What are we to make of human centric lighting (HCL)? The science is sound but the application of the technology is often confused and contradictory.
What is needed is a guide to point us in the right direction. That is the job of the WELL Building Standard (WBS).
While building standards have turned increasingly green over the past decade, little has been done to quantify the ‘wellness’ of the building from the point of view of its occupants. The WBS, produced by Delos Living LLC of New York, encourages performance metrics and design strategies to be embraced not only by the entire design and construction project teams but also by the resident building managers.
WBS is designed to work alongside the LEED Green Building Rating System and other global green building standards such as BREEAM and it can be applied to new and existing buildings, new and existing interiors and shell and core projects.
The standard ascribes each design factor to the parts of the human body system that are directly influenced by those factors. For example, WBS states that Surface Design factors, all affected by light patterning, influence the endocrine, muscular and nervous systems.
As would be expected in any system taking a holistic view of health and wellbeing there is an entire performance matrix for a functioning building, taking in air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.
When it comes to light section, WBS ‘provides illumination guidelines that are aimed to minimise disruption to the body’s circadian system, enhance productivity, support good sleep quality and provide appropriate visual acuity where needed’.
There are ten headline issues:
Visual lighting design
Establishes light levels for basic visual performance, acknowledging the balance of ambient and task illumination.
Circadian lighting design
Concentrates on the impact of melanopic light and the way that illumination meets the eye.
Electric light glare control
Acknowledges that excessive brightness can cause visual discomfort, leading to fatigue, visual impairment and potential injury.
Solar glare control
Provides solutions for managing disruptive glare from sunlight via windows.
Low-glare workstation design
Considered spatial orientation to control excessive brightness at work stations.
Identifies the use of the Colour Rendering Index (CRI) to ensure good colour quality, supporting visual acuity and accurate rendering of colour tones.
Establishes parameters for the reflective quality of surfaces within the interior landscape, promoting higher reflectance values as a means of reducing energy consumption and potential contrast glare.
Automated shading and dimming controls
Discusses the introduction of automatic control of lighting systems and shading devices as a means to promote visual comfort within the space.
Right to light
Acknowledges the importance of adequate levels of sunlight and establishes minimum distances from windows in regularly occupied spaces.
States that access to daylight reinforces the alignment of circadian rhythms and gives figures for minimum values of ‘spatial daylight autonomy’.
Provides percentage values on window sizes to ensure sufficient access to natural light to support occupant mood, alertness and overall health.
Surprisingly, there is no advice given for the use of melanopic illumination or the desired exposure of melanopic illumination during the working day beyond the ‘4 hours per day’.
There are also performance requirements for daylighting and window design. It will be interesting to see who takes the principle responsibility for ensuring that interior illumination is met in respect of architectural components.
This is a brave declaration of intent in an area of building and interior design that has been very poor in real advice while overflowing in hyperbole and unsubstantiated opinion.
According to the WELL website (www.wellcertified.com) there are seven WELL projects in the UK, all in London, the largest of which is at 22 Bishopsgate. This building will stand 278m tall, with 62 storeys and will be the tallest in the City of London. Ironically, there have been objections from local property owners due to the potential loss of light to neighbouring buildings.
22 Bishopsgate picture: Riverflm Martin Richardson and Hayes Davidson.