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Are misconceptions about sunlight affecting the way you live? If so, maybe they start with what color you think sunlight is. Contrary to popular belief, sunlight is not yellow. It’s blue. And it’s the bright blue hue of daylight – not yellow – that helps you wake up and go about your day. Here’s how. 

When blue sunlight arrives in the morning, it triggers a sharp rise in blood pressure and the production of cortisol, a natural steroid. At the same time, it tells your body to stop secreting melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep.

Blue light keeps working throughout the day to boost attention, enhance reaction times, and elevate mood. By the time sunset arrives, you’re slowing down not only because you’re tired, but also because that energizing blue light is slowly fading away, becoming warmer and losing intensity.

Yellow, warmer light color (2500K-2700K) on the other hand signals feelings of warmth and relaxation. But that’s not because yellow light comes from the sun. My theory is that the origins of this pattern date back to our earliest ancestors, who both for warmth and safety from predators, made sure to light a fire at night. For hundreds of thousands of years, fire was, and in some parts of the world still is, a nighttime necessity. That’s why yellow light may be responsible for triggering feelings of warmth and relaxation in comparison to cool, blue-ish light.  

This pattern, which co-existed harmoniously until humans started lighting up the night artificially, was responsible for the proper functioning of our biological clocks or Circadian Rythym. Brighter gets you up; less bright calms you down.  Excessive artificial lighting of the nighttime sky led to the creation of the Dark-sky Movement, a push to reduce light pollution which includes legislation dating back to the 1950s. “The advantages of reducing light pollution include an increased number of stars visible at night, reducing the effects of electric light on the environment, and improving the well-being, health and safety of both people and wildlife.”[1] The study of the role darkness plays in the lives of living organism is called Scotobiology.  Interrupting nighttime darkness with artificial light has effects on most organisms; “changing their food gathering and feeding habits, their mating and reproduction, migration (birds and insects) and social behavior.” Furthermore, “Human health is also adversely affected by the effects of light pollution. Excess light during night time hours has been linked to human cancers and psychological disorders.”[15]

Sunlight (with a color temperature of around 6500 Kelvin) also plays a major role in regulating many human biological responses. For example, research shows that our highest feelings of alertness hit around 10:00 a.m.. If you’re not well engaged on your job by then, you may be missing an opportunity to do your best work. Using the wrong color temperature of light in an office setting may be responsible for triggering feelings of sleep and relaxation as opposed to alertness and productivity. Research also indicates that we experience our greatest cardiovascular efficiency and muscle strength around 5 p.m.. Maybe that’s when you should be headed to the gym or out for a run!

If you find your body wildly out of sync with the light-dark cycle, consider if your constant exposure to blue light at night, primarily via electronics or Cool White (4000K-6500K) LED and fluorescent lights, is throwing off your internal clock and disrupting your sleep patterns. 
What does this mean for how you live with light?

Of course, there’s nothing you can do about when the sun rises or sets. However, you can become better attuned to this cycle by waking early to take advantage of the invigorating benefits of sunlight, then letting your body wind down naturally at night.

You can also minimize your exposure to blue light at night by changing the kind of lights you have in certain areas of your home.  Consider using Warm White (2500K-2700K) LED lights in your bedroom or living room with a dimmer intensity.

Lighting designers recommend using these warmer tones in bedrooms and living rooms in the evening, while restricting cooler, blue-ish lights to workspaces such as kitchens and home offices. 

Pay attention, too, to the sleep experts who advise you to turn off your computer, smart phone, tablet and video games a couple of hours before you want to go to sleep, as electronics have become infamous for emitting enervating blue light that keeps people wide awake. One way Apple and Android devices have circumvented this problem on their devices is through the “Night Shift” setting. “Night Shift” replaces the harsh blue light that electronics emit during the day with a warmer yellow light more conducive to slumber. 

If all else fails, find a safe place where you can light a small fire. Then bask in the warm yellow glow it gives off until you finally relax enough to go to sleep!

The post The Effects of Light Color and Intensity on Your Mind and Body appeared first on Language of Light — The Intersection of Lighting, Efficiency and Architecture.

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The LED lighting industry is rapidly evolving and breaking through barriers once set by fluorescent lighting. The advancements in LED technology have dropped overall fixture costs, reduced energy consumption and allowed for more creative fixture designs. The 2019 lighting design trend is organic lighting design. It’s true that LEDs are non-toxic (unlike the mercury in fluorescent lighting), but the term “organic” here refers to the layout patterns of lighting, not the material. The fixture of choice here (aka the artist’s medium)is  LED linear lighting, on walls and ceilings, suspended and recessed.

