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Each and every one of us spends 90% of our day indoors. With lighting that is too cold, too intense, too constant, and with an absolutely poor and unbalanced spectrum. We suffer from eyestrain, insomnia, stress, low vital energy… constant unhappiness.

To take care of ourselves, we try to reduce the consumption of ultra-processed foods, we buy organically grown fruits and vegetables, and we make sure that everything that comes into our home is “bio”. Good.

Oh, and we signed up for the gym. Super.

All that helps, I’m not saying it doesn’t, but we don’t realize that it’s not enough: because we continue to spend 90% of our time in spaces that negatively affect our health. Why? Because of poor lighting.

Because architects are not trained in lighting. Neither natural nor artificial. Neither in universities nor in master’s degrees. However, we project light in each and every one of our projects. And we do it badly, very badly. Without being aware of how much it will affect the health of the users who will inhabit our spaces.

We have gone from living outdoors practically all the time to it being normal to leave the house only to get into the car, spend 10 hours in the office, go to the supermarket and return home. And this radical change in behavior can only bring negative consequences.

Lack of exposure to natural light causes our body to not function properly. It alters our biological rhythm and decompensates it.

Okay, we can’t work outdoors or permanently next to a window. Correct. But we can understand what the virtues of natural light are in order to choose the right artificial light, can’t we?

Natural light is variable in many ways: in color temperature, wavelength and intensity. The same is true for ambient temperature and humidity. But I’ll leave that to the specialists in these fields, since I’m all about light.

Nowadays, many LED light sources are able to mimic the characteristics of natural light: it is a matter of knowing how to analyze the technical data sheets of the luminaires and choosing the right product to be used for the project.

Light that is too cold stimulates productivity. On the other hand, it prevents the secretion of melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for sleep. We are not laying hens, so lighting too cold and with constant levels, bad decision. Let’s explore neutral tones or if the project budget allows it, let’s implement tunable white lighting with a data-driven protocol.

Indoor lighting for poultry houses
Indoor lighting for poultry houses

Dazzling luminaires cause visual fatigue: beware of UGR’s greater than 19.

As for the spectrum (which is not the same as the color to!): a spectrum that is too unbalanced will cause cellular damage to our ocular retina. Watch out for wavelengths in the 480Nm. This does not affect the pocket and is an incredible improvement.

Finally, two other enemies of visual health: homogeneity and sharp contrasts. So? Let’s try to look for degraded levels in space. This brings us to the importance of design: planning the lighting from the beginning of the project is paramount. Know the technique and strategies. What the market has to offer. Lighting should not be an add-on: those points of light that we will drag until the end of the project, with a budget that we will be allocating to other items until it is at ridiculous minimums. Let us be aware that if we sacrifice the quality of light, we sacrifice the health of the user.

Good lighting design is not easy, nor is there a recipe applicable to all spaces. But as in everything else, understanding the importance of the subject and getting training in it, or relying on specialized professionals, is the basis for a change of consciousness and the fight against acquired bad habits.

#futureofarchitecture #newarchitecture #lightingdesign #lighting #biologicaleffects.

Gisela Steiger. December 2022.