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Did you know that in modern urban environments most of us spend more than 90% of our time in indoor environments with artificial and unhealthy lighting – mainly because of indoor jobs? That’s why BLOXHUB teamed up with LYS technologies to explore and identify new approaches to making indoor light healthy through a cross-disciplinary workshop.

Co-founder and CEO of LYS Technologies, Christina Friis Blach Petersen, kicked off the workshop by making a strong case for placing light’s impact on health firmly on the agenda. As she explained, referring to research on the subject, light is a main regulator of sleep and energy levels and exposure to the right light boosts productivity, alertness, and well-being for employees. Unhealthy and artificial lighting has been connected with work accidents, poor sleep, low energy levels and over the long term with lifestyle illnesses and chronic diseases. As such, the issue poses a huge financial burden on society. (Check out LYS Technologies’ website if you’re interested in delving into research on light’s impact on health).

How can it be then that buildings are built for people, while lighting is installed for standards, asked Petersen, wondering why lighting always seems to be the budget item that is cut down to a bare minimum when really light’s impact on health should be equated with healthy air and quality food.

When I caught up with her for a brief chat after her presentation, she said: “I’m fascinated by the discovery of non-visual effects of light on humans. With relatively recent research into our circadian system, we now know that light affects our health directly and it is the most important time-giver for our hormone production in the brain. For instance, mood-boosting serotonin levels rise when we are exposed to daylight and more dim and warm light triggers the release of melatonin, which helps us sleep at night. This is why it is important to get the right light at the right time throughout the day.”

Light is taken for granted
With the core mission of helping people live healthier with light, LYS technologies strive to create awareness, change behavior and make indoor light healthy. Their ‘LYS app’ helps users identify their natural chronotype (a classification system used to map out individual sleep and productivity patterns) and point to the optimal light rhythm of their day. Interestingly, many people suffer from social jetlag, which is the discrepancy that occurs when people adjust their natural clock to the more acceptable ‘social clock’. The classic example being the Night Owl chronotypes struggling in a Morning Lark world.

The main reason why Petersen and her team decided to co-organize an Urban Partnerships workshop with BLOXHUB was to explore new cross-disciplinary approaches to healthy indoor lighting in the work environment and reach new audiences.

“It was interesting to observe the engagement by the workshop participants and how much everyone seemed to care about the issue we are tackling. Light is something we tend to take for granted, but over the course of the workshop, people’s mindset began to change, as they understood how vital healthy light really is. It was such a great pleasure to see how the workshop encouraged collaboration across different sectors and disciplines. When hosting a workshop with the focus on creating awareness, it is important not to try and convert the converted, but to continue to strive to broaden the outreach. We will do this until light’s impact on health is placed firmly on the public agenda.” She said.

The workshop participants were divided into three groups and asked to come up with ideas for promoting healthy light within the setting of the factory, the office space and the home office respectively. One of the participants, Tomonori Makita who’s a Sustainable building engineer at Structured Environment said: “The combination between lectures and discussions in small groups makes for an inspiring and relaxed workshop atmosphere. I had a general understanding of the impact of light on health, but it was interesting to get more scientific data. As an engineer I often think about healthy work environments, but it was inspiring to hear different perspectives on the matter from university professors, managers, light experts and architects as well. It ensures a more holistic approach to the issue.”

Human-centric solutions
Petersen’s introduction to light’s impact on health was backed up later in the day by keynote speaker Steven W. Lockley, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Professor at Surrey University. Under the title “The right light at the right time: Redesigning light for alertness, sleep and health”, Lockley shared his team’s research revealing thought-provoking results such as significant reductions in nurses’ mistakes with adequate lighting. He also pointed out that the light sources used in schools are almost always 4000 kelvin even though it is scientifically proven to be counterproductive to learning. Light in a school environment needs to be at least 5000 kelvin and also the light spectrum needs to be right. As a general rule, Lockley pointed out that daylight is the best light source, and the next best thing is artificial light that mimics blue-enriched daylight and has the same light levels. As he said, “If you’re not sleeping there, you only need this light.”

Anders Nøhr, Associate and Architect MAA/MDB at ARUP gave an inspirational talk about daylighting in Cityringen underground stations pointing out that people from all over the world come to see Cityringen’s stations for the very reason that varying types of skylights allow for daylight to seep into the underground station and provide a visual of the outside from a platform 25 meters below ground. Something that simply does not happen in most big cities. He ended his presentation by encouraging everyone to go out and experience the kaleidoscopic effect of the skylights in the stations and how the reflecting light interacts with different materials.

Carlo Volf, MAA, PhD and Senior Researcher at Rigshospitalet rounded off the day by giving an inspirational talk on “Architectural planning of daylight – new psychiatry Bispebjerg”. He reminded us that the built environment is fundamental to our health and lamented that building regulations tend to ignore this. As he explained, the body should be understood as part of the building and as the starting point for finding more holistic approaches to healthy architecture, which may in fact mean challenging the way in which today’s buildings offer complex solutions to simple problems. For example, complex modern glass buildings cannot help regulate the right light at the right time, and modern windows with many layers do not let in the healing qualities of light. UV-light has an anti-septic quality, which kills bacteria, and we should let more of it into the buildings, he argued, emphasizing that the UV index and the air quality outside prevents disease.

Interested in more?
If you would like to hear more about the possibility of organizing a workshop with BLOXHUB’s Urban Partnership’s team, please read more here or contact Program Director, Lotte Christina Breengaard on e-mail or phone.