The WELL Building Standard: Inspiring Healthy Lighting
How Does Interior Lighting Affect Us?
Lighting is a vital part of our homes and workplaces but frustratingly often it is poorly designed, or not thought through in initial stages and left as an afterthought. Through the lighting concepts in The WELL Building Standard we aim to show how much inappropriate lighting can affect us and how many different ways there are to improve it, thereby improving our health and wellbeing.
Good light in our homes and workplaces is essential to carry out daily tasks so ideal and optimal lighting schemes need to be used in building and interior design to enable us to see accurately without causing eyestrain or headaches.
In addition to facilitating vision, light influences the human body in non-visual ways. Humans and animals are extraordinarily sensitive to light; our natural bodily rhythms are evolutionarily hard-wired to be governed by the changing light of the sun, from daylight through to bright midday sun, dusk and darkness. The link is so strong that on exposure to light (or lack of light and anything in between) the brain sends signals to synchronize physiological processes in our bodies and depending on the amount of light we have been exposed to this can delay, advance or shift our body clock. This internal 24-hour cycle is called The Circadian Rhythm.
Artificial light can affect us as well as sunlight and therefore our exposure to light throughout the day should be carefully considered to ensure that we’re not being exposed to inappropriate light levels. The consequences of disturbed circadian rhythms can be seen in sleep disorders and sleep deprivation, which can lead to increased risk of stroke, obesity, diabetes, depression and heart attacks.
How Circadian Lighting Design Can Help
Circadian lighting is designed to tap into and stabilize our internal body clocks, aiming to mirror the color temperature changes of sunlight throughout the day therefore supporting the natural sleep-wake cycle. Bright cold lights can stimulate and increase alertness in the mornings and softer warmer lights can encourage relaxation and a winding down for sleep. Humans need both darkness and brightness to maintain the rhythm and to regulate bodily functions such as alertness, digestion and sleep.
How The Right Lighting Can Assist Vision & Circadian Rhythms At Work
Right to Light
Sunlight is critical for both health and wellbeing and this is especially true today because so many of us spend large amounts of time indoors and away from sunlight. The WELL Standard states that 75% of office workers should have access to a desk in view of windows and that all staff should have workstations that are within 12.5m of exterior views.
There are clear benefits to stable circadian rhythms and plenty of natural light throughout the day reinforces this concept. However, too much light can be an issue in some spaces where seasonal and daily changes in natural light entering from windows can cause glare and too much visual contrast. The balance of the levels of lighting must be taken into account when designing the space with minimum and maximum appropriate levels of sunlight in floor space area being regulated.
Where glare and discomfort due to heat from natural light can become a distraction as it enters the floor space, design alterations to the windows can be considered. These include window size and glazing standards, which can tip the balance between the positive effects of exposure to natural light and the negative effects of excessive light.
Visual Lighting Design
Detailed tasks in the workplace require ‘task lighting’ for good visual performance; this can be targeted at workspaces without over-illuminating the areas around them. Task lighting can be paired with ‘ambient lighting’, which is indirect or diffused to illuminate the ancillary areas for background lighting. This combination allows for alteration of the lighting ambience by employees to produce a lighting scheme for optimum working. Balance between spaces is also recommended to limit contrasts in brightness, for example, between office spaces and corridors.
Light, Solar & Workstation Glare
Lighting glare can cause visual discomfort, fatigue, impairment and even injury and can occur with exposure to direct or reflected glare. Lamps that are a source of glare should be shielded or diffused. Likewise glare from sunlight can also be disruptive and can be moderated and controlled using shielding designs such as external shading systems, internal blinds and opacity glazing.
Smooth or glossy surfaces are a source of glare due to their reflective nature; often computer screens are responsible for excessive glare when placed at the wrong angle to incoming light sources. This can be remedied at the design stage by considering the angles of the computer screens in relation to windows and artificial lights.
Color tone and quality are so important in the way we perceive the world around us and if the color quality is below standard things such as plants, human skin tone and foods can seem dull and unsaturated; this can be disconcerting and uncomfortable over any length of time. The lighting of the space should accurately portray colors and so conditions within set parameters of the color-rendering index should be used.
Light Reflective Surfaces
Reflective surfaces create the most light in buildings therefore the quality of surfaces needs to be considered in a WELL design. The surfaces of furniture, ceilings and walls should all meet particular parameters with higher light reflective values to increase light intensity and promote activity and alertness.
Automated Shading & Dimming
Automated light and shading systems can be set up to adjust to alterations in the natural light radiating into the building and can increase or reduce window shades or brighten or dim electric lighting in response to light changes. When these settings are on an automatic function they can be used at their optimum without disturbing occupants from their tasks.
How Circadian Lighting Can Be Used In Our Homes
The WELL Building Standard suggests many achievable ways of incorporating good lighting practice into our workplaces but with some thought and innovation this can also be achieved in the home too.
At Liquid Interiors we encourage our domestic interiors clients to allow us to include at least some elements of circadian lighting in our designs; some people with careers that involve antisocial working patterns and changes in time zones, such as pilots, can particularly benefit from this lighting system.
In the project featured in these photographs enhancement of sleep quality was a vital component for our client, so sympathetic lighting in the bedroom was a crucial to positively influence the quality of sleep and reduce disruptions.
Using home automation Liquid recreated the sun’s color patterns throughout the day to mirror and support the natural wake-sleep cycle. Energy lighting was used for the morning lighting; this cool, bright light helps to energize the body and reset the internal clock the same way natural sunlight would at dawn; this is also great lighting to have in the bathroom while you’re prepared for the day ahead.
With large windows as much natural light was utilized during the day as possible and in the early evening a warm and dim light setting allowed for gradual natural relaxation to mimic the sunset before sleep. An amber night-light for night waking won’t disrupt the sleep cycle and a motion sensor activated nightlight placed near the foot of the bed ensures that the waking cycle is not fully activated. Artificial light in the middle of the night can greatly disrupt the production of melatonin and should be avoided if at all possible.
100% automatic black out blinds for the windows guarantee total darkness when it is required and ensure that sunlight seeping in from behind or though the blinds doesn’t trigger the body clock to wake to early from sleep.
The WELL Building Standard shows that light and lighting can be a huge influence on our health and wellbeing and when experienced at the right levels at the right times of day and night can help improve alertness, energy levels, concentration, memory and mood and also provide support to overall physiological and psychological health. As designers we strive to provide healthy solutions for the homes and workplaces of our clients and therefore implementing the concepts of the WELL Building lighting recommendations are an important component of our work.
Feel free to contact Liquid Interiors, your healthy and eco conscious interior design consultants.