Although the shortest day of December 21st has already passed, the current days seem even darker and gloomier than the ‘cozy’ December days. “Have you seen the sun this past week?” I heard colleagues asking.
On the radio, it was a topic as well: lack of daylight makes people sleep badly these grey days.
Buildings are usually designed such that the indoor climate generally approaches a grey January day: with often monotonous, low levels of ‘flat’ light. For an important part, this is due to the invention of artificial light and air conditioning. Especially in the United States, the entry of these amenities was followed by buildings in which the workplaces were located on enormous open floor areas that were illuminated by endless rows of tube lights and ventilated with (as we now know) sickening air conditioning.
The human species has evolved in the flux of ever-changing daylight levels and dark nights. Scientists have shown that the body needs the change in color spectrum and intensity to ‘recalibrate’ the biological clock, which controls the production of hormones. Cooler, harder morning light makes you alert, while warm and soft evening light stimulates the production of melatonin and makes calm and sleepy. Daylight is also an important contribution to the mental well-being: it is an antidote to depression and for example in treating dementia patients, it is used for the regulation of day and night rhythms.
A modern office workplace has a light level of about 500 lux on the work surface. A home interior usually peaks at 100 to 200 lux. For comparison: depending on the weather and the conditions of the sky, the sun provides a light value of between 10.000 and 130.000 lux. We can allow a lot more of this into our buildings than we usually do now. Moreover, an hour of sunlight a day is already sufficient to conquer your winter blues. For your spiritual and physical well-being, go out during your lunch break for a purifying photon shower.
Ronald Schleurholts, architect partner cepezed
Cobouw, January 15th 2019