Daylighting and Health

daylight-health-benefits

The Health Benefits of Daylighting

Plants aren’t the only living organisms that metabolize sunlight, we human beings do too. While the relationship daylight exposure and our health isn’t simple, it is important to know. Most people are aware of the risk of skin cancer from long exposure without protection, a number of studies and scientists suggest that moderate exposure leads to a surprising number of health benefits.

  1. Daylight helps lower blood pressure.

    A group of researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that as soon as daylight hits the skin, a compound is released that helps lower blood pressure.

  2. Daylight improves bone health.

    The most well-known health benefit of daylight is the creation of Vitamin D when daylight hits the skin. The creation of Vitamin D also creates Vitamin D3, which has been shown to reduce risks of bone fractures.

  3. Daylight improves brain functions.

    A study by the University of Cambridge found that higher levels of vitamin D were correlated with higher levels of cognitive function. The inverse was also true, where lower the levels of Vitamin D among those with lower cognitive function. Even more studies have shown that daylight could help with grown of nerve cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating and storing memories.

  4. Daylight eases mild depression.

    A lack of daylight can cause a condition called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a common mild form of depression in the winter months or for workers who have long hours in artificially lit buildings. Moderate daylight increases the levels of natural antidepressants in the brain, like serotonin.

  5. Daylight improves sleep quality.

    When daylight hits our eyes, the brain sends a message to the pineal gland to stop production of melatonin, the hormone mainly responsible for making us drowsy. When it starts to get dark, the message stops and melatonin is produced again. Over production of melatonin during the day leads to low levels at night, making it harder to fall asleep.

  6. Daylight improves growth in children.

    Studies have revealed that amount of daylight a child gets, especially in the first few months of it life, has an effect on how tall the child grows.

  7. Daylight improves the immune system.

    Daylight helps suppress an overactive immune system, which is why daylight is used to treat autoimmune diseases like psoriasis. Daylight also causes an increase in white blood cells, which play a key role in fighting diseases and infections.

  8. Daylight reduces risk of some cancers.

    Scientists from the University of California noticed that higher levels of Vitamin D drop your risk of many cancers, especially colon cancer and breast cancer. Other studies show that Vitamin D supplementation produce a dramatic 60% drop in risk of developing any form of cancer.

Blue spectrum of light.

The biggest reasons for these health benefits is the full spectrum of color that daylight provides. Most artificial light is on the yellow spectrum only, whereas natural daylight carries the full spectrum, especially blue.

It is important that daylighting systems must not filter out the blue spectrum of light. These benefits cannot be achieved without the blue spectrum of light. When a daylighting system has yellowed it is actually a failed system because it is filtering out the blue spectrum of light.

Case Study: Chase Bank

Translucent Vs. Transparent Daylighting

transparent vs translucent daylighting

When Should You Use Transparent Daylighting and When Should You Use Translucent?

Proper daylighting design requires use of both translucent vs. transparent daylighting. Glass or other transparent glazings provide a view of the outside, making the room feel larger and bringing the outdoors in. However, glass also brings in solar heat and causes glare, making the space uncomfortable and difficult to work in.

Translucent Vs. Transparent Daylighting

Translucent Daylighting Is the Most Cost Effective

Utilizing translucent daylighting is the most efficient and effective way to provide natural daylighting. Translucent panels are far more effective at blocking heat, providing savings in energy usage. Translucent panels also scatter the light, eliminating glare and reducing the amount of both artificial light and amount of daylighting needed, reducing both operating costs and installation costs. Translucent panels are cheaper to manufacture and install than glass, providing the best cost to usage ratio.

CPI Daylighting’s translucent polycarbonate, like their UniQuad or QuadWall products, provide highly diffused light without glare or solar heat gain. Diffuse light is like light on a cloudy day; small shadows, no spotlighting, low heat and easy on the eyes.

Transparent Daylighting Provides a View

Glass on the other hand provides a view. However the tradeoff is that it also delivers glare and solar heat gain. Glass is also expensive, and to get similar U-values, the glass has to be coated, triple pane, and insulated with argon gases, all adding to the costs. The seals will eventually break down, the gases leak out, and performance drops, and either replacements are expensive and difficult, or impossible.

