Why Natural Light is Better for the Work Place

Photo of natural light in an officeThere is no denying that we humans are outdoor creatures, by and large. Even if some of us prefer a quiet beach to the mountainous wilderness, we would all still be happier outside than cooped up indoors out of the light of the sun.

But, if this is true, shouldn’t we have as much natural sunlight as possible in our office, where we spend so much of our time?

Research suggests that indeed we should, with the benefits of natural light in the workplace far outweighing any benefits of artificial lights.

Lower Energy Consumption

It’s only logical that an increase in natural light lessens the need for any artificial light source, and that in turn means a fall in energy consumption. Admittedly, the reliance on electric lights is hardly going to end completely, but if natural light can be distributed efficiently, there’ll be no dark corners to light.

Making the investment can be worth it. In the US, for example, a Locklear plant in Seattle, WA, was redesigned so that natural light became the chief day-time lighting source. The company enjoyed a reduction in annual electricity costs of US$500,000 1.

But, as a Green Office, you’ll like the fact that switching to natural light will greatly reduce your office’s carbon footprint. After all, there is nothing running, nothing burning, and nothing wasted – just good, clean natural light from the sun.

Better Worker Health

According to research done in 1994 2a eyestrain, and the headaches and illnesses associated with it, is one of the biggest health problems in the workplace. This condition is related directly to the spectrum of light present in a workspace.

When a workspace is poorly lit the eyes will be damaged, but eyestrain is significantly diminished when a window with a view is provided. This is because a landscape view provides a combination of both short-range and long-range views causing the eye to constantly refocus, which benefits the eyes.

Natural light has also been linked with fewer headaches, increases in attentiveness, reductions in accidents and even better quality sleep when workers are at home.

Greater Positivity Leads to Greater Productivity

Natural light has a hugely positive effect on people, promoting a sense of team work, higher levels of motivation and organisational attachment2b.

Little surprise then that providing a bright, open and comfortable working environment is recognised as beneficial for everyone. A company in California, USA constructed a daylit distribution facility and reported an 5% increase in productivity within 18 months of moving in. The new VeriFone building proved to be even more cost-effective than predicted 2c.

How to Get the Most Daylight

So how can light be maximised in your office? Well, completely remodeling the building is probably not too practical but there are smaller steps that can be taken. For instance, full pane windows can be installed to allow the maximum light to flow in. Light tubes could be installed in the roof, to capture light and funnel it down into the room below and distribute it.

Alternatively, a heliostat can catch the sunlight throughout the day and deflect it into a building through either windows, skylights or the light tubes in the roof. Using glass walls and dividers will allow natural light to distribute more effectively.

Who doesn’t want to work in a fun, upbeat and ultimately positive working environment? This is why modern offices are open plan, with a preference for glass walls and spacial dividers, as well as plenty of plant-life within view and large exterior windows to bring the outdoors in.

It’s as close to working with our desks outdoors as we can get – without actually doing so!

Sources:

1. ‘ErgoDynamix – Workplace Lighting’, ErgoDynamix online – www.ergodmx.com/articles/article_8.html

2. ‘A Literture Review of the Effects of Nautral Light on Building Occupants’‘, L Edwards and P Torcellini, NREL, 2002 – www.nrel.gov/docs/fy02osti/30769.pdf

  • 2a. ‘Daylighting Offers great Opportunities’, G Franta and K Anstead, Window & Door Specifier-Design Lab, 1994
  • 2b. ‘Energy Effectiveness and the Ecology of Work: Links to Productivity and Well-Being’, Heerwagen JH, et al. Building Research and Information, 1998
  • 2c. ‘At What Cost Health? Low Cost, As It Turns Out’, WR Pape, Inc Online, 1998

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4 thoughts on “Why Natural Light is Better for the Work Place

  1. Great article. I couldn’t agree more. I have a skylight in my office, obviously, and being stuck at the computer some days can really get your mood down. I am so glad I have a skylight to let in the natural light.

  2. Great points, especially about the headaches. We install commercial and residential skylights, and have never had anything but rave reviews of how the natural light changed their lives. What are your thoughts on UV? Do you know of anyone who uses unshielded skylights or solatubes? UV rays are said to increase vitamin D production, but I don’t see the benefits outweighing the harm. Thoughts?

    • Yes, we do need UV to synthesise Vitamin D but, as we all know, too much UV isn’t good for us. I think there’s better ways to get UV – for instance at the safest times of day and when it’s easy to limit exposure.

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