Over many decades, countless millions have been spent by corporations worldwide on solutions that can potentially boost their employees’ productivity, reduce their stress levels, and create a welcoming workplace. But in terms of results, there is not much to show. At first, the idea that something as fundamental and as omnipresent as the light that we surround ourselves with, holds one of the keys to these ever-eluding challenges may appear strange to most. But scrape the surface a little and it becomes apparent that although astonishingly simple, it’s a powerful idea.
We are complex beings and our modern version has been shaped by millions of years of evolution. For almost all of this very long period, our productivity has been powered by the natural light (Sun light). Over the evolutionary history, our bodily mechanism has adapted itself to the dynamically changing color combinations of the sun light as the day progresses. There is a primordial counter in our brains that consistently triggers the secretion of appropriate chemicals making us feel energized or drowsy depending upon the time of the day. Technically speaking, this counter is called circadian rhythm.
In comparison, the artificial lighting, that we have come to be so dependent upon, has been around for less than 200 years. On the evolutionary scale, this is an extremely short period. Being exposed to the constant artificial illumination through out the day, the body simply finds itself incapable to adjust as per its natural inclinations throwing its circadian clock in chaos. The long-term consequences of such disturbed harmony can be very severe. The body reacts in undesirable ways that lead to increased anxiety and stress, negative emotions, and an overall dissatisfaction for individuals. This is not merely a theory. Fortunately, we have some hard data today substantiated by many independent studies that unambiguously points to the fact that a lighting system that is in harmony with nature leads to increased productivity, reduced stress, and a significant improvement in the quality of life.
The Underlying Problem
The problem arises because most establishments where people work today- Office premises, factories, schools etc. – while designing their facilities or choosing their lighting systems do not consider the importance of having lighting that can actually work to improve the satisfaction at work for their employees. It is not hard to imagine why. Artificial Lighting at a work place has always been considered a pure cost that serves only as a source of illumination and therefore is a required evil. This kind of thinking has, I believe, led to the efficiency of the lighting systems as the highest sought ideal whenever the question of lighting for any building is presented. In other words, the primary concern for the stakeholders never moves beyond “What is the minimum that I have to pay?” to ensure illumination for the facility without disrupting the operations. Thus, we see the increased focus everywhere on the LEDs and other such devices that can be very efficient and can save x% of the total energy bill.
First and foremost, the shift in the mindset has to be happen. The point of this piece is not to claim, by any means, that efficiency is not important. In fact, efficiency has to be a very important consideration if we have to create sustainable lighting systems. However, efficiency is not and must not be the primary purpose that drives the decisions of installing a lighting system for any building. The core purpose is to understand that lighting plays a critical role in creating a healthy, comfortable, and productive workplace for the people and therefore sincere attention must be paid when it comes to deciding what kind of lighting is required. Objective must be to choose a smart lighting system that can dynamically auto adjust the illumination through the day in sync with the natural light ( a concept known as day light harvesting ). Such a system would be attuned to the lighting needs of human beings at a fundamental level (in harmony with our in built circadian rhythm) and will leave a strong positive effect on the moods and emotions of the people working there. The efficiency will simply be another positive by product of such systems. The Organizations owe it to arguably their most productive assets, their employees.
Such smart lighting systems have already taken off in a big way in North America and Western Europe. However, in India we are still at a fledgling stage. I believe we are ready to take some big strides in this area and start to consider the lighting systems as an integral part of the design of any truly modern building. As an economy we are matured enough to make this paradigm shift in the way we think about lighting a building.
We at Leap info systems have been doing some very exciting work in delivering IOT leveraged smart, connected lighting systems to our clients and I feel very confident that we are at an inflection point and our new, modern buildings will no longer be a dead structure where one must go to work but will serve as a lively environment that people look forward to be in.