ARC / Connect

Daylighting the Field House – Balancing Natural Light for Interior Conditions

01.03.18 / Tyler Baum and Leslie DelleFave

Indoor athletic facilities are traditionally designed primarily with artificial lighting, as natural daylight can create harsh glare and shadowing conditions for athletes, coaches, and spectators. ARC was tasked by longtime client, Boston College, to explore this challenge and study options to add transparency in its new field house without the associated negative impacts.  

The 115,700 SF field house will provide the BC community with a year-round indoor practice facility for the football team and other varsity, club, and intramural sports activities. The school expressed interest in creating a visual link from the exterior of the building to the beautiful steel trusses lining the interior of the field house. The preliminary design for the field house included Kalwall, a translucent panel that keeps glare and direct sunlight off the interior practice surface, making it difficult to create exterior-to-interior transparency.

Options Review

Working with lighting consultant LAM Partners, our team studied options for increasing the visibility into the new field house and evaluated the advantages and drawbacks associated with increased levels of daylight.

The goals of the study were to:

  • Reveal more of the field house interior and the steel trusses via added transparency
  • Mitigate interior glare and shadows while providing a more open, naturally-lit environment
  • Reduce additional demand on the HVAC system due to any added heating loads

The team looked at alternatives to using Kalwall panels and examined the possible use of fritted glass as part of the envelope. Fritted glass, known for its smooth, gradient aesthetic, is often used in office and commercial buildings to mitigate direct sunlight conditions, thus reducing glare and lowering the heat load to avoid increased reliance on air conditioning.

Conditions Analysis and Findings

Using data from the 3D model of the building and analysis by LAM Partners on projected illumination scenarios during summer, winter, spring, and fall solstice, we created realistic renderings and comparative diagrams to show the various levels of daylight throughout the year.

From these diagrams, we determined that the worst-case conditions occurred when using clear or fritted glass during the winter solstice. In these scenarios, direct sunlight was entering from the east and south clerestory glazing. However, the study showed that no direct sunlight was entering in from the north facade.


The study revealed that the potential for disorienting effects on athletes from direct sunlight impact was higher in the field house than at an outdoor field. Even though football is typically played outside where players experience direct sun exposure, the sun creates an environment of ambient light, minimizing glare. In a field house environment, the contrast between direct sunlight and dark shadow conditions is much greater.

The presence of direct glare on the practice field was problematic, and the final design decision needed to allow for transparency without the potential field hazard. The team recommended that translucent panels be used at the south and east elevations to diffuse sunlight, and that glass curtain wall be used for the entire northern elevation. Since no direct sunlight enters the field house from the north, this design provides an effective daylighting and transparency solution.

The new design, seen on the revised renderings, fulfills the client’s request to provide a more dynamic, transparent experience for pedestrians as they approach and pass the new field house. The glass envelope at the north facade shows the curved trusses and the playing field. It helps merge exterior and interior views, offering a look inside to the practice activities.

When this new facility opens in 2018, Boston College athletes will have a facility that allows all-season practice activity, with no weather-related cancellations. In addition, the college adds a well-designed, transparent, and energy-efficient building that advances the athletic and student life experience on campus.

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