According to a recent study conducted by the European Union, the average European spends the majority of their daily life indoors – up to 90 percent, in fact. With natural light responsible for controlling a number of human functions – lighting improves perceived comfort levels, as well as both psychological and physiological wellbeing – it’s unsurprising that passionate debates continue to centre on its role within design.
At the heart of this discussion is human-centric lighting, a design methodology that seeks to improve health, wellbeing and performance by combining the visual, biological and emotional benefits of natural light. In fact, by stimulating the circadian rhythm – the body’s internal cycle that regulates physiological function – in the right way, you can reduce stress, regulate hormones and prevent various diseases, such as pathologies related to blood pressure.
Natural light provides numerous business benefits, increasing employee concentration, interest and proactivity, while reducing stress and conflict
On top of the numerous health benefits, the presence of sunlight gives any room the illusion of infinite space, transforming perceptions and adding warmth. Now, through the adoption of new technologies, hyper-realistic artificial lighting systems can provide these benefits in the absence of a natural light source.
Di Luce in Luce
Imagine standing in a dark room with no way out: the brain will send danger signals, increasing stress and anxiety levels. Fortunately, working or living in a space like this is no longer necessary, as even the smallest and most closed-off rooms can experience the benefits of natural light.
In 2001, Paolo Di Trapani, a professor of physics at the Department of Science and High Technology at the University of Insubria in Italy, directed Di Luce in Luce, a theatrical performance explaining the Sun’s interaction with the atmosphere and nature by showcasing spectacular weather phenomena.
While preparing for the show, Di Trapani accepted the challenge of an imaginary and inspiring adversary: Marcel Minnaert, the famous astronomer and author of the 1993 book Light and Colour in the Outdoors. Di Trapani tried to recreate the phenomena described in Minnaert’s book in the laboratory. Through this experimentation, Di Trapani and his team developed and patented a product that mimics the light of the Sun – as well as a deep, clear sky – through a false opening in the ceiling.
Proportion of time the average European spends indoors
CoeLux, the company Di Trapani founded and now heads, is still one of the only companies creating lighting products of this kind. Although there is a broad market for natural lighting systems – every area covered by a ceiling could potentially house one – CoeLux is one of just a small number of artificial window manufacturers.
The purpose of CoeLux is to radically improve the quality of life of those who spend a significant amount of their time indoors – and there is plenty of evidence to suggest the company is doing just that.
Going back to that enclosed room scenario, for instance: according to CoeLux’s studies, people who stay in a room with the company’s realistic sky views record considerably lower levels of stress and anxiety than those staying in a room fitted with traditional, high-quality lighting.
Windows of opportunity
The CoeLux system works by combining three key elements: a cutting-edge LED technology that replicates the Sun’s light spectrum, direction and brightness; optical systems that reproduce the expanse of the sky; and a nano-structured material that mimics Rayleigh scattering, the physical phenomenon determining how we perceive the brightness and colour of elements in the atmosphere.
Offices are undoubtedly one of CoeLux’s most interesting markets due to the sheer length of time many people spend in enclosed workspaces every week. What’s more, natural light provides numerous business benefits, increasing employee concentration, interest and proactivity, while reducing stress and conflict.
Natural lighting systems could also be used in healthcare facilities – such as hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centres – in which patients are unable to access outdoor spaces.
While Europe’s leading facilities already benefit from the most advanced LED systems, natural lighting has the added advantage of strengthening and accelerating the process of healing. Exposure to sunlight facilitates relaxation in both patients and staff by improving their mood and reducing stress. As such, artificial windows could improve the traumatic experience of a hospital stay immeasurably.
The retail world is an important and exciting market, too. Shopping in natural lighting increases customer pleasure by enhancing the appearance of the products on display, boosting the vividness of colours and textures. Further, natural lighting systems help retailers attract more visitors, as well as prolong their stay, increasing the possibility of a purchase being made. Employees, meanwhile, benefit from the increased comfort of their work environment.
Another point of interest can be found within the mobility and transportation sector. Major transit hubs, such as airports, large train stations and subways, as well as many public infrastructures in large urban developments, do not always guarantee a steady or sufficient relationship with natural light. With millions of people exposed to these environments on a daily basis, the introduction of light via CoeLux’s system could yield massive results.
Room for improvement
In addition to its numerous installations around the world, CoeLux is an active partner in the Biophilic Office project put forward by BRE, a world-leading building science centre that seeks to study the impact of nature-inspired office designs on employee health and wellbeing.
The project will see subjects occupy a 7,000sq ft office – constructed in accordance with biophilic design criteria – while donning wearable biometric systems to monitor welfare. Questionnaires and online surveys will also be conducted in order to gain a greater insight into the participants’ experiences.
This commitment to human-centred design and the principles advocated by the Biophilic Office project is mirrored in CoeLux’s products. Installations range from large windows filled with a deep blue sky and dazzling sunshine, to more discreet openings that can be placed together in modular compositions to give the viewer the sense of a single Sun streaming through multiple windows at the same time.
New to the range is the CoeLux Moon, which produces a detailed full moon against a dark night sky. This product once again demonstrates the ability of artificial light to generate comfort and relaxation – even without illumination. In fact, the comfort produced by CoeLux Moon is not inferior to that generated by other CoeLux systems, although the intensity of light is thousands of times lower.
CoeLux Moon is just the latest example of how CoeLux is pushing the boundaries of artificial lighting systems and revolutionising indoor design. By continuing to deliver comfort, increase productivity and improve wellbeing, we hope to provide a brighter future for all.