THE LIVING DAYLIGHT

The clocks go forward on Sunday 26 March, and suddenly the world seems a brighter place. There has been plenty of research around the benefits of daylight on our health and wellbeing, but we don’t need scientists to tell us that we all enjoy the longer days that the Spring Equinox heralds. For some, it is a much more significant event than a simple lifting of spirits, with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)[1] a recognised and potentially debilitating condition that is thought to affect 1 in 3 people in the UK to some degree.

With our largely indoor lifestyle, getting access to enough natural light can be a challenge, especially in the winter months. Getting out for a walk during lunch breaks can help, but is not always possible. The design and construction of buildings has a major impact on how much daylight we can absorb in the course of the day. So why is so little attention paid to the proven fact that providing good levels of daylight (or in some cases, any level) makes people happier, healthier and more productive?

It isn’t rocket science. As human beings we have some fundamental needs, and access to daylight is one of the things that enables us to function at our best. Natural light is better for the eyes, improves cognitive function, and has been proven to reduce the number of days that employees take off sick.

From a commercial point of view, if looking after your workforce and improving their output is not reason enough to consider increasing daylight in the workplace, it can also significantly reduce lighting energy costs. And if you’re concerned about climate change, reducing energy consumption also reduces your carbon emissions – everybody wins, including the planet!

However, as in all things in life, it is important to strike the right balance. Exposure to too much sunlight can carry its own risks, and buildings with large areas of window or roof lights could end up with poor thermal performance, over heating in the summer months and eating energy in space heating in the winter.

In the next blog we will explore how to get this balance right, and some of the different options that are available to introduce more living daylight into our places of work and leisure.

[1] http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/Pages/Introduction.asp

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