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Katie Danson

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How can we light indoor spaces in the most psychologically beneficial way possible whilst still keeping sustainability in mind?

As part of my final year interior architecture degree, I'm studying light and how it effects us psychologically in the context of indoor spaces. I'd love to know your thoughts on how light can and does effect our positive well being and the most effective ways we can achieve this. I'd also like to know your suggestions on if we can achieve this whilst also being sustainable both economically and environmentally.

Any examples, research or other interesting information you can add would be greatly appreciated!

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    Mar 1 2012: It depends on the ambiance you want to create, every color has a different emotional effect on humans so the best thing will be led system. Led system has lots of advanteges, you can change the power of illumination, you can change the colour, longest life, you can do all things with minimum energy consumption. The disadvantage of leds create heat if you need so powerfull illuminaiton you have to cool it. However you can not compare these with the unic best light source of sun. As the photons cross the amosphere brings us another energy that you can not get in 10 meters distance from the light source and target but you can only copy the color make people feel that it is sunlight.
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    Feb 28 2012: I don't quite understand how some people don't experience even mild forms of seasonal depression. When I go without ample amounts of sun light for prolonged periods, I really do think I feel less energized. Subsequently, I feel less creative, motivated, etc. When sunlight is abundant, it changes my perspective for the better. That said, I think these conditioning factors do play tremendous roles in our subconscious and act a bit like pipelines. It seems to me that the more natural sun exposure we have in an office environment, for instance, the greater the size of that pipeline and thus the more creativity and motivation transferring rapidly through the pipelines (read: synapses) mapping our cerebral cortex.

    Pertaining to sustainability, what could be more sustainable than harnessing the power of the sun? Incorporating large windows and high ceilings into architecture and thermal materials could maintain a more comfortable temperature whereas less heat would have to be used to fill the gap between the base heat and the desired temp. Conversely, in summer, perhaps some sort of polarizing shade could block the thermal rays yet still allow adequate natural light. Solar panels will supply the energy to light the place at night. (Excuse my physics ignorance)
  • Feb 27 2012: Living in the high latitudes where winter light is less than 3 hours long I would remind you that latitude is important. I need bright light early in the morning or I feel irritable all day long. It is real, it is not psychosomatic.
    Also remember that us older folks need more contrast to see things and that often means brighter light. I hate a restaurant that is dim and I can't see the menu clearly, I don't return.!
  • Feb 26 2012: Lighting a space relates to the intended use of the space, and the people who will inhabit the space.
    So if the intent is to stimulate action then there would be a need for a greater propensity of light at the red end of the visible spectrum , whereas at at the other end the effect is the opposite.
    Of course intensity as well as frequency comes into play.

    While I may be limited by the amount of light I can produce , I believe that using the appropriate obects on which to shine a light on has psychological impact. For example works of art, or images with the congruent color and text are uplifting.

    If all else fails, use a light focused on someone's smile in the room. That has long lasting effect and is sustainable.
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    Feb 26 2012: It's no secret that sunlight makes people happy, and has various salubrious properties. Although I don't have any background in architecture or science, I have an interesting anecdotal experience that drives home the point for me.

    When I was in hs, the campus had a senior high building, and an intermediate high building. The former was completely made out of brick, and had comparatively few windows--even the ones that it did have were tinted. The intermediate high school was replete with large, un-tinted windows, and the inside was decorated with multi-colored pastel walls; when I went in that building, my mood instantly improved and I even felt like I had more energy. In the senior building, I was a good deal less spirited if not downright depressed, which I attributed to the different design style and lack of sunlight. There was plenty of artificial light in the school via fluorescent lights, but they just gave me a headache.

    My personal story alone is of little value, but I bet that everyone can recall some time when they've been in a building with plenty of natural lighting and been relatively happier. Here are some links to underscore my point:

    http://www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/daylighting/pdf/DaylightBenefits.pdf

    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy02osti/30769.pdf

    Especially take a look at the bit in the second link regarding school lighting; I can totally relate to that =]

    Now, as it pertains to your question, natural lighting has advantages that might make it appealing to incorporate it into your designs:

    -it counts as a net gain on the financial side as it saves on energy costs and increases building value
    -obviously, it's sustainable
    -it makes people happier!

    I'm a great proponent of natural lighting because it is hyper sustainable, economical, and probably at least as pleasing as any artificial lighting. So I would encourage you to incorporate that into your designs.
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    Feb 22 2012: Personally, I don’t like fluorescent lighting, and I always feel best when I’m out in the sun. Depending on your personality traits, your surroundings can either motivate or demotivate you at work. According to Dr pierce "Light affects mood and alertness by shutting down the production of melatonin, the sleep inducer ".

