Let There Be Light: Today’s Commercial Environments Are Brighter Than Ever


Sun resistant fabric is used in this hospital’s atrium to allow abundant natural light without concern for fabrics fading from exposure.

UV and fade-resistant Sunbrella Contract fabrics allow designers to incorporate an abundance of natural light without worrying about upholstery fading.

Studies show that natural light can evoke a sense of energy and wellbeing in any environment. According to a recent piece by Harvard Business Review, research studies found that access to natural light tops office workers’ wish lists of workplace benefits. Although natural light can lift the ambiance of a space, the extra exposure to UV can be harsh and damaging for fabrics and furnishings. Whether used in indoor or outdoor applications, textiles with increased exposure to sunlight must perform at a higher level.

Interior designer Melanie Dover Goodson of Asheville, North Carolina-based firm MHAworks specializes in high-end multi-family and hospitality projects and says that natural light is both a trend and an amenity. “Now, more than ever, clients are aware of the importance of natural light – both at home and in the workplace,” she notes. “For the current multi-family projects I am working on, the more natural light and outdoor amenity space the better. This is a key selling point and a necessity for the high-end real estate market.”

With a legacy of designing and engineering fabrics equipped to withstand the most rigorous environmental conditions, Sunbrella Contract textiles are developed with the same innovative technology. Our proprietary fiber is saturated to the core with color. Products stay brilliant over time, maintaining color, vibrancy, and quality.

Sunbrella fabrics are UV resistant, ensuring all colors can endure areas with lots of sun exposure.

Natural light is both a trend and an amenity, making UV and fade resistant fabric a necessity.

Natural Light Benefits the Workplace, but What About Textiles?

The benefits of natural light are well documented. Healthline reports that natural light boosts absorption of vitamin D, a critical nutrient for human health. It can also help ward off seasonal depression and reduce health risks of exposure to fluorescent lighting, with studies indicating that fluorescent bulbs can trigger a stress response. One thing is certain; natural light will continue to play an important role in indoor design.

“I feel that today’s client and, the public in general, are more educated on the benefits of natural light for health – particularly mental health,” says Dover Goodson, who chooses sun resistant fabric for longevity. “Also, with the increase of urban multi-story living, natural light is key to creating spaces that bring the outdoors in and promote a sense of space beyond the home.”

As for UV and fade resistance? Sunbrella Contract uses the performance guidelines of the Association of Contract Textile (ACT) to test all products for commercial applications. And when it comes to testing for lightfastness, we test to a much higher standard than the ACT indoor UV light test. ACT has the AATCC 16E, which is an indoor 40-hour UV light test. However, because our legacy is outdoor textiles, we measure lightfastness using a much more stringent, intense outdoor UV light test, which includes up to 2200 hours of outdoor ultraviolet light.

As we move through health challenges, whether it is in the workplace, hospitality, or healthcare environment, we may see outdoor spaces take on indoor activities more and more. The introduction of natural sunlight and fresh air can offer a creativity boost to teams working in office environments or help maintain social distance requirements for learning spaces. Meeting spaces, work areas, cafes, classrooms and the like may shift towards taking place primarily outdoors, which means high performing textiles will be required, with an increased emphasis on UV and fade resistance.

Collaborative work setting outfitted with Sunbrella UV protective fabric.

The introduction of natural sunlight in workplace design can help boost creativity but can be damaging for textiles.

Looking for Lightfastness in All the Right Places

Where do you start when searching for textiles that are high performing, and have the boost you need to stand up to intense indoor (or even outdoor) natural light? Lightfastness is the second color stability test, which determines how well the dye stands up to sun exposure. Just as your skin reacts (and why you wear SPF), fabric dyes also react to UV light. For indoor options, walls and upholstery should pass a grade 4 after 40 hours of exposure to a UV light. While that may not sound like much time, the test is done in the lab under accelerated lighting conditions, which have been found to be the equivalent of years in application. However, this may not be enough for intense light exposure. Look for a fabric that has UV resistance of at least 1500 hours, such as a solution dyed acrylic or polyester. Sunbrella Contract fabrics are constructed with a unique fiber process, making our performance fabrics inherently fade resistant, UV protective, and durable to the core. Our fibers are saturated with UV-stabilized pigments before they’re spun into yarn, allowing the pigment to go all the way to through the core of the fiber. This is key when selecting fabrics that are UV and fade resistant. Don’t rely on a finish. Start at the fiber.

“I specify Sunbrella as much on the interiors of my projects as the exterior spaces,” says Dover Goodson, who adds that recent work included her selections of Sunbrella Angle by Designtex and Sunbrella Raku by Brentano.

Sunbrella Contract fade resistant fabric saturates this hospital dining space with a calming palette, complementing the use of natural light.

Studies show that natural light can imbue a sense of wellbeing into almost any environment.

So, let there be light, inside or out, and lots of it. Sunbrella Contract products are built for high performing environments with (or without) an abundance of natural light. As an additional benefit to high traffic commercial spaces, Sunbrella Contract fabrics are bleach cleanable and stain and water resistant, delivering premium performance at every level.

To learn more about how Sunbrella Contract fabrics service the unique needs of commercial environments, follow us on social @SunbrellaContract and learn more about our collaborative partnerships and commercial design projects on our Sunbrella Commercial blog.

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