Lighten Up!

Lighten Up!

Amazing things are happening in the world of light. Schools, educators and architects are all breaking new ground, or sky, to take advantage of the power of both natural and artificial lighting.
We’ll start with just plain old sunlight. It’s old news at this point that exposure to daylight cheers people up and helps them with their schooling. Perhaps you already knew that.

Light is also a big help in way-finding – no surprise there – but with solar power the electric bill has become less of a concern. It’s now become reasonable to provide a much more generous amount of light, both for finding your way at night and, in this case, in order to light up the roof of senior living apartments in Alcabideche, Portugal, when help is needed, making it that much easier to security officers to respond rapidly. (Photos courtesy of Marco Martinez Marinho, guedes cruz architectos)

alcabidechePhoto courtesy of Marco Martinez Marinho, guedes cruz architectos

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A little newer on the scene is a recognition that carefully tuned lighting can impact Seasonal Affective Disorder. A combination of skylights and adjustable artificial lights have been used to measurable benefit by the University of Northern Iowa in addressing SAD (www.humancentriclighting.org )

sabinhallUNorthIowaSADlighting

But that’s not all! Meticulous research on lighting has taken a careful look at our circadian rhythms – the way humans respond to different levels of light as the day waxes and wanes. The corresponding levels and types of light effect our dopamine, serotonin, costisol and melatonin levels. One study cited by the Philips company applied this information in one adjustable lighting design, leading to some mind-boggling results: high intensity, cool color lighting increased reading speeds by 35%; testing errors dropped 45%; and hyperactivity incidents plunged 76%. All of this came about with the installation of a simple lighting control panel – 4 buttons that a teacher can use to select the appropriate level of lighting for the beginning of the school day, to energize students, to help them concentrate during tests and to settle down. Read more about this at http://www.experience.philips.com/case/school-vision .

And one more thing — A whole lot of solar technology is pretty sophisticated and expensive, so it’s exciting to see some brilliant low tech applications in real world settings. In the video clip below see an almost free application courtesy of a Brazilian inventor. Filling a standard plastic water bottle with water and a little bleach (to kill algae), sealing the bottle half-way through a square of tin, and then imbedding the device in tin roofs allows third world villagers to enjoy sunlight, indoors, during the day.

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Tod Schneider
Written by Tod Schneider

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