Organic Design Layouts

As architectural designs have digressed from symmetrical and parallel mirroring patterns that align with vaulted ceilings, grid axis, and more; linear lighting allows architects to highlight asymmetrical architectural features and lines (which is where the term “architectural lighting” comes from).  The lighting design pattern of 2019 is no design pattern.

Lighting designers are slowly straying away from specifying the standard parallel rows of 4 ft. & 8 ft. fixtures and are now specifying commercial linear pendants of 2 ft., 3 ft., 5 ft. and 6 ft. with no particular design pattern. “The beauty of lighting design right now is in breaking rules,” says Perris Webber, one of Alcon Lighting’s Lighting Specialists.

Perris goes on to say that, “we’re seeing our custom-length commercial linear fixtures, which can be suspended or recessed on ceilings or walls – get spec’d as zigzags, snake-like patterns, and designs asymmetrically linking wall to ceiling to floor. When architects come to us with imaginative ideas, in addition to a challenge, we get so giddy and excited at the opportunity to execute their unique design layouts.”

The post 2020 Lighting Design Trends: Organic Layouts appeared first on Language of Light — The Intersection of Lighting, Efficiency and Architecture.

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The Continental Congress passed an act establishing an official flag for the new American republic on June 14, 1777, stating “…that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” President Truman declared June 14 as Flag Day on August 3, 1949.

Historians believe the first American flag was designed by New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson and sewn by Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross, though this is a matter of some dispute.

The original U.S. flag, adopted in 1777 had 13 stars for the 13 colonies.

In any case, anyone considering displaying America’s flag for Flag Day today or on Independence Day on July 4th might want to give some thought to proper illumination.

Generally, when darkness makes it necessary, it’s best to illuminate the American flag with wide angle flood bulbs. Depending on the distance, LED wide angle flood lights which direct light in a wider beam spread, account for the flag’s movement in the wind. 

Whether hanging a U.S. flag on a front porch bracket, which is common for residential display, or hoisting or displaying the flag on a commercial or residential property flagstaff, the flag ought to be properly lighted after sundown. The alternative is withdrawing the flag from display.

According to the U.S. Flag code, as the law passed by Congress in 1942 came to be known, America’s flag should be displayed at dawn and lowered or removed at dusk. Those choosing to display the flag at night should consider using two or more lighting fixtures, depending on the flag’s size and the height of the flagstaff or pole.

Two to three fixtures should be installed around three feet from the flag pole and directed toward the top of the pole. Lighting fixtures producing 500 to 750 lumens are considered ideal. This calculation is based upon flag poles ranging in height from 10 to 25 feet.

Most American flags measure up to 4 x 6 feet. Displaying larger U.S. flags, such as those that measure 6 x 10 feet, may mean using three fixtures. Note that when America’s flag is displayed either horizontally or vertically, such as on a wall, the Union (the blue field) is best displayed to the observer’s left.

The post Happy Flag Day! | Guide to Lighting America’s Flag appeared first on Language of Light — The Intersection of Lighting, Efficiency and Architecture.

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Title 24 is the section of the state government’s energy regulation code which pertains to lighting in most of California’s buildings — almost all buildings, i.e., historic, residential and non-residential, etc. — subject to interpretation of the state’s energy commission.

The state’s stated purpose of the code, regulation and standards is energy control, which California variously calls energy consumption, energy conservation and energy efficiency. Regulation of energy originated in the early 1970s in the wake of the birth of environmentalism with the earth or ecology movement; the first Earth Day was practiced in 1970.

California was the first state to impose energy usage regulations in 1974 and was the first state to enact an energy regulation commission, called the California Energy Commission. California claims to have the lowest per capita energy consumption in the United States.

Lighting is part of the state’s energy control plan.

California’s energy regulation includes controls, restrictions and mandates on indoor and outdoor lighting power, stipulating, for instance, that buildings use light-emitting diode (LED) lighting technologies, lighting power density (LPD) and wattage requirements, though the code is vague, complicated and subject to constant changes by the state government’s energy commission, state assembly and executive order by California’s governor.

