It goes without saying that everyday light is white…isn’t it? It may be true that there are different shades of light and these all have a slightly different hue. We tend to think of lighting in a room environment as either bright or varying shades of dark. Colour is usually subliminally overlooked. In the education environment research has shown that lighting exerts a strong influence on the learning process. New advances in the control and availability of solid state lighting utilising LED technologies have been matched by the rise in the understanding that light plays in human behaviour.
The Circadian Paradigm
The circadian rhythm holds a large influence over human performance. Being a little over 24-hours long, the circadian clock is reset by information from our environment with a major factor being light information. Indeed very recent concerns have been aired in the press about the effect of technology ‘blue light’ from mobile devices and computers adversely disrupting sleeping patterns and ultimately affecting health. That is not to say that blue light is the enemy, though studies have shown that as a major part of natural sunlight, blue light has been shown to have positive influences over the synapses in the brain, stimulating and strengthening them, helping to handle emotional challenges and regulate mood. Applying the principle that there is reduced sunlight in winter would indicate that boosting blue light exposure in the indoor environment during this time may significantly boost mood and work response. Overall the effect would be to produce a consistent level of mood and productivity across the year by aligning the environmental lighting.
The ability to control human bio-rhythms and physiological responses through controllable lighting is a truly exciting concept and one that is fast gaining adoption across many areas of life, especially in the teaching environment. Studies in the Netherlands showed the positive effects that light of different colour temperatures had on pupils’ concentration levels. A study in Hamburg demonstrated the direct effects of controllable lighting with reading speed increasing by 35% and an acute decrease in errors and a positive increase in concentration.
The ability to give teachers control over the lighting enables them to dynamically adjust the environment to match the class mood. Lighting states can be divided into scenes to target a particular response such as an energy boosting setting with a cool ‘blue rich’ white light, another for focusing attention with bright white light, and another using a red-toned white to create an aura of calm.
Colin Firth, Regional Manager for Saville Audio Visual, commented: “The positive effects of controllable bio-adaptive lighting in the teaching environment are plain to see. We have had extremely positive reactions, especially with SEN pupils where we have featured controllable lighting into immersive, specialist environments. This powerful combination of lighting and control allows teachers to quickly provide pupils with a safe haven tailored to their specific needs, helping to avoid crisis episodes and ultimately child ‘downtime’ along with staff management issues.”
Whilst the incorporation of controllable digital lighting into specialist teaching environments may seem the most practical use of the technology, it is equally obvious that there is real value to be acquired from looking at the wider picture and considering widespread deployment within schools, FE and HE.
Kevin Martin, from specialist distributer Sun-Light Solutions, who have partnered with Saville on numerous projects, says: “The advances in digital lighting and control using solutions such as those from leading manufacturer amBX, brings these advantages into the market at a realistic price point for many organisations to be able to take advantage of. With the Pupil Premium Funding initiative these types of facilities are now much