Turning the spotlight onto natural light

Our ancestors didn’t have access to artificial lighting. For thousands of years, human life revolved around daylight as the only aid for time, direction and visibility. Technology has progressed so that we aren’t as reliant on natural light as we once were.

It is believed that British adults spend 92% of their time indoors, and work an average of 40 hours a week, often indoors during daylight hours. Office staff typically work from 9am to 5pm, while doctors and medical staff will work 12-hour shifts and as for students – well, who can say!. But for all of its advances, technology cannot replicate the benefits of natural light on our performance, health and mood.

Natural light contains Vitamin D from the sun’s UV rays. Vitamin D is an essential pro-hormone nutrient that affects the parts of the brain that govern learning, memory and mood. Natural light also contributes to the mental and visual stimulation necessary to regulate human daily rhythms. A stimulated mental function promotes productivity and increases alertness whilst reducing eye strain, and mental function and memory recall are 10-25% better for those who are exposed to natural light during working and educational hours.

Exposure to natural light is thought to increase serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin which boosts mood and helps a person to become calm and focused. And onwards from this, research suggests that ‘happy’ people have stronger immune systems making them stronger when managing stress and trauma.

This learning has, in recent years been incorporated into modern design and architecture. New buildings, including as hospitals and office blocks are being designed with natural light in mind as demonstrated here.

However, where there is an upside, we often find a downside and so much natural light flooding modern buildings can give rise to alternative issues.

It is a well-known fact that too much sunlight, glare and heat from the sun may interfere with productivity and visibility and could even become a health hazard.  But completely blocking out natural light for extended periods of time isn’t the solution because darkness aids the reduces productivity, lowers mood and promotes sleep.

What is needed is a balanced method to effectively control sunlight by reducing interference which allows schools, hospitals, and offices to maximise well being and efficiency. Thankfully technology has enabled this with use of fabrics that range in density and light filtration, and products such as electrically operated blinds that allow for minute adjustment of light at height.  And so the list of technological innovation in shading solutions goes on.

The key to lighting success is having the ability to precisely manage the levels of light and  glare that enter any working or living environment.  And that’s something that we, here at Swanmac, are perfectly placed to do!