We all respond to a Sunny day, we feel more alive and generally more content with the world. We might also smile at the individual in the car next to us and possibly let them out at a junction.
We might even smile at people walking to work as we traverse the busy streets of the town or city where we live or work; all is well with the world.
We feel just a little more content and happy. Why should this be, what has changed our mood from the drudgery of a Monday morning in the pouring rain when its dark and dingy and we scowl at everyone we meet. The journey hasn’t changed, what has been two important factors, temperature and light. Its brighter and warmer and we feel happier in our environment.
Many studies have shown that the intensity and colour of light can affect mood, our circadian patterns and even how we perceive the taste of food. These are well documented, and we can say with certainty that cause and affect apply. Change the lit environment and you change how we feel and respond.
So, this does beg the question why we still have static lighting systems, why don’t we exploit the virtues of controls to affect mood and wellbeing.
We know from anecdotal evidence that dynamic lighting has a positive affect if managed well. Mirroring the external conditions deep within a building without windows or with minimal daylight penetration can create a sense of dynamism that feeds our need for change. We see the day evolving and this helps to provide a term of reference for how we function. Adjust these values and we can then start to affect attention spans and alertness.
Use colour and this experience can be enhanced still further, and many studies have shown that in education and in wellbeing there can be additional benefits with regard to attention spans of students and recovery rates of patients.
Interestingly a recent article published on the Independent newspaper website * states that the average Brits attention span is around 14minutes and this is being optimistic, if you have a boring voice or are having a general moan then be aware your attention span might drop to just 6 minutes.
This is in part due to our connected lives and the use of our tech to allow us to flit between a virtually unlimited amount of information via the web. This does then raise the question, has technology reprogrammed our brains to function in a way that now doesn’t fit with known models of how we occupy spaces; perhaps it has.
If we have changed through the use of our technology, then we need to adapt our working and social environments accordingly. We need lighting technology to adapt.
Use colour and intensity to modify our internal body clocks to make us grounded within our environment; provide reference points so we respond in a positive way.
All sounds very simple and believe it or not, it’s not that complex. Controls if designed well should provide a solid framework upon which you can add features such as Human Centric Lghting. This is a defined structure for colour and intensity management and within DALI there are dedicated devices types specifically for colour management, this isn’t anything new.
What is new, is the understanding that manage the space well and make it flexible and open and through the life of the project you can update and modify the lighting to reflect the use of the space. Design flexibility in from day one and you can add features such as Human Centric Lighting as necessary once the use of the building has been defined. You could argue there is no advantage in adding complexity to transitory areas such as corridors and that HCL should be located where its use will have the most impact.
Controls used well, add a dynamism that motivates, its that Sunny morning feeling every day, it’s also that ability that when the pressure mounts you can override the system to dim the lights and get some quiet time. This reflects how we function as individuals, we need to be spurred on to get things done and sometimes, we need to feel cosseted.
Blanket illumination to a single figure is something that evolved due to the limitations of the technology at that time and doesn’t reflect how our environment works. Inputs from variables are motivators if managed well and can add more to the overall performance of any individual company than just capping the light output and don’t get me started on Flicker!
Stewart Langdown MSLL