Shedding Light on Light and Health

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					                                          Lighting and Health Conference                                                                                               11

Shedding Light on Light and Health
 The ILE’s ‘Lighting & Health’ conference at the Barbican Centre on March 17 was the first independent UK conference
 involving academic researchers, health professionals, educationalists and lighting designers, in discussions on light
 and health – and the implications for design. Here two students, Marilyn Mackay and Nuala Gurney, who were given
 bursaries to the event, offer their impressions of the day

1. Well-run... and Met its        has arisen particularly from      Some case studies were                      detail. The building is very
                                  recent urban industrial           presented which modelled                    pleasing and inviting. The
Goals Brilliantly                 living practices, including       this. For example, a school                 lighting designer had earlier
                                  night-shift work. There is        classroom was shown, which                  spoken of work being done
I attended the ‘Lighting          decreased access to natural       was designed for children                   by a colour therapist, using
and Health’ conference            light.                            with autistic spectrum                      two sizes of immersion light
as a trainee counselling                                            disorders and complex                       boxes, from which people
psychologist. The                 By contrast, Dr. Richard          learning difficulties, using a              would choose colours they
conference was a model of a       Hobday spoke of the health        carefully designed dynamic                  felt they needed from a
well-run and well-resourced       benefits of direct sunlight,      colour-change light ceiling.                therapeutic perspective. The
event. Attendees comprised        both on the immune system         This allows communication                   therapist had apparently
a friendly and diverse group,     and ‘emotional stability’. He     by light, and light-changes,                been drawn to work in this
and it was small enough for       said, however, that many          which are direct and non-                   way following the frustration
participatory interactions.       in the urban population do        verbal, to be used during                   of simply using the usual
Good time was also allowed        not get sufficient exposure       changing patterns of the day,               talking therapy paradigm. It
for discussion after grouped      to sunlight, so suffer from       and which offers the support                appears to be very dynamic
presentations.                    vitamin D deficiency.             and quality of stability                    and effective, from reports
                                  Research has shown that           needed by this group in a                   given at the conference.
Being a student of                ‘light levels needed to           learning environment.
psychology, the key-note          promote well-being are much                                                   An organisational psychologist
presentation by Professor         higher than those required        Another example shown was                   and consultant from Arup
Josephine Arendt was              for vision’.                      of an eco-friendly conference               Lighting spoke of their work
on familiar territory. She                                                                                      to achieve good lighting for
presented research from the                                                                                     office workers, and to generate
Centre for Chronobiology                                                                                        ‘interesting and healthy
at the University of Surrey,       ‘This research could return the human                                        workplaces and environments’.
on links between light             community... back to some older beliefs about                                I was reminded of a classic
and circadian biological                                                                                        experiment in organisational
rhythms and effects on the         well-being and of the importance of light’                                   psychology, where the walls of
pineal hormone melatonin.                                                                                       a working area were painted
From a psychotherapeutic                                                                                        a new colour, and productivity
perspective this is interesting                                                                                 improved. In that case, it was
                                                                    and exhibition centre in                    thought this was the result
in terms of sleep and sleep       Beyond Talk                       Kent, where lighting has
disorders, metabolic rates                                                                                      of a perceived level of ‘care’
and also what she referred        As a counselling                  been designed with very                     being shown to workers by
to as ‘mood’. She also            psychologist, both these          careful attention to both                   employers, simply by re-
discussed the effects of blue,    presentations suggest to me       its technical and aesthetic                 painting.
white, red and green light.       that therapy must go beyond
                                  merely ‘talking therapies’ and
Enriched blue light, using        include addressing these
Philips light boxes, has          very significant research
already showed benefits for       data. Added to which, there
emotional well-being. Blue        is a long history of spiritual
light, she argued, is the most    valuing of the sun and the
important in relation to health   moon -- and today, too,
                                                                                                                                                     Photo: Zumtobel Lighting

– and also helps maintain         an increasing ecological
‘alertness’. By contrast,         awareness. This research
older people responded            could return the human
favourably to green light.        community, which has
She cautioned, however, that      become commercialised,
‘optimum wavelengths still        globalised and de-sensitised,
need to be defined’ – and         back to some older beliefs
this is work in progress. As      about well-being and of the
she noted, the extensive          importance of light to the            Shape of the future? -- the successful colour-change lighting installation
                                  quality of life.                                        at Yeoman Park School, Nottingham
need for lighting research

