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Lighting is Everything

Or almost everything. Whether it is used to improve one’s mood or as a necessity to complete a task, a little change in lighting goes a long way. The best source of light remains daylight, which is preferred by humans because of the balanced color spectrum provided by sunlight. In areas where natural light cannot be incorporated, the switch to efficient lighting, like full-spectrum fluorescent light, has still been shown to benefit the mental and physical health of people.

In schools, day light contributes to improve the overall health of students and teachers. Managed properly, daylight strengthens the concentration and mental clarity of students. Allowing more natural light in classrooms has  resulted in higher test scores, and schools using natural or full-spectrum fluorescent light resulted in better attendance rates of both students and teachers. Plus, the lessened need for artificial light enables school districts to cut utility costs. It has also been shown students in naturally lit classrooms were more well adjusted, had better eyesight, and  were happier than students in classrooms with artificial lights, who were more hostile and hesitant by comparison. In addition,  students with sunlight exposure had greatly reduced rates of dental decay, as it is a major source of vitamin D, which keeps bones strong while allowing for better calcium absorption.

In work areas, more efficient lighting has shown an increase in worker productivity and satisfaction with the workplace. It has also shown a decrease in the number of migraine headaches among employees. Considering migraines account for 0.7 percent of health care concerns, efficient lighting could save businesses an annual $35 on insurance per employee. When daylight is properly used in the workplace, there is a great reduction of headaches and eyestrain, both of which are caused by poor light quality. This enables employees to spend more time of better quality on their tasks, rather than having their attention diverted by strain.

Retailers are also seeing the benefits of daylight and many are using more natural light in their stores. This has resulted in better sales and provides a more pleasant shopping environment. When comparing multiple stores in a single district, one retailer reported out of 11 stores, sales in the day-lit stores were 28 percent higher than sales in artificially lit stores. Even Walmart challenged the benefits of daylight over artificial light. Back in 1993, Walmart built its first Eco-Mart store in Lawrence, Kansas. To make an accurate comparison, half of the store used artificial light, while the other half was built with skylights. The results were unexpected, with shoppers and employees both vocalizing their preference for the sky-lit sections of the store. They even had employees from departments within the artificially lit sections request to be moved to the natural lit sections. The skylight sections also had more sales.

Going beyond a pleasant retail atmosphere, lighting contributes to crucial changes in our mood. This is especially true for people suffering from serious illnesses, as Alzheimer’s disease, where good exposure to natural light helps keep depression at bay. This happens as better light exposure improves the regulatory system of the patient. Access to windows are even better, as the ability to see changes in light and weather patterns helps not only to elevate the mood but to keep patients in sync with time.

It seems natural, efficient lighting does more than aid our sight and lower utility costs, it helps us to retain our sanity.

Resource

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy02osti/30769.pdf

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