The sun rises in the morning and so do our eyelids. At night, the sun sets and we get tired and go to sleep. In between, the sun arcs across the sky—its light interacting with our atmosphere at different angles. The result is a wide range of light intensities and color temperatures.
The 24-hour day governs almost all life on Earth. For many animals, including humans, it sets the internal body clock—biochemical mechanisms inside the body, also called the circadian clock. [Circadian coming from the Latin circa diem (about a day).]
This circadian clock regulates all our body processes by anticipating such things as light and other external factors. Perhaps it’s a holdover from our past, where our bodies were prepping themselves to be the most efficiently prepared hunters and gatherers and inventors and survivors.
Regardless of exactly why it exists (scientists are still trying to riddle out the exact “why”), our internal clocks tick away, and our bodies respond.
The International WELL Building Institute’s WELL program has recommendations on electrical design technology specifically related to minimizing the transmission of viruses in the workplace, that also positively impact overall employee health.
An enhanced electrical design can capitalize on our predictable body clock and maximize the healthfulness of the light around us.
Circadian lighting design attempts to bring the natural cycle from the sun inside. The idea is that by mimicking the light intensity and color temperature of the transient sun, the body’s normal circadian processes are supported and boosted.
Circadian lighting replicates natural lighting by using modern, tunable LED lighting systems and LED lighting control systems. These lighting systems can be manually or programmatically controlled to alter their intensity and color temperature, mimicking outside light.
Though still too young a process to be fully vetted, circadian lighting does seem to enhance hormone levels and strengthen the natural sleep/wake cycle. Workers in buildings with more circadian-style lighting systems have reported more positive moods, better concentrations, and improved sleep at night (see this GSA study). All these beneficial outcomes have a direct impact on a person’s health, including how prepared their body is to fight disease.
Circadian lighting is something to consider when designing or renovating a building’s electrical design or preparing a workplace for the return of employees once the protective stay at home orders have expired.
While LED lighting systems require an initial cost investment, they are more energy efficient that other illumination methods. Plus, add in the possible health benefits, and their true worth is easily seen—improving health, mood, and productivity all with the flip of a (light) switch.
Allen & Shariff is currently providing a webinar deep dive into this and other topics for healthier buildings.
Contact us today to schedule your webinar.