12      Lighting and Health Conference

     Complex Field                    would be for professionals         to be very beneficial to my            vitamin D deficiency, for
                                      only. Luckily, I was proved        own dissertation, as Richard           the most part, unknowingly.
     This is a complex and            wrong.                             Hobday was one of the first            We know what causes all
     controversial field of work,                                        speakers. His book, The                of these things, yet only
     since manipulation for           I am studying for a Diploma        Light Revolution has been              in the last century have
     increased productivity alone     in Architecture at John            an essential read in my                we begun to pick up on
     is surely unethical. I felt      Moores University, Liverpool       research and the chance                how we, as designers,
     further debate would be          and am currently writing my                                               can contribute to the well-
                                                                         to see him present his own
     valuable, and note there is      dissertation. My topic is light,                                          being of the population.
                                                                         work was hugely beneficial.
     a seminar in July, organised     health and architecture and                                               The Romans designed
                                                                         I am more interested in the
     by the ILE (the JUL seminar,     when I was made aware                                                     their cities according to the
                                                                         architectural side of lighting
     ‘Dynamic Digital Facades         of the ‘Lighting & Health’                                                position of the sun, in order
                                                                         and Hobday addresses
     – Lighting Utopia or             conference at the Barbican,                                               to prevent disease. They
                                                                         this from both a historic
     “Bladerunner” Revisited’ on      I thought it would be the                                                 were using the sun in this
                                                                         and modern angle. What
     July 2 – see Diary) which is     perfect opportunity to seek                                               way thousands of years ago,
     to address a related issue                                          grabs my attention is that
                                      out lighting professionals         the fact that humans have              and it makes one wonder
     of the commercialisation         and gain more insight into                                                when we may begin to fully
     of lighting. In this case, the                                      recognised the link between
                                      the topic. I spent my year out     lighting and health for                utilise the knowledge of our
     debate is whether these          working in an architectural                                               ancestors.
     facades will ‘inevitably                                            thousands of years, yet we
                                      practice beside the Barbican       have progressed to a stage
     increase the dominance of        centre, so it was the                                                     I wondered why more
     commercial imagery within                                           where it has been largely
                                      perfect excuse to spend a                                                 students do not attend these
     the urban environment’.                                             disregarded.
                                      long weekend in London                                                    conferences, as today’s
                                      conducting my research                                                    students are the designers
     As a counselling                 by visiting hospitals and          Consequence of                         of the future. The chance to
     psychologist I would             reminiscing of times gone by.                                             gain knowledge from some
     encourage clients to develop                                        Neglect
                                                                                                                of the leading designers
     a good awareness of light                                           The consequences of this               and engineers in the field
     in their environments, both      All Relevant                       neglect in recent times                should not be passed up.
     domestic and work-related.       I found the conference very        have been significant -- for           However, from a student’s
     This would enable them to        well organised in terms            example the huge number                point of view, in order for this
     be pro-active in contributing    of the topics covered, as          of deaths caused by TB in              to happen, the events must
     to these environmental           they were all relevant and         the last few centuries, or             become more accessible
     spaces. I would encourage        interesting. It was more a         today, the fact that 60% of            to the student body. (Nuala
     them to seek sufficient time     gathering of like-minded           the UK suffers from severe             Gurney)
     in natural sunlight -- and       people, all interested in
     again be self-reflective about   different aspects of the
     the benefits.                    same subject. Upon arrival
                                      I was surprised to see that
     I felt that the bias at the      it was such an intimate
     conference was towards a         affair. However, as the day
     science-technology narrative     progressed I realised that
     -- and challenged some           this actually worked to my
     speakers to bring some           advantage as questions
     qualitative research into        could be addressed
     this area of work. However,      more easily. There were
     within a day’s conference,       some very interesting
     I gained much useful and         presentations throughout
     fascinating information and      the day, particularly those
     felt the conference met its      on the effects of light on
     goals brilliantly. (Marilyn      humans and also the lighting
     Mackay)                          designs for schools and
                                      light treatment centres.
                                      It was useful to discover
     2. An Intimate Gathering         background information on
     of Like-Minded People...         the effects of light from the
                                      people who have actually
     As a student, I had never        conducted the research.
     considered attending a
     conference such as this.         From the beginning I knew                      Sunlight for health – a strong theme of the event
     I always assumed that it         the conference was going

                                                               June 2009