For example, what’s new in Title 24 for 2019 includes new power adjustment factors for daylighting devices including horizontal slats, light shelves and clerestory fenestrations. Additionally, the state has imposed new rules, manual area multi-level lighting controls requirements and automatic daylighting control requirements. Restrooms also must now comply with occupancy sensing control requirements.

There’s a new section for indoor lighting control interactions, changes in outdoor lighting control requirements, alteration requirements, including merging of three separate sections into a single “Altered Indoor Lighting Systems” section, alignment of two reduced power options on controls, and a trigger threshold of projects over 5,000 square feet.

So, you can see for yourself that Title 24 of the California Energy Commission’s Energy Code — which the state refers to as the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards — imposes government control of lighting in California.

Also, the regulation is updated on an approximately three-year cycle. This means that the 2022 Energy Code will be changed to affect, regulate and control “new construction of, and additions and alterations to, residential and nonresidential buildings.” The 2022 Energy Code goes into effect on January 1, 2023 (for building permit applications submitted on or after the effective date).

Look for new information on 2019’s Title 24 updates and what’s coming in 2022 on this blog. Meanwhile, read the California Energy Commission’s Title 24 updates here.

The post A Brief History of California’s Title 24 Regulation appeared first on Language of Light — The Intersection of Lighting, Efficiency and Architecture.

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Imagine light fixtures that act as Bluetooth beacons, allowing smartphones to help visitors find their way around a building. Imagine a lighting system which can pinpoint the location of people and physical assets within the building. Imagine an automation system which can use occupancy data and personal preferences to orchestrate an optimized and personalized building environment.

Here’s the layman’s summary of Bluetooth Mesh:

Unlike wireless lighting systems like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Mesh is designed for large collections (thousands) of devices i.e. switches, HVAC, sensors, light fixtures, and shades that can communicate with each other by forwarding a message (command) across all the devices in that Bluetooth chain until reaching the destination to perform said operation, (i.e. turn ON the 3rd floor office lights).  The communication, instead of passing through your WiFi router, comes from the originating device and travels from light fixture to sensor, to AC unit, to any other chain of Bluetooth Mesh enabled devices, like a Bluetooth highway or your central nervous system, until the command reaches the lights on the 3rd floor.

Bluetooth mesh supports device-to-device-to-device communication so that any device in the mesh network can communicate with any other device in the network. Furthermore, devices do NOT have to be in direct radio range of the originating command. Messages are relayed across the network from devices in a series of “hops” and can therefore span very large physical areas.

Terminology important to understanding Bluetooth Mesh:

Nodes: Devices (i.e. switches, lighting fixtures, sensors, HVAC units, phones, etc.) which are a part of a Bluetooth mesh network.

Messages: Nodes in the Bluetooth mesh network communicate with each other using messages. Messages represent various types of commands that a node may initiate.

Bluetooth Mesh Vs. WiFi

The most significant difference between wireless (WiFi) lighting systems and Bluetooth Mesh lighting systems is in the method of communication. A network which uses WiFi is based around a central network called a router, and all commands and traffic passes through that router. Each light fixture must be able to communicate with the wireless network. If the router is unavailable, the network of devices become unavailable to communication.

In contrast, with Bluetooth Mesh nodes (lighting fixtures, sensors and other devices) receive messages from other nodes that are in direct radio range with the originating node.

2-Way Communication & User Behavior Data Collection

One of the advantages of using Bluetooth Mesh over WiFi for smart lighting is it can support two-way communications. Once the luminaire sensors are in place, the same infrastructure can be used to monitor other building conditions, like occupancy or temperature, and send back information to a control system. Gathering data about room use and user behavior patterns allows smart building to automate processes in the building that can reduce energy consumption and improve the user experience on a very large scale with a lot less wires.

Building intelligence into LED luminaires was the first part of the smart lighting evolution. Many LED fixtures now feature embedded programmability to adjust for light characteristics such as hue, light intensity, dimming, and energy consumption; and when you add wireless communications like Bluetooth Mesh, you create intelligent lighting ecosystems. The ecosystem could be a commercial building or now, with the range of Bluetooth Mesh, a collection of buildings.

Click here for our collection of Bluetooth Mesh ready devices. 

The post 2019 Lighting Technology Trends: What is Bluetooth Mesh?  appeared first on Language of Light — The Intersect of Lighting, Energy Efficiency and Development.

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A Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a quantitative metric of the ability of an artificial light source (i.e. LED, Fluorescent, Halogen, Incandescent, etc.) to accurately reveal the colors of a subject in comparison to a natural light source.