    For the same reason i have used a home-made "Tube-skylight-"It uses small clear dome on the roof that allows sunlight to enter a highly reflective tube insulated with reflective paper or mirror, that guides sunshine to the ceiling. A translucent window lens gently disperses natural light throughout the room. Quiet economical , as it just took around Rs485 approx $2.5 u.s dollars & a little human will to build it.
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    Feb 21 2012: I would absolutely love to see more natural lighting, such as skylights, in future architecture. Natural light cannot be fully reproduced and in relying solely on artificial light, especially in areas such as schools or offices, we give up important qualities of light that our brains rely on to function properly. Even in a situation where natural light is let in to an area, it is almost always filtered. This sounds like the best thing to lower risks of skin cancer and the like, but the human body needs to have some of that solar radiation. The less we are exposed to true sunlight, the more susceptible we are to the problems related to it.
    It seems that light that's in the vicinity of water has an extreme calming effect... Would it be possible to incorporate water into an indoor lighting scheme somehow? Not just to illuminate the water, but somehow to use the water to diffuse and tint the light...?
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    Feb 16 2012: My own taste for interior lighting is for localised 'pools' of light from sources as close as possible, or just above, eye-level.

    Floods of light from the ceiling (eg strip lights) seems to create a distinctly clinical atmosphere, affecting my mood profoundly and negatively.

    I think colour temperature is important too - a cycle of cooler, warmer and darker in response to whether our internal body clock is sensing it should be daylight, twilight, or night. The cooler and more intense the lighting, the more we feel awake (and probably more productive). The warmer the lighting, the more we feel that perhaps we should be 'winding down' for the day, ending up with no light at all for when we sleep.

    Lighting ideally should mimic, and be respectful of, how we have evolved in response to the natural cycle of day and night. If it tries to create daylight intensities at night time, I would guess that our body clocks might get affected adversely.
  • Feb 16 2012: http://www.dynamiclighting.philips.com/start_int.html
    http://stereopsis.com/flux/

    Basically, smart programmable lighting circuits that is able to change colour temperature and intensity to best accord with the body's reaction to lighting as well as eating schedules.

    Economics is largely a matter of scale... but this technology is a cheaper alternative to other more fully integrated lighting systems. Also, it uses LEDs for its colour changing purposes, so it's environmentally chained to the efficacy of LED lights (which is very promising).
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    Feb 16 2012: Light and colors can create moods and defusse emotions. There are lighing schemes that say sit, relax, enjoy and some that say keep moving. Once the area use is determined then worry about the lighting and color schemes. By the way have you ever heard of the "smell of money". Eyes and nose are powerful influencers. Sell the effect not the cost.
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    Feb 4 2012: I know the office in which I work has huge windows that naturally light the majority of the space. As darkness started to fall, they begin turning on more conventional lighting, though I would prefer something a little softer. Not huge racks of overhead lights for the entire building, I would much prefer lights localized to the desks or even the larger scale pods. Not only does this let you control light in a way that is most productive for you at your desk, but desks/pods where no ones is working can have the lights turned off to save electricity.
  • Feb 3 2012: The best lit office environment I was ever in was at a Lotus Development Corp (remember 1-2-3?) in Mt. Laurel, NJ about 20 years ago. When you first walked in, everything seemed dim. Once your eyes adapted, you realized that there was soft lighting everywhere. However, at places where more light was needed (i.e., desks, conference rooms, etc.), there were brighter lights. This environment had the proper, in my mind, lighting level for each space.....not a one size fits all we see too often. It was a very relaxing, yet vibrant environment that welcomed people into it. The meeting I attended was probably one of the most productive I've been in. I believe it's largely attributable to the lighting.
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    Feb 1 2012: Have you seen this use of LED light to mimic the sky?

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120103134913.htm

    They could even add an option to have UV at short intervals to boost vitamin D production indoors.
  • Feb 1 2012: just a week ago my friends and I went to a house of some guy.First it was pretty normal,then we sat down the sofa and talked,then I looked up the ceiling and saw that the source of light was natural,it comes from sunlight.the roof/ceiling was made of some plastic.I was totally amazed about it,cause it helps economically and helps reduce the green gas pollution.
    the natural source of light from the sun was really beautiful,i guess the natural sunlight has an effect to a persons feelings,for example when i wake up in the morning and take a walk while looking at the rising sun.
    the sun can produce different natural colors like red,orange,purple and blue.

    I mean if you'll use the sun as a light source you could help the economy,the world and affect someones emotions.
  • Jan 31 2012: I use full spectrum lighting in my office, my plants grow great and I don't get seasonal affective disorder in the winter.
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    Jan 31 2012: These are some of the few ideas incorporated into an office that I once worked at who were going for the goal.

    Skylight
    large numbers of wall mirrors to reflect light
    bright reflective wall panels
    warm color LED lights or interchangable color light shades
  • Jan 31 2012: a large percentage of the workforce has the capacity to work almost anywhere now. So why do we huddle in large office buildings? Some place where warm fountains provide heat, white noise and tranquility. Some place where large glassed atriums have nooks of various size to accommodate different work pods. Cities with elevated walk paths and bike paths for worry free self-locomotion. Some place where paddle boats and canoes can be used for water transit. Can you imagine an elevated walkway in a city where structures of a similar height had walkways connecting roofs, and garden markets on roof selling vegetables grown on the roof? There is much to be said for unheated atriums surrounding any living structure. They could act to keep energy used for climate control inside the space more efficient, they could be used as a secondary living spaces, and perhaps even garden areas for growing produce. Consider it!