Bathing in light is better for you than water
Science is stressing the importance of daylight but are we getting enough of it in our homes? The Royal Institute of British Architects recently launched a campaign — HomeWise — that calls for government to set a minimum threshold for light (and space) in buildings. Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, together with architects, especially those working in cities, are signing up to the campaign at withoutlightandspace.com urging designers to include more light. According to the campaign 63 per cent of us rate natural light as the most important aspect of a home.
Diabetes, insomnia, diminished immune system, premature ageing, depression, obesity, and disruption of sleeping patterns are all conditions connected to the amount of light we receive in our lives. "The average European spends 90 per cent of his time indoors," explains Per Arnold Andersen, head of the Knowledge Centre for Daylight, Energy and Indoor Climate — part of Velux, the Danish company perhaps best known for manufacturing roof windows. "But 30 per cent of all buildings provide an unhealthy indoor climate with too little daylight," he adds.
Velux also sponsors the Daylight Symposium, a group of scientists and academics who meet every two years to discuss advances in the understanding of the very complex subject of daylight. A speaker at last month's gathering in Copenhagen was Deborah Burnett, a California-based designer and member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, who has done extensive research into the effects of daylight on the body.
"Every single cell has a clock that responds to the built environment as well as the natural environment," she says. "The amount of light we receive in the day directly relates to the quality of our sleep." Burnett recommends adults try to have 20 minutes every day in the sun or daylight — ideally sometime between 9.30am and 11.30am.
A US glass manufacturer, Sage, has developed an electronically tint-able glass — electrochromic, to use the scientific term. Now available in the UK, it automatically darkens as the summer sunlight increases but still allows us the all-important view outside. One of the key advantages of Sage's glass is that it lets in light, but not necessarily the heat that comes with it.
Light-enhancing home technology
Technology companies such as Helvar offer whole-home light-sensitive systems that respond to real-time natural light levels to control interior blinds and lighting — making for huge energy savings. And for light-poor homes, there are also ingenious products that can help enhance illumination, such as light-enhancing paint.
Velux produces a Sun Tunnel, a kind of highly reflective light chimney that brings light from the roof into dark and enclosed spaces.
The use of glass internally and structurally as well as in windows makes a huge difference, allowing light to penetrate far deeper into the home. Glass panels, doors and even glass staircases are all great for added light and open out the space visually, too.
Light brings us pleasure and the more we can enjoy it, the more our health will benefit.
RIBA HomeWise campaign: withoutspaceandlight.com
Daylight Symposium: daylightsite.com
Deborah Burnett: deborahburnett.com
Sage Glass: sageglass.com/uk