Daylighting Interior Athletic Spaces: the Middlebury College Solution

| November 8, 2016

Interior of Middlebury College Squash Center / John Horner Photography

by Leslie DelleFave

Creating a natural balance of daylit and supplementary interior lighting is a challenge in most buildings and presents a distinct dilemma in athletic and sports facilities. In spaces hosting sports competitions, an imbalanced lighting environment for even a short time can distract athletes and impair performance, often causing an unfair advantage to one side. The ideal scenario, a consistent design that works in harmony with ever-changing exterior conditions, requires a careful evaluation of options and desired outcomes.


At Middlebury College, the ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge design team tackled this challenge and developed an innovative approach to achieve the critical lighting balance needed. The college’s LEED Platinum-certified Squash Center includes nine international-sized squash courts, tiered spectator seating, a student fitness area, entry lobby, and offices.

The design team carefully studied options with the goal of lighting the entire spectator area with daylighting though a large central light well. We set out to design a feature in the space that would delineate the spectator area from the squash courts, utilize daylighting to minimize energy loads on the facility, and create a unique viewing environment that took advantage of the quality of light that natural daylight provides

Gary Hall.

Exterior of Middlebury College Squash Center / credit Gary Hall

We challenged ourselves to remove all other light sources and to rely instead on a single skylight element designed to provide all spectator lighting. The spectator area is daylit using a light well, topped with a skylight, with a layer of diffusing horizontal glass providing an even light level and eliminating direct sunlight distractions to the athletes.

The solution utilizes a combination of LED lighting, daylight color matching, and daylight dimming so that day or night, cloudy or bright, this light well remains a consistent light source. By matching the color temperature of natural light via LED lighting controls, we provided a consistent level of natural light and ensured that no direct sunlight permeated the interior of the squash courts.

In addition to the aesthetic and athletic benefits, the design factors into meeting the college’s goals for sustainability and contributes to achieving a significant energy reduction, in keeping with the LEED Platinum certification objectives. Post-occupancy data in the first year of operation showed a 35% improvement in EUI based on the AIA 2030 CBECS baseline and a 50.4% cost energy savings based on LEED guidelines.


Leslie DelleFave

Leslie DelleFave


Leslie DelleFave, AIA, LEED AP, is an associate with Boston-based ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge.






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