Major causes of absenteeism and "presenteeism" (reduced performance and productivity at work) are stress and depression. And both ailments have been associated with a lack of daylight.
Daylight in architecture is a portmanteau concept coined when static natural light and dynamic design come together. Designed to find a respite from wintry blues, it brought a paradigm shift in building inception and experience.
Office spaces are undergoing dramatic changes. Within this regard, CEBRA a Danish architectural design practice, based in Aarhus and in Abu Dhabi, has initiated an ambitious research and development program – WISE (an acronym for Work Innovation Space Education). It is aimed as a bridge between the ongoing fast-paced changes in the sectors of workspace and education. The object is to shape the design of buildings to inspire an environment of learning and innovation. Moreover, WISE connects architecture with cutting edge thought in the fields of education and entrepreneurship, research and studies in sensory stimuli, cognitive psychology, and behaviorism. The pursuit of WISE is to bring to life architecture which is fit to inhabit and able to captivate.
Light is a mysterious phenomenon which not only illuminates architectural form but also lends an emotional depth. It serves as a connection or channel of communion with the external universe and the world hidden within. Without daylight, buildings might be able to support our bodies, but they would never be able to sustain our spirits.
The comfort of a person in a professional space depends on how natural lighting is complemented by artificial lighting.
How do we handle it correctly?
The insights of neuroscience have manifested themselves within the practice of architecture. Impact of design and its foremost principles such as balance, proportion, symmetry and rhythm and the direct effect on our emotional responses can no longer be ignored. Also, parameters like blinking rates, glare levels, night blindness affect the quality of the environment in a room.
A poor night's sleep can have an adverse impact on overall health, memory and attention span. A study that compared workers in the Arctic during winter (short days) the tropics (long days) found that workers in the Arctic winter felt that they are not getting enough sleep. They were also more prone to depression — a finding backed by extensive research on the seasonal affective disorder (SAD), when some people grow depressed during the shorter winter days. Another study mentioned in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2014, led by Mohamed Boubekri of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, examined the quality of office workers' sleep. He found evidence that workers who spend most of their days in rooms without windows sleep worse than those with windows nearby. Moreover, they reported lower scores on all eight factors measured by the short-form health survey (SF-36), an established test of overall physical and mental health.
As a source of illumination, natural light is the best. Our sight adapts to it with ease. It has a proven impact on health and well-being – increasing focus during daytime, improving sleep patterns, decreasing depression risks. Utilizing day light generates enormous energy savings. Initiatives such as Herman Miller's Living Office and the research developed by Velux in relation to the importance of daylight in our daily life exclusively address this issue.
The focus was initially based on the “right to light”, an ancient Roman law which dictates that once you have enjoyed light through a window for a minimum of 20 years, you have a right to continue to enjoy that light, preventing others from building in ways to obstruct the same light. The rights are most usually acquired under the Prescription Act 1832 or the common law doctrine of ‘Lost Modern Grant’. Further, rights of light can transfer automatically from a demolished building to a new replacement building if the position of the windows in the new building is essentially the same as the windows in the demolished building.
Did you know that in the 50s, daylight was the foremost source of lighting the interior of buildings? Back in the day, the depth of penetration of light from a window into a building was approximately 16 feet. A space located further was inadequately lit.
The marriage of design and architecture gave birth to the phenomenon of daylighting in buildings. Once a brilliant beam of light pierced through a crack in the roof. Today, it lights up the central parts of buildings through skylights in the roof creating glamour, celebration, and high culture to set a building apart. The light of a space has the power to inspire the designers, the public and the users.
Learn from the star architects. Their continued use of daylight as a creative tool to carve a mood within architectural constructs is the glimmer of genius. Light can create a sentiment that pervades through physical objects with a transcendence that can breathe a spirit and form character in a brick and stone building.