Sunlight, the standard for CRI, is considered to most accurately reveal the colors of a subject.

A CRI of 90 means that the artificial light source is replicating roughly 90% of the visible color spectrum that the sun would produce on the same color.

It is important to note that CRI is independent of color temperature (CCT).  Color temperature is a way to describe the light color produced by a light source. It is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) on a scale from 1,000 to 10,000.

Applications that may require high 90+ CRI include art gallery lighting, lighting for museums, and retail lighting.

CRI is not a measure of brightness, but how sharp colors would appear under the given light source.

In any given space, the CRI of the light source could have a profound effect on how the paint looks, how the furniture look, and how the people look and feel.

The post Color Rendering Index – What Is CRI? appeared first on Language of Light — The Intersect of Lighting, Energy Efficiency and Development.

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The LED lighting industry is rapidly evolving and breaking through barriers once set by fluorescent lighting. The advancements in LED technology have dropped overall fixture costs, reduced energy consumption and allowed for more creative fixture designs. The 2019 lighting design trend is organic lighting design. LEDs are non-toxic (unlike the mercury in fluorescent lighting), but the term “organic” here refers to the layout patterns of lighting, not the material. The fixture of choice here (aka the artist’s medium)is  LED linear lighting, on walls and ceilings, suspended and recessed.

As architectural designs have digressed from symmetrical and parallel mirroring patterns that align with vaulted ceilings, grid axis, and more; linear lighting allows architects to highlight asymmetrical architectural features and lines (which is where the term “architectural lighting” comes from).  The lighting design pattern of 2019 is no design pattern.

Lighting designers are slowly straying away from specifying the standard parallel rows of 4 ft. & 8 ft. fixtures and are now specifying commercial linear pendants of 2 ft., 3 ft., 5 ft. and 6 ft. with no particular design pattern. “The beauty of lighting design right now is in breaking rules,” says Perris Webber, one of Alcon Lighting’s Lighting Specialists.

Perris goes on to say that, “we’re seeing our custom-length commercial linear fixtures, which can be suspended or recessed on ceilings or walls – get spec’d as zigzags, snake-like patterns, and designs asymmetrically linking wall to ceiling to floor. When architects come to us with imaginative ideas, in addition to a challenge, we get so giddy and excited at the opportunity to execute their unique design layouts.”

The post Breaking the Rules with Organic Design: 2019 Trends in LED Lighting appeared first on Language of Light — The Intersect of Lighting, Energy Efficiency and Development.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that store dressing rooms are every woman’s worst nightmare. Too hot—I’ll take my sauna without a side of does-this-make-my-butt-look-good, please. Too cramped—how can I get a 360° view when I’m trapped in a 2×2 box? And too communal—as Cheryl Wischhover of Racked.com recently opined

via Retail Design Blog

The number one complaint voiced by women and men everywhere is that the lighting is harsh, glaring and reminiscent of the dentist’s chair or perhaps a police interrogation room (“No, officer, I did not realize that pairing Converse with Versace was a crime against fashion”).

So what is it about dressing room lighting that’s just godawful?

Lucky for us, Buzzfeed writer Kristin Chirico did a highly illuminating rundown of fitting room lighting, visiting 20 different stores to get the lowdown on the good, bad, and ugly (Of lighting. Not you. You look great). Although she doesn’t include any pictures of the lighting fixtures themselves, it’s easy to read between the lines for the lighting principles at work. A close reading of Chirico’s post reveals the following facts:

Fact #1 – Overhead lighting is the worst

Charlotte Gomez via Buzzfeed

Apparently, many stores throw up a few ceiling mounted or pendant fixtures and call it a day. Bad idea. Very bad. Ceiling mounted lighting inevitably creates unflattering shadows on the face and body, highlighting your worst flaws. 

Fact #2 – Fluorescent lighting is the worst

You look green around the gills. Perhaps you’ve contracted dengue fever? Never mind, it’s the lighting in this dressing room.  It’s flickering and making your face look green. 

Fact #3 – Harsh overhead fluorescent lighting is the absolute worst

This combination would make Angelina Jolie look terrible. Too bad it’s so common in a retail setting.

