Understanding Circadian Rhythm
The benefits of natural light have been studied for more than a decade, but the findings are now being utilized across the board in architecture and design—particularly in offices where artificially lit cubicles are on the way out.
In particular, studies have shown that natural light:
- Increases productivity
- Increases mood
- Creates healthier and better sleep
The reasons primarily have to do with one’s circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythm is the body’s natural cycle throughout the day. Similar processes are found in most living things, and are affected by external factors, including light and temperature.
The color of natural light changes throughout the day due to the location of the sun in the sky and the density of the atmosphere. In the morning, sunlight is more blue while the sun’s evening hue contains more orange tones.
Recently, this has changed the ways in which technology appears. Studies found that the blue tone of the artificial light that comes from screens has a “wake-up” effect on the brain, leading to sleeping troubles for those who use any of the many screen-baring products that have come into the home in recent years.
In response, many tablet and smartphone manufacturers added a feature that changes the tone to orange after a certain time to help the brain start to wind down at the end of the day.
Fantini Headquarters, Pella, Italy
Each building features an abundance of natural lighting, including massive floor-to-ceiling windows on the southeast side of the headquarters, and large-scale windows along the northwest wall.
The access to natural light isn’t only for those with creative jobs, however. The manufacturing facilities next door to the headquarters features plenty of natural light as well.
Oodi Library, Helsinki
Up north in Finland, natural light is as important a feature as any other when constructing a building. With the long, dark nights that the country is subjected to throughout much of the year, double-paned glass and skylights abound.
Helsinki’s Oodi Library is scheduled to open November 2018.
Included in the monolith is a public space on the first floor that will host events and conventions, and an entire second floor designed to accommodate smaller groups in need of collaborative rooms or meeting spaces. The third floor will house the library stacks.
The third floor is designed with nearly 360-degree views from the floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall, and recessed skylights are built in every few feet. Even on dark days, the design allows as much natural light as possible for patrons.
TD Bank, Toronto
When TD Bank’s Toronto headquarters were being designed with international firm HOK, they came across a unique situation. Once most of the skyscraper’s floors were constructed, TD Bank officials decided to switch gears to allow the last floor to integrate WELL standards, including giving their employees access to natural light. Because the original floors weren’t built using WELL standards, the building could act as a case study on itself.
Natural light is among the core features of WELL, which also includes open workspaces with access to daylight and views, ambient lighting that supports circadian rhythm and shading to reduce solar glare.
The employees who utilize the meeting spaces on this WELL-focused floor report more productive sessions than those taking place elsewhere in the building.
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