Digital Systems Blog

Human Centric Lighting in Commercial Offices Boosts Health, Well-being & Productivity

690855708_Colleagues working together in an officeThe connection between natural light and health, well-being and productivity are widely known. However, in today’s society where the majority of people spend up to 90% of their time indoors, it is often hard to reap the benefits of natural light. 

Indoor Time Muddling our Internal Clocks

Furthermore, all of this indoor time messes with our internal clocks, known as our circadian system. Light is the primary stimulus of our circadian clock and because we are not getting enough light during the day, this deficiency is having adverse effects on our health and well-being. Disrupted circadian rhythms result in poor sleep, reduced concentration, and depressed moods, all which can negatively affect performance and productivity.

Human Centric Lighting - the Basics

Even though we work in well-lit buildings, conventional indoor lighting systems don’t vary light over the course of a day as natural outdoor lighting does. But now, human centric lighting (HCL) applications are being developed that consider the human body’s need for light and how natural light varies in intensity and color throughout the day. HCL is a form of biomimicry – an approach to solving problems by emulating nature’s patterns and strategies. By applying light characteristics such as color, intensity and timing to tunable LEDs using lighting controls, artificial lighting can mimic natural light and all its benefits. 

To illustrate, HCL systems gradually shift from bright, energizing blue-rich white during the day that helps keep people alert, to softer more relaxing red and orange hues at night to facilitate the flow of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.  The shifts help maintain the human body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Office Workers Benefit from HCL

Initial HCL applications have been deployed in healthcare settings where they are helping improve patient care and alleviate sleep disturbances, especially in elder care facilities and Alzheimer’s units. 

Building owners and facility managers are now incorporating HCL in commercial real estate to aid in improving employee concentration, performance, and overall health and well-being. 

A 2017 study from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute revealed that office workers who receive a robust dose of circadian-effective light experienced better sleep and lower levels of depression and stress, as compared to those who spent their days in dim or low light levels.  Further research from LRC showed that lighting systems delivering a high amount of circadian-effective light, especially early in the workday, could reduce sleepiness in office workers while also improving their mood and alertness.  

The research team found that even in open offices with many, large windows, office workers were not receiving enough light to stimulate their circadian system during the day, due to factors such as season, cloud cover, desk orientation, and window shade position. 

"One of the things we're learning is everybody's being exposed to very little light," said Mariana G. Figueiro, Professor, Director, LRC Architecture. "We talk a lot about too much light at night, but the truth is we may be getting too little light during the day, and that may be the main issue of all the negative effects of the built environment on health and wellbeing. Part of what we're doing is we're establishing a minimum amount of circadian stimulus that people need to be exposed to in federal buildings.”

HCL Can Help Improve the Bottom Line

For years, lighting control systems have been helping reduce energy consumption and meet building codes. But now with HCL they are also improving net profits.  Krystal Maxwell, research analyst with Navigant Research, explains, “Rather than doing the same thing more efficiently, human-centric lighting can help increase revenue instead of just decreasing costs. Human-centric lighting — such as the design and tuning of LEDs to improve human health, well-being, and productivity and performance — is a global, growing trend. Just as people prefer different temperatures, they also prefer different light levels, and these can vary based on each specific task and location. Human-centric lighting provides an overall improved quality of life as well as helping businesses reduce spending through an increase in productivity among employees.”

Download the guide below to learn more about how organizations are making their building occupants happier and more productive using smart lighting.

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Topics: Human Centric Lighting