Why is light, in general, so important to our health, and what is healthy lighting?
In the way that clean water and clean air are important, the right light at the right time is a fundamental need. We’re used to seeing people carrying a water bottle around - but they so rarely look at the lights and quibble at the cost of a better-quality product.
Just like calories, it’s the quality as much as the quantity that counts. Time for your body and brain to recover through times of darkness is vital, too. Quality of light and – just like our diet – our urban lives mean that we need artificial light alongside the natural nutrition of daylight.
For example, our daily routines stay pretty much the same throughout the year - we don’t shift our schedules to follow the sun and moon. We need to use artificial light - and simple techniques like black-out curtains at night during the summer - to keep us on track.
Healthy lighting is not complicated or expensive. Most of all, it’s not a product - it’s a way of thinking about how we can harness the power of light and darkness to support our lifestyle.
How do you believe the power of light can change the world for good, both in terms of people and planet, and what impact will light have on the future of our health and environment?
The power of light is that it has the potential to be a real force for good.
I often think of lighting as a ‘canary in the cage’: the way you think about lighting reflects a wider attitude to people and to the planet - are you buying the cheapest to ‘tick the box’, or are you treating them with care and respect and thinking about the long-term impact of your decisions. Very often, a better lighting solution isn’t more expensive, but it always takes more time and courage to think outside the box and take a risk on a solution that may not have been tried before.
Another way lighting is a force for good is how it can support people who find life difficult already: creating spaces where they can be comfortable and relaxed can help them be their best selves and participate more fully in their communities. For example, I’m currently working on a project with a housing association where simple changes to the lighting, surfaces and switching is encouraging the residents to engage with each other with more confidence.
It’s tempting to focus on new buildings, but most buildings that will be here in 20 years have already been built. So we need to find sensitive, sustainable retrofit solutions to ensure light is fit for purpose and leaves a legacy behind.