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Lorraine Calcott

Light & well-being: “I’m okay, you’re okay?”

Posted by Lorraine Calcott in The Luminous lady – seeking sustainable solutions on Jan 9, 2012 1:20:07 PM 1449 Views

This is a counselling phrase and it refers to all parties being happy and okay.  It’s one I think applies to how we should light for people and for the spaces we humans inhabit.

As humans we all have our own specific light requirements.  Some of us like it dark, or prefer subtle lighting whilst others need hundreds of lux just to feel okay and function in a space.  Some of course fall in varying degrees between these two camps and as a lighting designer I need to try and account for everyone who uses that space when I design a scheme.


It is certainly no good putting in mood lighting in a restaurant only to find that half the diners are over 40 and now need a bit more light to read the menu (this I have found myself recently, much to my horror).  Recently I have had to ask my fellow diner for help and even just asked them to order for me as I have no way of reading in the dim light that was available to me.  So we must not leave our clients or their patrons in the dark but how to strike that balance is the question?


We all know that feeling of walking into a space and not feeling comfortable.  Sometimes it’s the people inhabiting the space of course that can influence our mood but often it’s the lighting that can change how we perceive the space or the others within it.  I'm thinking of that walk home after dark when you can vaguely see someone coming towards you but the street lighting is patchy and it makes you uneasy because you cannot clearly see their face or, more importantly, your sixth sense cannot therefore easily determine if they are friend of foe.  More light or highly uniform light has been proved to ease this fear of the unknown, so how do we light effectively when a large proportion of the local governments are switching off street lights?  Will we end up with people not leaving their houses due to increased fear of crime?


At this dark time of the year Seasonal Affective Disorder is another example of how light can influence our mood and well-being.  I personally have a sunrise alarm clock which wakes me up to a lovely sunrise every morning.  “Bah humbug,” I hear you say,” how can that affect your mood or make you feel better?” but I swear by it for getting me through the dark days and still feeling perky every morning.  Now even the slightest amount of light in the summer months wakes me up so it’s not all positive, however I believe the resetting of my natural body clock has been a positive move that makes a large difference to me (and those around me ).


My ideal way to wake up


So when we light, ladies and gentlemen, let’s make sure we don’t always stick to the rules.  Let’s light for those who use the space and think carefully about how they will feel in it and what effect we are having on their lives.  We do an important job: we give people the opportunity to use their night-time hours how they choose, so let’s make sure we give our fellow men (and women) the light they deserve.


I would love to hear who has sensitivity to light?  Which of you likes it dark/light and why?  Do you always wear your sunglasses because light can be too bright even on a dull day?  Our eyes are unique and so should our lighting schemes. I look forward to hearing your thoughts…


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