How happy does light make you? Can you have too much of a good thing, and is it really a medicine that makes people feel better? In response to a seminar, AnneMarie Eijkelenboom (EDAC) wrote a blog about the influence of good natural light on health and h
Health and happiness are affected in part by your surroundings. Thanks to knowledge about the connection between health and surroundings, buildings can be used more and more to positively influence well-being. This really is no luxury. After all, in the industrialized part of the world, we spend 90-95 % of our time indoors, sheltered from all kinds of weather. This means that for billions of people, a good design can make a positive contribution to daily life.
The sixth VELUX natural light symposium focused on the correlation between light, health and architecture. Deborah Burnett illustrated the gigantic influence of light on health with a neurophysiological diagram. The rhythm of daylight and darkness influences the circadian rhythm, that is to say, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep, healing of trauma, immune system, metabolism, weight and mood, among other things. To put it simply: not getting enough natural light is unhealthy.
Good light is not easy to define. There is a diversity and variation in human needs, depending on age, life style and work rhythm. Natural light is subject to cloudiness, geographical location and the position of the sun. Its intensity is dynamic and unpredictable. And it is exactly this dynamic nature that affects our biorhythm.
The alternation of light and shade is a basic element in architecture. More isn't always better. Two speakers illustrated this, using the following examples. With his architecture, Song Yehao brings about a poetic whole, displaying the relation between climate, light, privacy and craft. For The Studio in Guiyang, he built the façades out of wickerwork mats, produced within a 60-mile radius by the local population. The mats mitigate the harsh light and prevent people inside the building from being blinded. With the design of his semi-transparent façades, Song Yehao aims to connect to the East Asian tradition. Another example is Gunnar Asplund's 1928 Stockholm library. Using daylight simulations, Martin Schwarz argued that when Asplund designed the reading room in the centre of the building, he deliberately chose not to use a single large skylight, but a circle of narrow windows, alternated by piers high in the room. The windows provide sufficient and diffuse light in the centre of the building, even when the sun is low in the sky. These examples illustrate that natural light should be maximized in each room, but not just from the point of view of cost reduction and energetic problems. Lots of light is a good thing, but a 100% glass façade is often impracticable, boring, expensive and an energetic disaster.
The Studio in China and the Stockholm library were developed based on knowledge and intuition. They are examples that anticipate their surroundings, intended use and geography. And yet, they leave some questions unanswered. Does light positively contribute to health and well-being in these buildings, too? What is right, and how do we find the answer to this question? Marilyne Andersen is in charge of a study investigating methods to assess and simulate light. The simulation of light in a building design provides better insight into the visual effects of the amount of light, contrasts and backlighting. This way, simulation techniques are used in a supporting way to focus attention on people, with their own, varied design wishes. In addition to this technique, links to biomedical, psychological and anthropological research are necessary, as are links to light, air, noise and views - links that lead to experience and intuition as well as good and inspiring architecture.
Just as Koen Steemers illustrated 5 ways to achieve well-being (connect, keep active, take notice, keep learning and give), I invite all readers to name their 5 favourite buildings. The question if light plays a large role in these buildings, is a rhetorical one