Light – The Accidental Hero of Architectural Design

How To Promote Health and Happiness with Science and Light

Light architecture that saves money, improves health and doesn’t cost the earth. Is this possible? Makers’ Workshop in Burnie, Tasmania is proof. 2019 marks 10 years since their opening. How did Terroir architects achieve such a great feat and how has it survived the test of time?

At the time of building, Burnie City Council were looking to revive their local tourism industry. The Makers’ Workshop would grow community pride and offer a ‘homely’ multi-purpose space for tourists and locals.(1) It has achieved this and more. 105, 000 visitors soak up the coastal view, learn about the creative and industrial history of Burnie, shop and relax at the Makers’ Workshop annually.(2)

What Makes the Makers’ Workshop so Special?

There are two heroes behind the success. Light architecture and local people. Light architecture provides 3 main benefits:

  1. Invites outsiders in via a warm, welcoming, translucent curtain wall.
  2. Fills the interior with light to increase happiness, productivity and health.
  3. Improves thermal comfort.


Photobiology is the science of daylight and human biology. From light treatments for cancer, improving cognitive function, increasing happiness and regulating sleep.(3, 4) Light is an aesthetic and practical tool to illuminate and shape spaces.

Light is processed via retinal sensors and then travels along neural pathways to the brain.(5) In the brain, a range of chemical reactions occur. Hormones stimulated by light include cortisol, serotonin and melatonin.

Health Benefits

  • Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone. Having too much cortisol can lead to a weakened immune system.(6) Light encourages a natural balance of cortisol.
  • Serotonin influences mood, behaviour, stress management, body temperature, circadian rhythms, and neuroendocrine secretion.(7)
  • Melatonin is the key hormone in regulating sleep and the body’s circadian rhythm.(8)

Studies even show improvements to women’s fertility from exposure to morning light.(9) Daylight influences bone health, blood pressure, temperature, cognitive function and much more. The combination of architecture and daylight is essential for the human body and mind.(3, 10)

Architectural Innovation

The long-standing industrial history of Burnie was reflected in the design of the building. The ‘box-like’ industrial building type is softened by transparent curtain walls. The building radiates light as night falls, beckoning ships back to shore like a lighthouse. During the day, natural light is evenly diffused by the Danpatherm (11) transparent curtain wall.

Danpatherm has superior thermal and solar insulative properties, making it ideal for the cool climate and coastal breezes. Other Danpal systems such as Controlite or Freespan could have also been used.(12)

Major shopping brands, SMEs, government, commercial and industrial operators are putting their money into light architecture to generate staff happiness, productivity, customer satisfaction and to reduce energy demands.


Looking for more information? Need advice on your next project? Email or call us and we’ll be happy to help.


1 • Johannson L. Makers Workshop Officially Opened Burnie, TAS: The Advocate; 2009
2 • Burnie City Council. Burnie City Council, Annual Report 2016-2017 2017 20 Jun 2019. Available from:…/2016-2017-annual-report-single-page-view.pdf.
3 • Altomonte S. Daylight and the Occupant2009 9 Jun 2019:[6 p.]. Available from:
4 • Oswald A, Proto, E & Sgroi, D. Happiness and productivity. Journal of Labor Economics [Internet]. 2015 9 Jun 2019; 33(4):[33 p.].
5 • Veitch J. Light, Lighting, and Health: Issues for Consideration. LEUKOS: The Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America [Internet]. 2013; 2:[9 p.].
6 • Cleveland Clinic. What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out? 2019 16 June 2019.
7 • Gore A. Neuroendocrine Systems. 2013 [cited 21 Jun 2019]. In: Fundamental Neuroscience [Internet]. San Diego: Academic Press. 4. [799-817]
8 • National Sleep Foundation. Melatonin and Sleep 2019
9 • Danilenko K, Samoilova, EA. Stimulatory Effect of Morning Bright Light on Reproductive Hormones and Ovulation: Results of a Controlled Crossover Trial. PLoS clinical trials [Internet]. 2007; 2(2):[8 p.]
10 • Smith K. What is Photobiology? 2014 9 Jun 2019
11 • Danpal Australia. Danpatherm: Danpal Australia; 2019
12 • Danpal Australia. Danpal Light Architecture 2019