4 Reasons Daylight Is Essential to Improving Health
The global population is suffering from a lack of exposure to daylight and an over-exposure to artificial light. Architects can have a positive impact on the lives of staff, clients, patients and families.
We have learnt a lot since the discovery that daylight helps prevent and treat children with rickets(*1). Understanding daylight is the first step towards designing healthy architecture. Integrating natural light into work and living spaces counter-acts any lack of opportunity to get outside.
Here are the top four reasons why daylight is essential for building design.
1: Psychological and Physiological
Lack of exposure to natural light results in increases to:
- Poor sleep;
- Low metabolism;
- Reproductive health concerns;
- Cognitive difficulties;
- Neurodevelopment issues;
- Cancer, and;
- Heart disease(*2).
How does sunlight make us ‘feel’ good?
When exposed to UVB sunlight, we experience a boost of beta-endorphins. Nerve cells in the brain and spinal column excrete beta-endorphins. They are ‘feel-good’ chemicals, anti-inflammatories and pain relievers.
2. Cardiovascular Function
Heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and America(*3-6). A free preventative is available from the sun. UVB rays open arteries, reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and hypertension(*1, 2, 7).
What architectural applications improve cardiovascular function?
High-quality polycarbonate that blocks harmful UV radiation (replacing that doesn’t block 100% of UVB rays).
3. Quality Sleep and Mental Health
The crucial factor for maintaining sleep patterns and quality sleep is through daily exposure to natural light above 1000 lux and reducing artificial lighting(*2). Natural light promotes the healthy synthesis of melatonin. Every night, Melatonin sends signals to various ‘clock genes’ that together, maintain the circadian time structure (CTS). Additionally, Melatonin protects and strengthens the nervous system(*2).
4. Strong Bones
UVB is absorbed by skin tissue and then circulated throughout the body. It’s structure changes as it interacts with other organs, tissues and cells to become a type of vitamin D known as 1,25(OH)2D(*1, 2). This vitamin D increases calcium absorption, antioxidant production and repairs and regulates DNA(*1). Its high level of calcium absorption improves bone strength and helps with diseases such as osteoporosis(*8).
The challenge for architects is finding products which protect from harsh UV rays while allowing natural light in. Incorporating natural light into existing and new building envelopes is achievable with the right products.
MK Lawyers Surpass Wellbeing and Health Goals for Their Staff and Clients
Design Example – Macpherson Kelley (MK) Lawyers
MK Lawyers now have a wonderful working environment for their 100 staff in Dandenong, Melbourne. A huge skylight containing varying Danpalon® polycarbonate panels feature as the centrepiece on the top level. It radiates natural light to create a comfortable internal ambience and reduces the need to use artificial lighting. The skylight was a significant contributor to MK Lawyers achieving their goal of increasing worker and client wellbeing and comfort.
A lack of daylight in living and work environments can impact mental and physical health. Danpalon® glazing panels protect from over-exposure heat and harmful UV radiation while providing high natural light levels.
Together, we can improve health and wellbeing through innovative designs and applications.
*1. Holick M. Biological Effects of Sunlight, Ultraviolet Radiation, Visible Light, Infrared Radiation and Vitamin D for Health. Anticancer Research. 2016; 36(3):[1345-56 pp.].
*2. Smolensky M, Sackett-Lundeen, LL & Portaluppi, F. Nocturnal Light Pollution and Underexposure to Daytime Sunlight. Chronobiology International. 2015; 32(8):[1029-48 pp.].
* 3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Deaths in Australia. Canberra; 2019.
* 4. Ministry of Health. Major Causes of Death. Auckland; 2018.
* 5. Public Health, England. Major Causes of Death and How They Have Changed. 2017.
* 6. Nichols H. Medical News Today. Brighton, UK: Healthline Media UK Ltd. 2019.
* 7. Weller R. Sunlight Has Cardiovascular Benefits Independently of Vitamin D. 2016; 41(1-3):[130-4 pp.].
* 8. International Osteoporosis Foundation. The National Osteoporosis Society Launches Sunlight Campaign to Boost Vitamin D Levels in Summer Months 2017.