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and still benefit the circadian system. It’s also possible to use color-tunable
LEDs, produced by companies including GE and Philips, to shift to warmer
colors in the evening to support staff who work late. “It makes sense to shift
the light in the workplace later in the evening, since melatonin levels start
to rise about two hours prior to the natural bedtime,” she adds.
Getting the right timing can be tricky. Deborah Burnett, ASID, of Davis,
California-based lighting consultancy Benya Burnett Consultancy, takes into
account workplace hours, as well as the natural lighting of a particular location, which involves the siting of the building, its latitude, and where it is
within its time zone. She also thinks in terms of “circadian protection,” adjusting the dynamic light depending on the age and health of occupants and other
factors. Occupant surveys and on-site educational sessions inform occupants
about the biological impacts of the lighting. “LED lighting is so concentrated
that, used inappropriately, it can be harmful to certain populations,” she says.
To illuminate the new offices of the headquarters of the American Society
of Interior Designers in Washington, D.C., Burnett and partner James Benya
used a combination of specialty fluorescents and LEDs. Linear direct/indi-rect fluorescent fixtures provide general lighting, while warm-toned LEDs
supply after-dark task lighting. In addition, they used two types of LED MR16
track lights: cooler ones for lighting the product-sample library, and warmer
ones to illuminate vertical surfaces for evening wayfinding. Furthermore, the
dual CCT fluorescents transition from cool to warm to protect the employees’ circadian systems. “Correctly applied, circadian lighting is more than
color-changing lights,” Burnett stresses.
Indeed, we are just starting to see the light. Says Nathan Stodola, vice
president of product development at the International WELL Building
Institute in Washington, D.C., “We have reason to believe that maybe 300 to
500 lux isn’t quite enough light, but we also have reason to believe we don’t
have to deliver 100,000 lux [the noon sun] to derive benefits in alertness
and mood,” he says. “Research hasn’t landed on the exact numbers that are
optimal, and for what length of time … [but] there are significant actionable
steps to be taken now. And even just thinking about light beyond impacts on
visual processes represents a huge paradigmatic shift in the industry. And
those conversations are beginning, which is what needs to happen for us to
create healthier spaces for people.”
A former tech journalist, Lydia Lee likes to geek out about design and architecture for
publications including Architectural Record, Contract, Metropolis, and Dwell. She is based
in the San Francisco Bay Area and frequently writes about the interiors of tech startups.
6. Lutron lights
at the new ASID
by Benya Burnett
to adjust color
the course of the day.