Human-centric lighting (HCL) is gaining popularity in the home for its ability not only to set the mood and bring out the best qualities of a space but to emulate natural daylight patterns to help affect physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Smart homes aren’t the only places that benefit from this approach to lighting, however. HCL technology is showing up in all spaces where humans spend their time, including commercial meeting spaces. That’s because it can create a better lit environment for the tasks at hand and reset our circadian rhythms (body clocks) to match how we live and what we want to accomplish throughout the day.
Control Lighting Based on the Activity
HCL systems combine intelligent lighting control with LED lamps and fixtures that have the ability to change their color temperature and intensity. In residential applications, HCL enables scenic presets that give users a simple one-touch override of the natural environment. Homeowners can easily create a more stimulating or relaxed environment by tapping the appropriate scenic preset button. Multifaceted controllers will also let integrators incorporate all light sources into a scene, regardless of their technology. This is an important capability in personalizing a lit environment in a home – one that best matches the patterns and activities of the people who live there.
For increased productivity and visual acuity, it pays to take the HCL approach in places outside the home as well. For example, just as a home office could be lit to mimic midday sun levels to stimulate productivity, a conference room could be lit the same way. And just as you would dim the lights in a home theater to a warmer, lower intensity while watching a movie, you could do the same in a conference room to make videos or presentations easier to see.
Personalize Lighting to the Body Clock
Being able to dim and color-tune LED lighting also means we can render natural light indoors to better match the natural path of sunlight. That capability yields numerous advantages when it comes to making sure lighting coincides with a homeowner’s individual habits. It also improves sleep and perhaps overall well-being.
Let’s take a look at the science. The cycle of sleep and wakefulness is a key part of human behavior. When asleep – which is how we spend about a third of our lives – our brains memorize and process information, while our bodies clear toxins and repair themselves for proper functioning when awake. For these reasons, even short-term sleep deprivation significantly affects our well-being. But while scientists have long understood the importance of sleep, the role played by light exposure is sometimes overlooked.
Light is so important to the human sleep cycle because it sets our circadian rhythms via specialized light sensors within the eye. Our eyes detect the light and dark cycles within our environment and adjust the body’s circadian rhythm so that the internal and external day coincide. That’s why people with severe eye damage can find their body clocks are thrown off, leading to sleep problems. But that’s an extreme example; there is a much more common cause: artificial lighting.
For many of us, lighting in the home and workplace entails a multitude of artificial light sources generally set to one light level that approaches the light of the midday sun – no matter what time of day or night it is. Such artificial light can confuse our body clocks. Add to that the artificial light from all the electronic screens in our lives, and the result is a negative impact on our sleep and possibly our health or emotional stability. While artificial lighting is essential in our modern world, it also disrupts our circadian rhythms. Recent studies are showing that it can be tuned to help restore them. Enter HCL.
Essentially, the goal of these systems is to render ideal natural light conditions through these artificial sources. The lighting automation controller is the brain of the operation, and as with any technology, available solutions vary in their capabilities. More advanced systems can precisely determine their longitude and latitude; automatically calculate sunrise, sunset, and daylength; and set the lighting schedule accordingly to replicate the ideal conditions of daylight based on color tone and intensity throughout the day – no human intervention required.
HCL has been utilized in the residential space in an effort to improve the well-being of homeowners. While it’s not designed to bring people’s body clocks in line with the position of the sun like they were in prehistoric times – it would be impossible to live life that way in the modern world – HCL can help people create a personalized circadian rhythm that matches their lifestyle and helps them to fall asleep
more easily, wake up better rested, and be more active throughout the day. It can also help address the potential psychological and physiological issues that are created by disruptions to our circadian clock.
Outside of the smart home, HCL is increasingly being deployed in commercial spaces where occupants have little to no access to natural light. In offices and schools, HCL has been shown to increase alertness and concentration, resulting in higher performance and productivity from employees and students. In hospitals, psychiatric wards, and nursing homes, it has also been shown to improve patient care and shorten recovery times.
Combining HCL With Other Systems
In an integrated experience, lighting is but one element. Think of it as the solid foundation upon which a one-touch environment is built. In the residential space, integrators construct that environment through the seamless integration of the controller with a home’s subsystems, such as automated shading, allowing them to work in harmony with the lighting. They can also bring HVAC and AV systems into the mix for a more rounded approach to “residential well-being.” Commercial integrators can bring similar capabilities to their clients in the workplace, allowing them to ready the office for the day or create the ideal environment for a presentation in a conference room, all with the touch of a button.
As you can see, HCL systems aren’t just for the smart home. There are numerous advantages to incorporating them into a variety of spaces. By taking advantage of today’s advanced lighting controllers, integrators can easily take their lighting offering to the next level by delivering fully integrated, one-touch environments for their clients at home and at work.