Marlin Gingerich, owner of Midwest Woodworks always knew that better lighting would enhance his crowded, 1,200-square-foot furniture showroom. In fact, his customers used to tell him, “You know, that piece of furniture I bought looked great in your store, but it looked so much better in my home.”
But it wasn’t until 2010, when Midwest Woodworks built its new 10,000-square-foot facility in Kalona, Iowa, that they invested in 17 DayStar skylights. That decision has paid off – both in terms of their customers’ reactions and in sales.
WHAT IS DAYLIGHTING?
Daylighting – the use of natural sunlight to illuminate buildings – has become more popular recently, although the concept is centuries old. Harnessing the power of sunlight reduces energy costs, creates a more pleasant atmosphere, and has even been proven to increase productivity and sales. Some studies have shown that exposure to natural sunlight can even improve your attitude and your health.
“I knew about DayStar when we built our first showroom, but I thought if you surrounded a building with plenty of windows, you wouldn’t need them. We learned that a window lets in a pool of light, but it doesn’t go to the center – especially when you have taller and shorter pieces that block the light,” explained Gingerich.
Rather than spending money on his small, aging building, Gingerich decided to wait, and invest in a new building – one that would include DayStars. “Back then we were pretty budget-conscious. We still are, but now we see the value of quality lighting. Most traditional skylights are installed directly in the roof and there’s no insulation and no magnifying effect. The DayStar system magnifies the light but also has built-in insulation,” said Gingerich.
“I always knew I would put DayStars in my next building,” said Gingerich. “My parents had built a variety store several years earlier and they put six DayStars in their building. The first time I walked into their building, I thought, ‘Wow! The roof is off and the sun is shining directly into that building.”
When Gingerich approached his banker about financing the new building, one of his talking points was “better lighting equals better visibility which equals quite a few more sales.” In fact, Gingerich told his banker that with the new lighting and more space for displays, he expected an increase of 20% to 30% in sales. But he was wrong – their actual increase was more like 65%!
Gingerich attributes much of this success to his DayStar daylighting system. “The way I see it, if you can’t enjoy the product in the store, you certainly aren’t going to envision it in your home.”
HOW DID THE PROCESS WORK?
When Gingerich began planning his new building, he called Kenneth Schlabach at DayStar Systems. Schlabach suggested Gingerich draw a rough draft of the building – indicating the floor plan, wall height, and ceiling height – and send it to him. After getting the drawing, Schlabach penciled in DayStars to provide the maximum light level.
Gingerich worked closely with Schlabach, soliciting his advice early in the building process. “Kenneth gave us some pointers for the design of our building. We were planning to build a 10’ sidewall. But, Kenneth told us there’s a sweet spot at least 14 feet up. At this height, the unit will better disperse the light than at 10 feet. So we redesigned our building with 12’ sidewalls and a ½/12 pitch cathedral ceiling. Our ceiling was 16 feet at its peak, enabling us to put our DayStars at 14 feet.”
The interior of the showroom included seven 14’x14’ smaller rooms with eight-foot partitions. Gingerich wanted the DayStars to illuminate both the small rooms and the larger, open showroom. Further, Gingerich needed less intensity in some rooms like the warehouse, office, and closets. So in Gingerich’s office, which had both a door and a window, Schlabach recommended a smaller, 2’x4’ DayStar with a white lens instead of the full spectrum lens.
Schlabach developed a system for Midwest Woodworks that would provide the level of light they wanted, without unnecessary expense. Gingerich still has plenty of windows, which he feels provide a pleasing view and ventilation for that sometimes overpowering new furniture smell. But for lighting, he relies on his DayStar system.
“What’s nice about DayStars is that you can install them in an existing building. When we put on our metal roof, we just covered everything with steel. Usually, with a steel building, the steel is ordered with precut holes for windows, doors, and other installations. We cut out holes in the existing roof to fit in the dome top units,” explains Gingerich.
THE RIGHT DECISION
Gingerich and Midwest Woodworks took a big leap of faith investing in a much larger, new building. Installing a DayStar daylighting system was a large part of that decision.
“Going from 1,200 to 10,000 square feet was a big jump, and the investment in our DayStar system was significant. But if I do something, I like to do it right. We had been very blessed to have people come in to our little room and spend their money with us. But with our new DayStar system, they have even more reason to shop with us, and our furniture looks better than ever,” shares Gingerich.
“I’m very excited about the DayStar system. People come in and look at our DayStars and ask if we have electricity. When we tell them no, they ask, ‘What runs the batteries?’ We explain that they’re natural skylights and the customers find it very hard to believe,” says Gingerich adding, “On cloudy days, they’ll look around and tell us that it’s brighter in here than outside. That’s how we know we made the right decision.”
Article by Katrina Olson