Fact #4 – Think true-to-color with a hint of warmth

From Chirico’s post, I surmise that the best dressing room lighting is a lot like Goldilocks’ taste in porridge: Not too cool, not too warm, but just right—not as blue as daylight, but not too home-and-hearth either. Offenders have the obvious, low CRI fluorescent or halogen lighting. The fitting room lighting that looks the closest to daylight is not necessarily the most flattering. Conclusion: make sure the lighting has a high CRI and the color temperature is not too blue, not too yellow. It should have a 90+ CRI and be warm with a pinkish hue.

Fact #5 – Linear LED fixtures mounted to either side of the mirror are like a magical elixir for your face.

Magic. For your face.

This makes so much sense now: shine some high CRI LED strip fixtures directly from the sides of the dressing room mirror. This will fill in any unflattering shadows and offer soft, even lighting, making you look like the You who gets 8 hours of sleep a day and listens to NPR on the regular.

So there it is. Hopefully, clothing retail stores (*cough*, Forever 21, *cough*) will take the hint and switch to high quality, mirror-mounted LED lighting. In the meantime, happy shopping, and don’t let the Other get you down. 

The post Dressing Room Lighting: Finding the Perfect Fit appeared first on Language of Light — The Intersect of Lighting, Energy Efficiency and Development.

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Talieh Ghane researches the interaction between light and health at the California Lighting Technology Center. We talked about the biological vs. visual system of light, how to synchronize your circadian clock for better health, how light is like a drug, and why you shouldn’t be on your phone right before bed (guilty).

Can you give an overview of your research on how lighting impacts human biology?

Our body is confused—doesn’t know when it’s day and when it’s night—because during the day we don’t get that much of the intense light that you’re supposed to get if you’re in nature. And at night, when you’re not supposed to get any blue light, you get a lot of blue light.

We know that when light enters our eyes it travels through two separate pathways. For a long time scientists were aware of one pathway, the visual pathway that connects the retina to the visual cortex and helps us [perceive] the world around us.

Right now, [we know that light also travels] through this new set of photoreceptors called intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGCs) and they contribute mostly to the biological pathway. The biological pathway sends a signal to our master biological clock (a very small area in the hypothalamus) and this clock needs to be synchronized with the cues it receives from the external environment.

The clock needs to be reset daily with a 24 hour day-and-night cycle. And if the clock is not synchronized, then our entire system is off.

One example is when we travel [through] different time zones. We have jet lag, we are tired and sick, and our whole sleep schedule, digestion—everything is messed up because our biological clock is running at the previous time zone, and then we travel to a new time zone and it’s trying to adjust itself.

When the retina sends information about the light in the environment to the biological clock, it resets itself and we get melatonin secretion, hormone production, our digestive patterns, our muscle strength, rest-activity cycle, core body temperature, immune response—everything is responding to the biological clock. And the whole thing is governed by signals from the light and the environment and how it synchronizes with the internal clock.

For millions of years, humans were exposed to sunlight in the morning and they went to sleep at nighttime. During the day we were exposed to the greater dynamic range of light [that] sunlight provides. We get different color temperatures and intensities of light throughout the day with natural light—with daylight.

And at night, human beings were not really exposed to high intensity light. Our main source of light [in] pre-history was the light from the moon and stars, which is really insignificant. Later on, we had fire and candles, which don’t really have that much light in the blue part of the spectrum. They’re more of a red light, which appears to be really insignificant to our biological system.

In fact, more than 90% of our time is spent indoors.

After 1880 when electric lighting was discovered, as humans we spend more and more time indoors. In fact, more than 90% of our time is spent indoors. We spend a lot of time at night at home: We watch TV on big screen LED TVs, we spend time on iPads, iPhones, and our computers late at night. And those have a lot of blue light—there’s more energy in the blue part of the spectrum—which our biological system is really sensitive to. Our body is confused—doesn’t know when it’s day and when it’s night—because during the day we don’t get that much of the intense light that you’re supposed to get if you’re in nature. And at night, when you’re not supposed to get any blue light, you get a lot of blue light.

So that’s why when we [see] the massive increase in the rate of breast cancer, prostate cancer, infertility problems, retinal degeneration disease, obesity problems, diabetes—those are known to be linked to the destruction of our biological pattern.

It might be too late when we finally realize what we have done to our bodies.

That’s actually what I’m fascinated with, and I think it’s really a public health issue. Right now a lot of the policies and the technology are [focused on] the visual effects of light and not really considering the biological effects of light—because we don’t see it, it’s not tangible. We don’t really know what’s going on and we can’t really quantify this light, so it’s very hard to pinpoint where the problems are. But we are starting to see all these issues. It might be too late when we finally realize what we have done to our bodies.

