biophilic moodboards: leveraging the power of light in interiors
in biophilic moodboards
Light plays a crucial role in human wellbeing and is an essential design consideration for all spaces.
In this episode of Biophilic Moodboards, we’re looking into light. Dynamic and diffuse light to be precise, which summarizes the two main features driving the benefits of light on wellbeing…
natural light and wellbeing
Natural light is what controls our biological clock, driving hormones’ production to make us awake during the day and ready to rest as the night comes. Natural light affects sleep quality, mental balance and mood. In practice, exposure to quality daylight has been shown to improve concentration, performance and mood in both children and adults. *
To simplify, the elements that make natural light so beneficial can be summarized with two adjectives:
- dynamic – because it changes during the day – from low and warm at dawn, to very bright and cool during the day, to low and warm again in the evening
- diffuse – because it spreads in the space
natural light in biophilic design
Natural light is key to every interior space and is particularly important in areas where people spend a lot of time. This includes “the heart of the home” (be it the dining area, the kitchen or the living room), home office spaces, as well as the workplace.
Access to natural light regulates the circadian rhythm, adds life to the space, and it connects interiors with what’s happening outdoors, stimulating awareness and appreciation of nature’s changes.
artificial lighting in biophilic design
Artificial lighting is a precious invention, but it can put our circadian rhythm off. This is because artificial lighting is set to a fixed intensity and colour, taking away the beneficial dynamism of natural light.
This is one of the reasons why artificial lighting is best when designed in layers. Juxtaposing ambient, task and accent lighting creates an uneven – read dynamic – lighting distribution in the space.
Layering lighting also brings the space to life, creating several points of interest.
Technology also helps in making artificial lighting better for wellbeing. Named Human Centric Lighting, modern lighting systems allow mimicking the changing colour and intensity of sunlight during the day, following our biological cycles.
designing with natural light
Not to be forgotten, natural light can become a decorative feature too. When designed intentionally, light and shadow effects become an artwork that changes during the day and across seasons, contributing to the connection to natural systems.
Light also interacts with other natural elements. The reflection of a water feature or the light filtering through the branches of a tree are examples of moving and changing light that engages the senses. Many naturally-occurring light reflections also follow a fractal pattern, bringing further interest to the space.
Overall, deliberate use of natural and artificial light in designed spaces can blend functional and wellbeing needs, while reconnecting people to the richness of the natural world.
- Browning, W.D. & Romm J.J. (1994). Greening the building and the bottom line Rocky Mountain Institute.
- Heschong Mahone Group (1999). Daylighting in Schools: An Investigation into the Relationship Between Daylighting and Human Performance. Pacific Gas and Electric Company: California Board for Energy Efficiency Third Party Program.
- Heschong Mahone Group (2003). Windows and Classrooms: A Study of Student Performance and the Indoor Environment. Pacific Gas and Electric Company: California Board for Energy Efficiency Third Party Program.
- Elzeyadi I.M.K. (2012). Quantifying the Impacts of Green Schools on People and Planet. Research presented at the USGBC Greenbuild Conference & Expo, San Francisco, November 2012, 48-60.
- Kim S.Y. & Kim J.J. (2007). Effect of fluctuating illuminance on visual sensation in a small office. Indoor and Built Environment 16 (4): 331–343.
- Leslie R.P. & Conway K.M (2007). The lighting pattern book for homes. New York: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. pp222.
- Beckett M. & Roden L.C. (2009). Mechanisms by which circadian rhythm disruption may lead to cancer. South African Journal of Science 105, November/December 2009.
- Nicklas M.H. & Bailey G.B. (1996). Student Performance in Daylit Schools. Innovative Design. Web. June 2012
- Kandel E.R., Schwartz J.H., Jessell T.M., Siegelbaum S.A. & Hudspeth A.J. (2013). Principles of Neural Science, Fifth Edition. New York: McGraw Hill.
- The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design is a framework conceptualized by Terrapin Bright Green