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Creating Immersive Lighting Systems that Emphasize Human Health and Wellness

As the lighting segment has expanded for integrators, we’ve begun to understand how squishy the term “human-centric” has become — in fact, CE Pro tackled that very subject in a recent article, “The Differences Between Human-Centric and Circadian Lighting.”

To oversimplify the point, all circadian lighting is human-centric, but not all human-centric lighting is circadian. Lighting that reduces flicker and glare, for example, is beneficial to people, too.

The article offers a terrific starting point — a place to begin framing the concept of a whole-home, human-centric lighting solution. By breaking that solution down into its component parts, a dealer can really help their clients understand the entire range of options available to them.

Circadian Lighting Role in Human-Centric Lighting

Lighting that follows the rhythms of the human body, mimicking the patterns of sunlight that impacted homo sapiens for thousands of years prior to the arrival of electricity, has gotten a lot of press.

The ability of tunable LEDs to mirror those patterns is something your clients are likely aware of, so it’s a good place to start the conversation.

2024 Lighting Controls and Fixtures Report

Lightapalooza took place in late February, and the growth of the event has mirrored the rapid ascension lighting fixtures and controls.

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There’s a growing consensus that the beneficial effects of circadian lighting are more than theoretical. Researchers are learning more about how lighting may complement your health in general, specifically in areas such as improved sleep patterns.

Here’s one of several examples we noted on the Crestron blog:

“Researchers at the Light and Health Research Center from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (NYC) studied 20 apartment dwellers. In order to immerse the subjects in circadian light, they utilized electrochromic glass windows for one week, then compared that data to a week spent with traditional windows and blinds.

“When the subjects were bathed in light that mimicked the patterns of outdoor light, they fell asleep faster in the evening, slept more regularly, and experienced greater vitality — a feeling of being well-rested — when they woke. (The research was conducted at the height of the pandemic, so the participants were already spending the bulk of their time indoors.)”

Applying Aesthetic Lighting

It’s important to note that not every fixture needs to be programmed to deliver circadian rhythms — in fact, a balanced design is absolutely key to a human-centric solution, as we learned in our conversation with Mark Greenawalt, senior project manager and lighting design engineer for the Arizona firm Creative Designs in Lighting:

“There are basically three pillars of lighting that are important,” explains Greenawalt. “Ambient lighting to illuminate, accent lighting providing the drama, and then the chandeliers and so forth — the interesting fixtures — are the ‘sparkle.’ If you have those three elements working in harmony, it’s a well-balanced design.”

However, even when those elements are represented, Greenawalt sees errors.

“The big mistakes I encounter are missed opportunities,” he says. “For example: A brick wall or stone wall is just beautiful when you can ‘graze’ it with light. And that means designing the light to be located close to the surface — you pick up that texture of the masonry.”

Properly lighting a beloved artwork or accenting some part of a room for effects that range from dramatic to inviting can create a space that enriches its occupants. In short, pros like Greenawalt believe that the harmonious blend of ambient, accent, and natural light is vital to a satisfying human experience.

Adding Motorized Shading to the Mix

Automated shades are another critical component of any beneficial lighting solution—after all, part of a great lighting scheme is the ability to allow natural light into a space and not just mimic it.

Blackout shades can block the light that might interfere with sleep. But there’s another part of a shading solution that might not be readily apparent, as Michelle Guss, Creston’s VP of Hospitality, has noted.

“If a client does have a beautiful view of nature outside their home, having a set of motorized shades that open automatically lets the client see the view effortlessly,” she says.

“When everything’s manual, operating those shades daily, opening them and closing them — a client isn’t likely to do that every day, especially in a large luxury residence.”

The right shading solution can also impact climate in a home, and when the blinds are automated to assist an HVAC system with heating and cooling, the benefits can be nothing short of remarkable — and after all, what’s more human-centric than creating the perfect temperature?

Now mix in a few spot solutions: Lighting with smart sensors in a bathroom, for example, that “know” not to flip on at 100% brightness at 4 a.m., is yet another aspect of holistic lighting in the home.

Understanding lighting as a “whole home” solution will help you create a thoughtful, immersive experience that delivers the very definition of human-centric illumination.

MICHAEL SHORT is Sr. Director Marketing Operations and Residential (Luxury Homes, Hotels and SuperYachts) at Crestron.

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