I have heard some information in the media about the health effects of blue light from electronic devices. Do you think the issue is getting enough publicity? 

I don’t really think it’s enough. I think receiving proper lighting throughout the day should also be a part of our lifestyle. It’s not just about proper lighting design, it’s also just little things that are important—we need to spend one to two hours in the morning under daylight. If we’re not receiving enough daylight in the morning, we should make sure that in our workspace, in our hospital [room], whatever space that we are confined to, we have high intensity, high CCT (correlated color temperature) light sources with high blue content. We need to have that kind of exposure for at least one hour in the morning.

And this is going to help our biological clock to be reset everyday.

There are multiple [studies] that show that effective lighting can really benefit healthcare outcomes. It reduces the cost of healthcare.

At night, if you need to study late or you have work to do late at night, there are tinted goggles that are orange or amber-colored that you can wear. Right now there are [also] different types of software that you can upload on your computer—f.lux is one of them. It changes the color of your screen so it takes some of the blue out. Apple recently added a night mode to the iPhone that you can program and after a certain time you don’t receive as much blue [light].

Also, we [should] change the policies. Right now, most commercial and industrial applications are transitioning from fluorescent to LED. But the industry is actually trying to replicate the same type of lighting that fluorescent was providing—it’s just the spectrum that’s changing. We are trying to get the same kind of lighting capability from the very dynamic light source that LED provides. We can tune the color temperature, we can tune the intensity, and we can program this system to mimic the spectrum of daylight throughout the day.

And I think [this is significant], especially in spaces where lighting is really important—my main research [has been] in a hospital setting. In a hospital, we know that patients are very confined to that space due to their physical limitations. They can’t really go out and they [are not] exposed to the outdoors or enough daylight.

We are trying to get the same kind of lighting capability from the very dynamic light source that LED provides.

In a hospital, you have a very consistent type of lighting throughout the day and night. They turn the light on when the nurse comes in to do their routine, their checkups. And that’s very uncomfortable for the patient and it also messes up their biological system. And if the patient can’t sleep enough, then they can’t recover fast enough, their medication doesn’t work as well . . . There are multiple [studies] that show that effective lighting can really benefit healthcare outcomes. It reduces the cost of healthcare. [Patients] are taking less pain medication when they are exposed to better lighting, the length of stay is shorter, and depression [decreases] in patients with dementia.

I think with LED lighting especially, in a space where people can’t go out to be exposed to good lighting, we can program it in a hospital setting to mimic the same kind of spectrum and similar intensity throughout the day [as daylight].

Is that what you would like to see in the future?

The process has already started. There are a few hospitals in Europe that are already doing this. Yes, this will be the future of healthcare design—I really believe it. It should be mandatory in hospital settings because it’s really key to the healing process of the patient, as well as the productivity of the staff: the nurses, the doctors. If you provide proper lighting in the nurse’s station at night they can be more alert and more productive.

Do you have any other tips for people who are trying to be healthier in the light they are exposed to?

Healthy lighting goes hand in hand with healthy darkness.

My best advice from what I learned in my research on light and health is that our biological system needs contrast. So it cares about the contrast [between] the light that you are exposed to during the day and the darkness that you are exposed to during the night. Healthy lighting goes hand in hand with healthy darkness. We need light during the day and we need darkness at night.

Have your room as dark as possible. Two hours before bedtime try to eliminate digital screens, TV—that should be a must-do before bedtime. And in the morning, even if you can spend 30 minutes of your lunchtime outdoors, spend some time outdoors, be exposed to high-level light and that can reset your circadian system, so you can sleep much better at night and be more productive [during] the day.

That sounds like really great advice. What about for someone who is on a night shift schedule? 

At nighttime our circadian system responds to pulses of light.

There’s been a lot of research about people who work the night shift. It’s possible to shift the phasing of their circadian system.

With a lighting prescription that a light and health specialist can [provide], we can change the phase shift of the circadian system [so] that [it] is in harmony with the work schedule. The problem is when you have rotating shifts—the rotating shift is worse because you get used to one biological cycle, and then two days after [that] you switch to a day shift and that destroys everything. It’s better to stay on a consistent night shift if you have to do a night shift.

