After living with a Solatube Daylighting System for a few years and seeing how it has positively impacted my family, I jumped at the opportunity to visit Solatube International at their world headquarters. I wanted to see what really went into the design and development of these tubular daylighting systems. Dr. Neall Digert, VP of Product Enterprise, gave me a full tour of their facility (which is 100% lit by Solatube Daylighting Systems) as well as provided a thorough history of the company and answered all of my questions regarding product development, innovation and design.
Solatube Product Demonstration
He started with a demonstration of the daylighting system that was illuminating the conference room we were meeting in. I hadn’t noticed that the overhead lights weren’t fluorescent but rather a variety of tubular lights that filled the entire space. The light had a comfortable glow, unlike that of fluorescents and, by adjusting the baffles, Neall could control the intensity of the light in the room as well as the placement.
The entire Solatube International facility is illuminated by tubular daylighting systems, from internal offices and break rooms to the warehouse and factory floor. They certainly walk the talk and use the entire building as a showroom and testing ground for new products. But if you didn’t know what you were looking for you wouldn’t even realize that the building is lit using natural light.
Solatube and Education
Solatube Daylighting Systems are available as residential and commercial products and some of their largest and most important clients are schools. When designing the product, Solatube International takes a people first approach and there is no better environment than a classroom, where the most optimal conditions should be met. Solatube products foster a healthy environment by allowing our bodies to follow the circadian rhythm and adjust to the change in light throughout the day. By providing students with a healthier light source, they have an opportunity to stay more focused on a teacher’s lecture or their studies. I’ve spent years working under fluorescent lights which cause eyestrain and are simply a horrible lighting solution.
Our team at Time Inc. had an unwritten rule that we would turn off the overhead lights and simply use a desk lamp to light each individual workstation. It made for a dark, yet more productive environment. If only we had daylighting!
Founded in Australia in 1986, Solatube International is now headquartered in Vista, CA, where the company’s tubular daylighting systems are manufactured, while the research and development division is located just down the street.
The company sells its daylighting systems around the world, so their products are designed to function at peak performance in a variety of weather and light conditions.
A Closer Look
Solatube International was the originator of the tubular daylighting device, or TDD. They are constantly innovating and improving the product by taking advantage of new technologies, staying ahead of the design trends and evaluating feedback from customers and dealers. The company has taken the extra step to not only provide the best visual light source but they’ve also removed the harmful UV spectrum that can fade carpet and furniture.
Their Spectralight Infinity Tubing delivers 99.7% specular reflectance, which enables it to transfer the maximum amount of the whitest, purest daylight for longer distances—up to 30 ft. The same material also filters out infrared wavelengths, so it won’t heat up your home. These breakthroughs alone separate Solatube Daylighting Systems from standard skylights and other tubular daylighting systems.
There are other tubular daylighting systems available but they can’t hold a candle to the performance and technology behind the Solatube products. Some of them are nothing more than wrapped foil products, which are ineffective. The sweet spot where daylighting and technology meet would have to be the Smart LED System, a revolutionary day and night home lighting solution that cuts lighting energy use by 94%. The secret behind the Smart LED System is SunSense Technology, a patented control center that continually assesses daylight levels. When levels are low, the LED lights turn on automatically. When levels are too high, the LEDs turn themselves off. The result is a seamless blending of daylight and LED light, giving you effective lighting up to 24 hours a day.
The Solatube International facility is equipped with these Smart LED Systems, which also feature a motion sensor that activates the LED lights when you are within range.
Solatube International proudly manufacturers and packages their product from their headquarters and they are equipped to do this with an end-to-end process that includes preparing the rolled aluminum, maintaining their own dies and stamping tools, and shipping directly to dealers and retailers around the world. They incorporate a lean manufacturing process that creates little waste and maximizes all resources.
Product is produced on demand and they hold very little inventory. Some of Solatube International’s longest tenured employees are on the factory floor, which speaks volumes about how they take care of their people.
More photos from Solatube International headquarters.
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