounted units and project it through a tube diffuser suspended from a building’s ceiling. They could even be used to make the proposed underground LowLine Park light up in the day.

Busby notes “Total energy consumption for North America is 17% for lighting. There are so few commercial buildings with no lights on.” That just may be about to change.

+ SunCentral