Over time, the architectural community has become increasingly invested in the realization of environmentally sustainable design, and this trend shows no sign of abating. This is a global movement. Sustainable solutions acting in a major metropolis can save building owners significantly on operational costs and cut back in vast quantities on the carbon emissions that would otherwise pervade. And, in other parts of the world, sustainable lighting solutions can make the difference between continuing one’s day, be that education, work or home tasks, or allowing darkness to swallow up needed hours of productivity. Thus, sustainability touches us all.
From low impact materials to energy efficiency, to design for reuse and recycling, there is much to be done. In this context, design connects architects with their partners and consultants, as they work toward their common goal of defining and creating structures that live up to the promise of sustainability. With architecture, technologies, materials and products all merge to create the tangible pieces of lighting design. In their collective application we see the final effects, and the success or failure of strategies and visions. How these pieces are put to use by installers and later by building occupants has tremendous importance on their visual comfort, efficiency performance, function and beauty that must be considered carefully from design inception.
Able to realize the vision of their architectural partners, lighting designers are critical members of the process. For, it is very true that one of the most efficient ways to reduce the overall carbon footprint of a structure is to amend its lighting design with smartly conceived and realized design. And, in the developing world, sustainable lighting nourishes the very essence of life. Thus, although it is just one piece of the puzzle, lighting has an outsized effect on sustainability. Understanding what is possible in this arena only serves to invigorate a practice and encourage new paradigms.
Light triggers critical physiological and psychological responses within human beings. And, since most of us spend the majority of our lives in the built environment, the level and quality of light within these buildings has real implications for our health and wellness. Luckily, today’s architect is armed with sophisticated structural options that allow for more lighting choices than at any point in architecture’s history. In today’s design world, it is no longer a question of whether to design with light in mind, but how to design with light in mind. As we become more aware of light’s implications on our physiological and psychological selves, and as technology affords a greater range of options, architects and their partners are left with an increased repertoire to draw from. As it relates to health and wellness, the key points to consider are the quality, the quantity and the type of light being delivered within the space.
Consider first how light comes into play in a health-oriented society. Many functions necessary for growth and well being such as breathing, sleeping, blood pressure, body temperature, appetite, moods, mental acuity, and the immune system are governed by the endocrine system, which is strongly impacted and affected by light, both natural & created by electric sources. There is also evidence suggesting that proper quantities of visually perceived light are needed for healthy functioning of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that controls motivation, learning, and creativity; the limbic system, the part of the brain that stores emotional impressions of the world; and the motor cortex and the brain stem, the parts of the brain that coordinate body movement and the maintenance of life.