It is the most important concept when it comes to a useable, liveable space. It exaggerates space, lightens a room and is scientifically proven to improve moods and increase work ethic. In this blog article, we explore why humans have become so distant from the natural cycle of the sun and how we can improve this.
How does a lack of natural light affect us humans?
According to the NHS, 7% of people in the UK suffer from or are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which affects appetite, concentration and stress levels. The main cause of this medical disorder is lack of sunlight. Humans were not designed to spend as much time indoors are they are and this is an overlooked issue: it has been particularly undervalued in Finland for years where ‘Kaamos’ occurs (weeks of dark days and nights, a phenomenon that only occurs inside the Arctic circle).
The human race has revolved around natural daylight for thousands of years, and many religions have worshipped the sun as it was praised as being the ‘source of life’. Electric lighting became available and popular at the end of the 19th century. Before then our ancestors relied on the sun to provide the light and over time candles were used in the dark evenings which gave a soft, mood lighting which wasn’t as harsh as modern electric lighting.
Before electric lighting was commonplace, the human circadian rhythm was centred around the sun and determined the working hours and living patterns were adapted around the sun. Our modern living environment means that working patterns have changed and we have all become hugely dependent on artificial lighting – we’ve even developed ‘day-light lights’ that create the same colours as natural daylight to trick our bodies to feel like we’re more in-tune with nature’s body clock.
Modern culture has also reduced our time outdoors because most of us are working during daylight hours, 5+ days a week. This has made it incredibly difficult to gain the benefits of daylight as we simply aren’t outdoors enough to benefit from it. Regardless of these modern ways of living, humans remain programmed to benefit from natural daylight but we can no longer experience the natural day and night cycle that revolves around sunlight.
How can glazing bring us closer to nature and bring us back to our natural circadian rhythm?
We are beginning to accept how beneficial nature is for us and how we should stop or at least slow down how much we are distancing ourselves from the natural environment. Natural daylight doesn’t just benefit our bodies directly by helping us produce Vitamin D, sunlight also helps to brighten our living and workspaces to create vibrant and positive spaces. Using large glass elements throughout a build will increase the amount of natural light entering a work or living space. IQ Glass specialise in large, minimal framed glass solutions such as their Minimal Windows sliding doors or completely frameless ‘Picture Windows’ which help to improve the connection to the natural environment.
Lack of access to natural light has been singled out as of the main causes of ‘sick building syndrome’ in offices and workplaces, so homes and workspaces need to let in more light to ensure people are happier in their living and working environment. Large glass facades or fire-rated frameless glass partitions are a great way to bring light further into a workspace which boosts well-being while improving circadian rhythms.
“IQ Glass specialise in large, minimal framed glass solutions such as their Minimal Windows sliding doors”
By using technical glass products such as IQ’s Privacy Glass, you can then increase the amount of glazing on an elevation without having to worry about blinds and curtains for privacy reasons.
Professor of psychology, Cary Copper CBE said ‘People feel more psychologically positive when they live in houses and workspace with large windows and glass elements with natural light bathing the interior, anything that brings us closer to the outside world and in more direct contact with nature can also make us feel better and more positive. Dark and musty homes and office may have the opposite effect.’
What is the circadian rhythm?
The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal cycle, that regulates the sleep-awake cycle of living beings. This natural, biological process influences sleep cycles, hormone releases, eating habits and body temperature. Natural light is important for circadian rhythms as it sets our ‘body clocks’. Light sensors within the eye detects the light and dark cycle within our environment and adjusts the body’s rhythm.
The human body is supposed to react in synchronisation with the sun: as the sun rises, so should we. Our sleep quality is dependent on our circadian rhythm as we are programmed to respond to the sunlight, but it is difficult to do this in modern times especially during the colder months when we have fewer daylight hours but the same working hours.
When our ancestors lived outside our circadian rhythm was beautifully in synchronisation with the sun. As the sun rises our body knows that it’s time to start the 24 hours clock begin a productive day and as the sun sets our bodies start to relax and rejuvenate ready for the next days’ cycle. All the artificial lighting in modern society throws our circadian rhythm out of balance as our tv screens, phone screens and computes trick our body into receiving light at any time of day or night.
How is natural light connected to our productivity?
One of the main factors that affects our productivity is our sleep quality. Now we have so many games consoles, mobile phones and laptops, many of us stare at one of these screens for hours before going to bed. This is an unhealthy way to relax our bodies before going to sleep and tends to reduce the number of hours’ rest we have, therefore causing us to be sluggish and unproductive the next day.
We all need to be productive whether we’re at work or not, and sunlight is a great way to become naturally more alert. There is a reason why we all feel happier and more productive during the summer months when we’re exposed to longer amounts of sunlight.
Going outdoors and exposing ourselves to hours of sunlight each day isn’t always practical as we have jobs that usually require a lot of time indoors with only a short lunch break where we can enjoy the outdoors. Increasing the amount of glazing in a property or workspace is essential to improve the natural connection between the sun and us humans. ‘Wellness architecture’ is growing increasingly popular with architects wanting to improve the quality of living within modern buildings by breaking the divide from the outdoors.
How is natural light beneficial in architecture?
Increasing the amount of natural light by using more glazing in modern architecture improves energy efficiency. By improving the amount of natural light within buildings, especially commercial buildings where artificial lighting makes up most of the energy expenditure, helps to cut down energy bills. Lighting large offices spaces isn’t cheap, therefore through modern architectural design, you can use nature’s resources for the benefit of the company as well as employees.
Increasing the amount of glass used on architectural projects not only helps with the lighting bill but also helps with the heating bill as the sunlight penetrating through the glass helps to heat up the interior space through ‘solar gain’. By using intelligent glazing techniques, you can not only heat up properties but brighten the interior design and therefore improve the occupants’ connection to nature.
IQ Glass can incorporate large architectural glazing elements into any project, increasing concentration levels, quality of life and leaving great minimal detailed glazing.
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