For night shift workers, there’s a lot of research on what type of light you should give them. At nighttime our circadian system responds to pulses of light. During the day we need two hours of high intensity blue light (between 1 to 2 hours minimum) to reset our circadian system. At night time we don’t need continuous light, our circadian system responds to cycles, 10 minutes of bright light and then just regular light, and then another 10 minutes [of bright light]—in intervals. So we do four to five intervals of 10-15 minutes of bright, high intensity, high CCT light at night. That works better.

Would the ideal in the workplace be to program the system to match daylight?

The light that reaches our eye—that’s what counts.

The ideal would be mimicking daylight, that would be the best, healthiest option. What I’m saying is matching the dynamic nature of daylight: going from high color temperature (high blue content) to lower, and in the same way the intensity can also be dynamic. With daylight, the illumination is just too high for regular office hours. For regular office hours, between 300-500 lux on the task surface, that’s good enough.

But sometimes if there’s a budget problem, maybe in the office environment they can provide a lunchroom with skylights or high levels of blue light. So when people go in the morning to get their coffee or when they go to lunch, for 30 minutes to one hour they are exposed to a lot of high intensity blue light.

But in order for our biological system to be reset in the morning we need to be getting at least 600 lux at the cornea. The light that reaches our eye—that’s what counts. Sometimes we have a window in [our] office space, but if you are three, four meters away from the window, the intensity of the light that you get is not the same. So, that’s why in the office space—ideally, yes, you want to have very dynamic lighting, similar to what you are exposed to in nature.

But if that’s not possible, I think early in the morning getting at least one to two hours of higher intensity blue light. A lot of this can also be achieved—if the budget is the problem or the office space doesn’t want to change its entire lighting system—with personal task lighting. For example, doctors use light box therapy for depression, for people with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

What is a lighting prescription? Does it come from a lighting designer?

[W]e know that light is like a drug to the body. And just like a drug that you need a prescription for, how much you take, when you take it, what dosage, how many times a day, lighting works the same way.

Not really, no. Light and health is a very new field. There is still a lot that we don’t know. But based on what we [do] know, we know that light is like a drug to the body. And just like a drug that you need a prescription for, how much you take, when you take it, what dosage, how many times a day, lighting works the same way.

 

So the type of light that you receive, when you receive it, how many times a day, is it before—the marker for our circadian clock is our core body temperature—is it before your core body temperature [changes], is it after your core body temperature [changes]. The whole thing comes as a package. There are so many different factors that are important when we consider the non-visual effects of light versus the visual effects of light.

The visual system responds to light in a fraction of a second. But the circadian system is much slower in its response. It works as a cumulative response rather than a simultaneous response that the visual system has. And it cares about the intensity, the timing, the spectrum of the light, and it cares about prior history of exposure.

So for example, if you are exposed to effective light during the day [for your circadian system]—high intensity blue light during the day—you would be less sensitive to blue light at night. So even at night if you cheat and you’re working on your iPhone for half an hour before bedtime, your circadian clock wouldn’t be as disturbed as if you were not getting proper lighting in the morning.

The visual system responds to light in a fraction of a second.

History is important. So for a lighting designer, if you’re designing for, let’s say, a farmer, the farmer’s circadian system responds differently to light than a computer programmer who spends ten hours at the computer. So, that’s how history of exposure [comes into play].

So you’re saying that a lighting prescription might be something that a lighting designer might take into account when they’re designing light for a specific setting?

The amount of light that a young person needs to have their circadian system reset is much lower than the amount of light that an older person needs to get the same effects.

If you’re doing [lighting] for a hospital patient’s room, you can program the control system based on the age of the patient. If this is an elderly [patient] they need more light because the lens of the eye gets a yellow tint with age and it filters out the blue part of the spectrum that gets into the eye. The amount of light that a young person needs to have their circadian system reset is much lower than the amount of light that an older person needs to get the same effect.

If you’re doing the control system for a hospital patient’s room you can have a setting for older people and a setting for younger people. In the morning you can give them—the most effective time is two hours after waking—you can program it to expose patients to one to two hours of high intensity light.

And it can be changed. If the patient just came out of surgery and wants to sleep you don’t want to have that [light] on. It can be individually controlled by the patient and by the nurse.

