Lighting in Architecture
Dr Karolina Zielinska-Dabkowska
We live in challenging times, and one could even claim we’re experiencing a revolution in lighting with LED technology taking over the world. Part of this rapid change involves a concept called Human Centric Lighting (HCL). In Frankfurt this year, during Light+Building, it was the buzzword, with nearly every second manufacturer’s stand claiming they had figured out the special formula necessary to create perfect HCL illumination. But how can such claims be legitimate when we know so little about the full and complex impact of artificial lighting on human biology, let alone how to responsibly apply this new approach?
Many experts in this area of research are aware that their knowledge is still fragmented, that they don’t have the whole picture and thus, are unable to draw final conclusions that can guide the design and implementation of responsible LED lighting. This includes Dr Russel Foster from Oxford University: the neuroscientist who, with his team in 1991, identified the eye’s third photosensitive cells called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGSc) whose function, unlike that of rods and cones, is unrelated to vision. He recently stated: “We can’t develop human-centric lighting until we know what impact light has upon human biology across the day and night cycle”.  Also according to Dr. George Brainard, a well-known researcher in the field, “light works as if it’s a drug, except it’s not a drug at all”,  so if this is the case, why don’t we follow the medical industry and their best practice?
All modern medication requires various testing on animals and humans to obtain approval, and it might take ten to fifteen years or more to complete all three phases of clinical trials before the licensing stage, whereas, with lighting, we have omitted this stage. Rather than apply the precautionary principle, we allow ourselves and our clients to be unwitting guinea pigs without knowing or even anticipating the long-term consequences. Are we as lighting designers practicing medicine without a licence?
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