17.11.16

CEDIA: Integrating Bio-Adaptive Lighting

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Humans have evolved for tens of thousands of years with the daily cycle of a rising and setting sun mostly responsible for setting their internal circadian rhythm. But now, we spend most of our time indoors, where light is unnatural and doesn’t represent the lighting that our bodies are used to.

So, what can technology do to replicate outdoor colour temperature in a way that makes people more energised when they need to be, but also sleepy when it’s time for bed?
 
The answer is bio-adaptive lighting.
 
The background
Decades of research into lighting has revealed a great deal about how light affects humans. From sleep habits to productivity a lack of correctly timed, type and strength of light can be detrimental. It is proven that late evening light exposure to certain wavelengths delays the circadian rhythm, resulting in later sleep and wake times, while early morning light exposure advances the circadian rhythm, resulting in earlier sleep and wake times.
 
Why is this important to us? Lighting is an important part to our jobs, as residential projects – whether a whole home installation, or single room setting – requires a certain level of lighting. However, unlike the quality process that we go through when considering audio and video equipment and programming, doesn’t seem to transition into lighting design. We look at which lamps we are going to use and consider creating different lighting scenes with different brightnesses, but we don’t consider the quality as well as quantity of light in our designs.
The principle of bio-adaptive lighting is to balance artificial and natural light in a way that is controlled to match the needs of human circadian rhythms in the most effective and appropriate way for a building and its users. 
  For example, did you know that blue light between 475 and 525nm wavelength is beneficial for dealing with emotional challenges and moods, and while most people receive enough blue light in the summer due to sunlight, they receive much less in the winter?  Therefore, to combat the lack of blue light in the winter, researchers suggest adding blue light to indoor environments.
 
Similarly, did you know that the elderly’s sleep and wake cycles are hard to maintain if they are not exposed to daylight early in the day and sleep in a dark room at night?
 
The principle of bio-adaptive lighting is to balance artificial and natural light in a way that is controlled to match the needs of human circadian rhythms in the most effective and appropriate way for a building and its users. This means that before you begin working on the lighting design, you need to fully understand who your client is and what their requirements are.
 
How do we implement bio-adaptive lighting into our projects?
There are three parts to implementing a bio-adaptive lighting system - software, hardware control and luminaire.
 
·     Software – The nature of bio-adaptive lighting is that the colour temperature of artificial light sources is being constantly managed and potentially changed by a software-driven system. These can operate either by fixed programming of via daylight tracking.
 
·     Hardware Control – Bio-adaptive lighting is being made possible by an abundance of sophisticated LEDs. To change colour temperature, multiple light sources need to be mixed within a single fitting.
 
·     The Luminaire – Apart from connected luminaires, most light fittings have no active electronics built into them. An LED (or a set, or array of red, green and blue LEDs) needs a driver which will then be controlled with a suitable protocol.
 
Though outwardly simple, the world of light, light quality, and how it affects humans is incredibly complex. Though in its infancy, systems are now available that can deliver bio-adaptive lighting into almost any space. Over the next few years, these systems will mature and become largely standard. For the moment, however, we are early on in the growth of these technologies coming together, which means that they need expert design, installation and configuration to become a reality. This is a big opportunity that can be leveraged by suitably skilled CEDIA members.
 
CEDIA has recently released a white paper on Bio-Adaptive Lighting. To download this document, visit www.cedia.co.uk/white-papers.

Peter Aylett is a CEDIA Member and Technical Director at Archimedia.