And I know that right now a lot of people who are into lighting research, they do prescriptions for jet lag. So if you’re traveling they tell you exactly [what to do]—[they ask] when you arrive and what time zone you’re in, and they say, “Okay, so when you arrive you go under the sun for one hour and then you come back and then don’t open your curtains or do this.” And so they tell you exactly at what time you need to sleep so you can shift your circadian clock. It helps you to be in harmony with local time much faster.

Have you designed your own life to reflect your research?

No. Not yet. [laughing]

I think it takes time, and practice, and good habits. Right now, yes, if I don’t have a deadline, if I don’t have a presentation coming up, I try to eliminate blue light two hours before bedtime and I really see the difference in my sleep patterns. But I am researching all the time so a lot of nights I have to work till 3, 4 [AM]. Right now my lifestyle is not healthy at all. In the morning if I feel sleepy and I didn’t get enough sleep, I try to spend more time outside. I make sure that I am exposed to some sunlight on my drive to work. And I think that helps. I can feel on the days that are cloudy and I don’t get enough sunshine, I am a lot sleepier. And on sunny days I can see the difference.

What do you see for the future of lighting and what would you like to continue to research? 

I think the future of lighting eventually has to include the effects of light on human health and well-being. Just like energy-efficiency, at first a lot of people didn’t really buy into [it], because you have to spend more money to save just a little bit of money—by changing to an LED or energy-efficient lighting system. But eventually the technology wins and the price points drop down and more people are into energy-efficient lighting.

The same thing [will happen] with healthy lighting.

And for myself, I want to continue my research into the quantification of light for the biological system. That’s something that, in fact, I’ve started to do. We don’t really have a solid system to quantify light for the biological system and that’s because it’s a very complicated system. The way our circadian system responds to light is multidimensional, there are multiple variables that we need to consider. We have a lot of lighting systems that quantify light for the visual system. For example, you can say, “100 lux” and you have a sense of how much light it..

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When designing for a retail space, it is important to consider not only the design aesthetic that needs to be achieved but also its patron and their intended experience.

Lighting design for retail spaces vary from displaying delicate pieces of jewelry to endless shelves of apparel; and when it comes to coffee shops, the detail and effort into lighting design is no different. Min Cho and Jill Enomoto, directors of store design for Starbucks, share their tips on how to use light to welcome and guide customer experience.

Take Advantage of Natural Light

It is safe to argue that no lighting technology or light fixture beats the benefits of natural light for health and energy efficiency. So how can you effectively use the natural light in your space? “During the day, try to take advantage of as much natural daylight as possible,” Cho said. “We try to utilize large windows, mirrors or skylights to bring natural light throughout a space.

Layer Light Throughout a Space

“Layering” doesn’t only apply to clothing, it applies to lighting as well. Designers use ambient lighting, task lighting, accent light, and general lighting to fill a space and to guide our eyes to products, entrances and exits, where to sit and relax and where to work.  Cho tells us how he incorporates ambient with accent lighting seamlessly, “Inside the store, we light up the bar area brighter to pull the eyes into the space while allowing the warmth of the café to remain prominent in the foreground.” 

Here’re a few examples of adjustable task lights like LED track lighting which can be used to light products or art and some examples of general lighting like warehouse-style LED high bay pendants which provide general lighting for a space. You can more about why you should use LED lighting for art and products here

Use Light Fixtures as Art to Create Visual Appeal and Drama

If the luminaire is going to provide light, make it a sight to see. Make a statement with your choice of decorative fixtures and see how much of an effect it can create in the room. Enomoto references the Starbucks location on Canal Street in New Orleans, stating that this particular one inspired some of the interior pieces: chandeliers created from old iron gates and another centerpiece made from vintage horn instruments.

Bring Down the Lights After Dusk

Mirroring day to night may work for some businesses and Cho shows us just how they do so. “At the end of the day, we want to evolve from day to night,” Cho said. “At locations that serve customers in the evenings, we add dimmers to make the space feel more intimate and use specific light fixtures to assist in the story telling.”

Look for Energy-Efficient Lighting (such as LED Lighting)

The switch to LED technology is at a rapid pace and soon enough no Starbucks location will be left behind. “We are utilizing energy-efficient lighting throughout our whole portfolio of stores,” Enomoto said. “Starbucks switched out incandescent and halogen light bulbs in our stores for modern LED Lighting fixtures and it’s helped us decrease our energy consumption.”

The post 5 Lighting Design Tips from Starbucks’ Directors of Store Design appeared first on Language of Light — The Intersect of Lighting, Energy Efficiency and Development.

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