Greenbuild 2018: Tunable White Lights Can Improve Health and Well-being

Nov. 15, 2018

Tunable white lights can be used in a variety of applications to provide not only a lighting solution, but also an array of health, financial and aesthetic benefits.

Whether in an office, hospital or your living room, light and color temperature impact everything from our wake-sleep cycle to our general health and well-being.

The advent of LED lighting gave us the ability to better control light, and as the technology has improved products like tunable white lights are gaining popularity because of their:

  • Efficacy
  • Versatility
  • Health, financial and aesthetic benefits

“The demand for tunable white light continues to strengthen and we’re taking human-centric lighting to the next level with these products,” says Jared Morello, Wattstopper product marketing manager at Legrand, who showcased the Blanco lighting solution at the 2018 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.

Circadian Rhythm Management

Tunable white lighting allows for adjustments to the intensity and color quality, allowing us to mimic natural light, which can evoke human biological responses. Research has shown office workers who receive a robust dose of circadian-effective light experience better sleep and lower levels of depression and stress than those who spend their days in dim or low light levels.

“What studies have shown is that you really don’t want that cool light late in the day, instead you want to have warm light, that’s better for circadian rhythm. If you use that cool light late in the day that could suppress your melatonin production and that’s what impacts your circadian rhythm and that’s what impacts your sleep,” says Pete Shannin, CFA, vice president and general manager of Skylight and Daylighting Systems at Sunoptics from Acuity Brands, which also showcased at Greenbuild.

[Related: Facts and Fiction of Tunable Lighting]

Both Legrand and Sunoptics offer products that are integrated and combine a tunable white light solution with other controls and technological features.

“We have a timer switch that will run on an automatic schedule in the background, if you want to mimic a sunrise, midday, sunset schedule, this would do that automatically,” Morello says. “It can do schedules based on time of day or an astrological event, so you could say, start the schedule an hour after sunrise, instead of saying 7 a.m. for instance. And then if want to make changes throughout the day, or not run an automatic schedule.”


Many spaces aren’t designed to have the exact same activity going on throughout the day, white tunable light allows you to adjust lighting to complement the activity occurring in that space at any given time to improve performance and productivity.

[On topic: Harvesting Natural Lighting]

“Think of a classroom, let’s say you want your kids relaxed, well you wouldn’t be able to have them relaxed under that really bright, cool light. By bringing it down more and maybe dimming, it gets to be a more relaxing environment,” Shannin explains. “Versus let’s say, for test taking when you want them to be alert you can make that light cooler and that, therefore will have them perform better.”   

Function and Design

Practically speaking, many white tunable light products offer not only health benefits, but also a functional and aesthetic solution. Because these products are integrated into other components, like control systems, they can cut down on clutter, installation time and cost. 

“The unique thing about Blanco and Wattstopper is that the controls are imbedded in the fixtures above, which means you can simply plug the fixtures via Cap 5 into our control system and they auto commission themselves. So, there’s no additional onsite programming or dialing into the fixture space, saving the installer or the integrator a lot of time and money,” says Morello.

Sustainability and Savings

Sunoptics designs and manufactures prismatic skylights that harness the power of the sun to maximize the cost-effective energy savings of daylighting. Additionally, the integration of multiple components also allows for fewer materials being used, providing a more sustainable option.

“You’re not going to use as much material, you don’t have to use the extra steel and the shroud to create a luminar,” Shannin says. “You can get rid of all that steel because all the LED components are in this skylight.”

Janelle Penny, senior writer for BUILDINGS, contributed to this article from the 2018 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.

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About the Author

Rachel Kats | Former Staff Writer

Rachel has years of experience covering everything from government and education to feature topics and events. A Wisconsin native, she holds a bachelor’s in mass communications and journalism from St. Cloud State University.

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