At Beyond Interior Design, we’re extremely passionate about finding new ways to improve the lives of our clients. Something we’ve recently been consumed with is healthy building, or in our case, healthy designing. In other words, we’ve been researching new ways to improve the health and overall well-being of our clients through different materials, decor, and design choices. In fact, our head designer, Juliana Oliveira, is undergoing training to receive the Healthy Building Certificate.
Since we’ve become enthralled in this topic, and we believe it to be highly relevant, we thought it would be wonderful to share our findings with you! If you caught our Biophilia in interior design article, you’re already aware of how bringing natural elements into your home can be physically and psychologically beneficial. In this article, we’re going to explore how lighting affects our overall health and how one can easily implement lighting solutions in their space.
The more natural light in a space, the better — simple as that. Offering more than just our daily dose of Vitamin D, natural light also has a major impact on our overall psyche. It can improve one’s sleep cycle and reduce the risks of eye-strain and mental stress brought on by artificial lighting. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t always allow for optimal natural light, whether that be because light wasn’t initially considered in the design of the space or another building obstructs the light coming in. Either way, if a particular space lacks natural lighting, it’s the designer’s responsibility to find out how to best imitate it.
COLOR RENDERING INDEX
While “Color Rendering Index” sounds anything but exciting, it’s actually just that! When natural light is absent and artificial lights are needed to brighten up a space, one can use the CRI to gauge how close their light sources are to natural light. Technically, on a scale of 0 to 100, the CRI measures the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects in comparison with a natural light source (aka the sun). In other words, if a source has a CRI of 95, it’s only 5% off from producing the same colors as natural light. The ideal source will have a CRI of 85 or higher.
With nearly all light bulbs having a CRI measurement under their “specifications”, people can easily and inexpensively improve their health by improving the light in their space — and that’s what is so exciting about the CRI! It’s simple and the changes can easily be implemented by designers and typical homeowners alike. There is one controversy with high-CRI lights, however. Generally speaking, high-CRI light bulbs consume more energy. LED lights, which are energy-efficient and therefore preferred by sustainable designers, typically have a lower CRI. Thankfully, some innovative lighting companies are changing that, producing LED bulbs with CRIs of 90 and higher.
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Light directly corresponds with our circadian rhythm, which is the natural 24-hour internal clock running in the background of our brains, cycling between sleepiness and alertness. When morning comes and the sun begins to break over the horizon, waking from its evening sleep, our brains begin waking, too. Or at least they should be. There are many reasons why our circadian cycle could become off-sync with nature’s cycle, and the use of artificial light is most certainly one of them. Artificial lights (high-CRI or not) affect our circadian cycle because they can be used at any given time. When our bodies experience light at irregular times, such as late at night or extremely early in the morning, the internal clock gets thrown off, affecting sleep patterns and eventually leading to mental and physical stress. Since light visually cues our brains as to what part of the circadian cycle we’re in, it also affects the hormones that are produced during a given time. Too much light can lead to certain hormones overproducing, further setting our system off-balance.
To combat the conditions set by artificial lights, companies have introduced light bulbs that adjust to a human’s circadian cycle. In fact, there are even some on the market that run on a circadian cycle AND measure high on the CRI.
Lighting directly impacts our minds and bodies, which is why it’s crucial we, as designers, do everything we can to ensure the light sources we implement in our clients’ homes improve the overall well-being of the individual or family. With that said, you can also improve your health — you don’t have to wait for us. All it takes is a different source of light.