But, there are areas that a view is necessary. No one wants to work in a building without a window or view outside. So the key is to balance the translucent vs. transparent daylighting in the design.

Translucent Vs. Transparent Daylighting Usage

For general use, walls at eye height (6 feet – 8 feet) should have some transparent glazing, allowing for views outside. In almost all other cases translucent daylighting provides the best performance at the best price. It really depends upon the usage: gymnasiums work best with translucent daylighting, and office buildings do well with translucent daylighting, as glare and heat can drop productivity quickly.

Otterbox Gets New Warehouse Skylights

Otterbox’s new home brings natural daylight into the workplace

Otterbox’s new home brings natural daylight into the workplaceSkylight Specialists was contacted by General Contractor Brinkman Construction. They wanted to bring in Daylighting into a 36,000 sqft warehouse. Their goal was to achieve savings to the lighting costs of such a large indoor space. The placement of the 4’ x 8’ translucent skylights bring in a tremendous amount of light. The dramatic scene shown above illustrates the need for very little electrical illumination.

Bringing natural daylighting into the workplace or schools for that matter achieve better attendance, higher productivity and even health into the structure. Daylighting studies have shown that when you bring in the blue spectrum of natural daylight you make your workers and your students better and healthier people.

How Daylighting Impacts Our Productivity

Increase Your (Or Your Employees) Productivity with Proper Lighting and Temperature

Daylighting has many benefits, and while most companies and studies focus on cost reduction, daylighting can have a more subtle, yet equally important benefit for yourself or your company.

People who work in natural daylight work more effectively, work longer, feel healthier and happier by the end of the day.

 

9386-7901Most people notice the difference between daylight and artificial light (think about working another day in the office, or spending the day outside) but typically don’t equate it to natural lighting.

A recent study by Mirjam Münch (and others) compared the two environments and recorded how performance, sleepiness, and hormonal activity. They studied two groups of people, one worked in natural daylight, the other in artificial lighting for 8 hour periods. Their results:

Subjects felt significantly more alert at the beginning of the evening after the DL (daylight) condition, and they became sleepier at the end of the evening after the AL (artificial light) condition. For cognitive performance we found a significant interaction between light conditions, mental load (2- or 3-back task) and the order of light administration.

4325_Foothills_Academy_PIn other words, even after just one work period, people felt more awake at the end of the work day (and through it) and slept better that night when working in natural daylight versus artificial light. They also performed better, especially on more difficult tasks, in daylight than artificial light.

One more important finding is that our cortisol levels drop significantly under artificial or poor lighting conditions. Cortisol controls our stress and energy levels, losing it prematurely means you are more tired and stressed throughout the day.

To put it briefly, spending the day in dim or artificial light makes us sleepy, less productive and stressed. This can be powerful knowledge to have in home and office design. Paying attention to your and your employees rhythms and needs can improve your and their productivity and make the place a more enjoyable environment.

Failed Fiberglass Skylight at Quabbin Regional High School

Decade old fiberglass skylight failure and successful poly-carbonate replacement by CPI Daylighting

After only a decade, the translucent insulated fiberglass skylight at Quabbin Regional High School in Barre, Mass., had deteriorated beyond repair. Thermal and wind movements, repeated leaks and yellowing compromised the skylight’s ability to perform to the point that it was non-compliant with current energy and state building codes.

The fiberglass skylight is structurally unsound or otherwise in a condition seriously jeopardizing the health and safety of school children where no alternative [to replacement] exists.

Massachusetts School Building Authority

The product they had up there was outdated and it wasn’t worthwhile to put back. In our research, we found the CPI daylight system and we used it because we liked the detailing and that it didn’t rely on sealants. The energy value was just so much better and it looked better—it’s a slick looking product.

Elvin Phillips Boston Bay Architects, Allston, MA

The added insulation is just so much higher than the other products to consider with a thinner envelope. This is a huge skylight so the amount of energy mathematically that you save made a compelling argument. The school will probably make their money back on that within five to 10 years, that’s for sure.

Elvin Phillips Boston Bay Architects, Allston, MA