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The next generation: Human centric lighting (HCL)

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Human comfort is affected by thermal factors; physical factors and personal factors. Another factor that can affect human comfort is the visual of the room and its light intensity. Paul Jones, BEG sales director for UK and Ireland, explains

According to research, exposure to natural daylight can increase productivity, reduce stress and improve sleep and circadian rhythms which improves the overall health and wellbeing of individuals in the workplace. Exposure to natural sunlight is also thought to increase the brain’s release of the hormone serotonin. This is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused.

Scientists identified a third light receptor in addition to rods (twilight vision) and cones (colour vision) back in 2002. These cells are both photosensitive, meaning that they respond to light, but are also non-visual; they only react on the ambient brightness and regulate your body clock as a result. Artificial lighting, therefore, has a huge role to play in assisting the body clock with determining what time of day it is and ultimately in stabilising our biological rhythms.

Human Centric Lighting has a lot of buzz surroundng it, at the moment, as manufacturers work towards providing a number of solutions for the public and private sectors.

In the UK, we are noticing a huge interest from facilities managers who have begun to explore smart lighting to maximise the use of natural daylight to enhance the vision, well-being and performance of its employees in the workplace. 

There is evidence in learning spaces, in particular, being able to programme in or control a lighting scheme instantly impacts the classroom environment so this is very relevant for the education sector too for use in schools, colleges and universities. For example, exposure to bright natural light in the morning reduces sleepiness and increases alertness. Alternatively, having the ability to dim the lighting in a learning space, will create a more calming atmosphere.

At BEG, we are the first in the industry to develop a wellness multi-sensor that controls the lighting based on time, presence and circadian rhythm with its ‘tuneable white function’. It works by adjusting the colour temperature over a 24-hour period from warm white to daylight white and the illumination intensity from 500 to 1500 lux.  

The dimming of the individual lights is continuous and harmonious so that the change is not directly visible. This significantly improves the quality of the artificial light, mimicking the daylight and improving well-being and health. Energy consumption is also optimised.

At the lower end of the scale, from 2000K to 3000K, the light produced is called ‘warm white’ and ranges from orange to yellow-white in appearance. Colour temperatures between 3100K and 4500K are referred to as ‘cool white’ or ‘bright white’.

Lighting manufacturers use daylight as the benchmark to which to compare colour rendering of electric lights and we use an index called the CRI or colour rendering index as a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to show the colours of various objects accurately, when compared with a natural light source.

Using these measures and combining them with research, the lighting industry is completely transforming workplaces. This latest generation of smart lighting is allowing facilities managers to maximise the comfort and performance of their employees down to a task by task basis. 

For example, rather than one type of lighting being used across an entire office, control panels can now be used to select lighting quality based on various types of activity or the age of employees taking part (research has shown that the older you are, the more light you need).

Research papers continue to be released with compelling results showing how biological benefits such as alertness, cognitive performance, and good sleep-wake cycles are all being affected positively. Even emotional benefits such as improved mood are being recorded, so there will be much more noise around Human Centric Lighting to come. We hope everyone in the industry continues to push the boundaries of innovation and discovery to bring even more new technologies to the forefront.


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