Lighting A Way To Wellness

The impact of artificial lighting on human health remains a focus for the industry.

By Stuart Berjansky
From the June 2021 Issue

At one time or another, everyone has experienced the consequences of poor lighting—whether it’s a room so dim it’s difficult to study or work without eye strain or one so brightly lit that the glare can be debilitating. And if poor quality lighting is the default environment at work or school each day, it can quickly escalate from a factor that’s annoying to one with potential to negatively impact well-being, mood, and performance.

lighting and wellness
Natural lighting has a positive effect on people inside buildings. When that is not available, it’s beneficial to ensure a facility’s lighting is not having a negative effect on the people working or learning inside. (Photo: Courtesy of the DesignLights Consortium)

Lighting quality obviously impacts vision, but recent research has shown that it affects some non-visual physiological processes in the human body, as well—chiefly those associated with circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates processes such as alertness and sleep. Too much or too little light, or the wrong kind of light, at the wrong time of day doesn’t just make people tired and irritable—it can make them sick.

According to the International WELL Building Institute, studies show that 50 to 70 million U.S. adults have chronic sleep or wakefulness disorders associated with serious ailments such as diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, hypertension, and stroke.

Contributing to growing interest in “light and wellness” are studies such as one conducted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center and others in 2017 (“Circadian-effective Light and its Impact on Alertness in Office Workers”) that examined the effect of lighting supportive of circadian systems versus non-circadian supportive light among employees at two U.S. federal offices and two U.S. embassies. Self-reported scores by study subjects demonstrated that workers were significantly less sleepy and more alert and energetic on the days they experienced circadian-effective light. Study authors called it “particularly remarkable” that “four independent office buildings all showed the same trends.”

With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reporting that Americans spend an average of 90% of their time indoors, developing and promoting lighting products that help building occupants feel and function at their best is a logical course for the lighting industry.

Performance Metrics For Lighting

This issue is top of mind for the DesignLights Consortium (DLC), a non-profit organization that provides objective evaluation of product performance to aid the design of energy efficiency incentive programs for commercial and industrial electric utility customers across North America. New DLC Solid State Lighting Technical Requirements (Version 5.1) continue the DLC’s tradition of driving greater energy efficiency, while also addressing aspects of commercial lighting that improve user satisfaction and comfort.

lighting and wellness
With human health in mind, improving the non-energy attributes of lighting continues to be a focus for DLC and other groups. (Photo: Courtesy of the DesignLights Consortium)

In V5.1, the DLC released technical requirements that established standards for several lighting quality characteristics, ensuring products on the DLC’s third party-vetted Qualified Products List (QPL) are capable of dimming. In the future, adding additional quality of light performance metrics that correspond to the Illuminating Engineering Society’s (IES) definition of lighting for wellness (“optical radiation that stimulates the circadian, neuroendocrine and neurobehavioral systems in humans”) would provide data that enables users to better distinguish characteristics needed for various workplace, academic, and other commercial and industrial settings.

Since LED lighting installed now may run for a decade or more, strengthening lighting quality, dimming, and other controllability requirements when lighting is installed locks in occupant satisfaction, flexibility, and associated energy and cost savings for building owners and facility managers for years to come. Moreover, as companies strive to enhance workplace environments to attract, keep, and motivate employees, attention to lighting products that support and promote wellness is increasing among lighting professionals and end-users alike.

As we continue to push the envelope on energy efficiency, the importance of improving lighting’s non-energy attributes becomes clearer each day. Keeping pace with lighting research and improvements in technology, the DLC looks forward to broadening the base of information and product attributes available to support and promote commercial lighting products that serve the well-being and satisfaction of people in the built environment.

Stuart BerjanskyBerjansky joined DesignLights Consortium in March 2020 as the Technical Director. His responsibilities include providing technical direction toward the widespread adoption of high-performing commercial lighting solutions for the Solid-State Lighting, Networked Lighting Controls, and Horticulture programs. He brings over 30 years of experience in the lighting industry, having most recently worked for Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) with roles in sales, product management, and solutions architecture. Berjansky also has additional work experience in the ESCO market and with various lighting designers. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering with an emphasis in Illumination from Penn State.

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