A strategy for 'daylighting' design

We explore how the latest lighting solutions are helping to ensure natural daylight penetrates throughout healthcare buildings

Natural daylight has been found to have a positive impact on the patient and staff experience and patient recovery

After nearly a century where electric lighting has dominated the design of building interiors, architects are favouring a return to the use of daylight as the main ambient light source.

Good daylighting is known to not only reduce energy consumption, but it also has the potential to reconnect humans to the natural cycle of day and night, promoting health and wellbeing.

And nowhere is this more important than in healthcare buildings, where patients often stay for many days, weeks, and even months, away from the natural night/day rhythm.

In the last 100 years we have spent more and more time indoors, so that, now, people often spend 90% of their time inside buildings and out of direct sunlight

A study led by Safaa Alzubaidi from the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, published in the International Journal of Energy Engineering, explored hospital staff's preferences for daylighting and the effects on patient recovery times.

The responses showed that 79% of participants identify daylight in a patient's room as a factor helping them do their work more easily.

And 77% of the surveyed nurses and doctors claimed that daylight is an important element in patient rooms to aid in reviewing patient recovery through recognising and interpreting changes in patient skin colour.

The system works by absorbing natural sunlight from the outside environment and transfering it into buildings

Furthermore, 78% believe that daylight has many direct health benefits, including faster recovery and a reduced length of stay for patients.

It seems this is also a benefit felt by patients themselves, with 92% of staff stating that patients preferred to stay in rooms with access to daylight as it made them feel more comfortable.

“These results should be taken on board by hospital designers and regulation makers as an indication of the importance of using good daylight in hospital wards to achieve two important goals of improving both hospital staff working conditions and the patient's healing environment,” the paper states.

But many hospital buildings are vast and ensuring natural daylight penetrates through multiple floors and deep inside is almost impossible.

And this is where modern technology has a key role to play.

A recently-published book entitled Daylighting and lighting under a Nordic Sky by Marie-Claude Dubois, an associate professor at Lund University; and Malin Alenius, a lighting specialist, both working at Nordic design firm, White Arkitekter, discusses the issues and the role of various daylighting solutions, for example fibre optic systems.

The idea of the Parans system is to bring natural light into the internal environment, mimicking the external environment as far as 100m from a window and 30 floors down from the rooftop

Parans is a leader in the development of this technology and has seen its products installed in hospitals across Sweden, which sees a significant lack of daylight in winter, followed by almost-constant sunlight during the summer months, creating a major headache for building designers.

The system works using solar collectors mounted onto the roof of buildings. These concentrate the sunlight at any given time of the day into fibre optic cables.

These cables then transport that light up to 30 floors through a building and deep into the floorplan.

Once inside, the light is spread through a variety of modern luminaries, with the sunlight outside giving a natural light inside.

The cables can also pass easily through firewalls and around tight bends and can be retrofitted into existing buildings.

Speaking to BBH Parans marketing manager, Karolina Zrimsek, said: “Daylight affects the body’s circadian rhythm, a person’s 24-hour internal clock that helps the brain’s night/day cycle.

“In the last 100 years we have spent more and more time indoors, so that, now, people often spend 90% of their time inside buildings and out of direct sunlight.

“The idea of the Parans system is to bring natural light into the internal environment, mimicking the external environment as far as 100m from a window and 30 floors down from the rooftop.

“This is particularly useful in healthcare buildings where, for example, X-ray departments and laboratories routinely have little or no access to windows and external views.

If the sun is shining, we are almost able to set the clock according to how the light is shifting inside

“Using our system we lead the natural sunlight into the indoor environment and distribute the light inside via Parans luminares.

“This helps to create an pleasant indoor environment for both staff and patients and promotes wellbeing and recovery.”

Parans is seeing increased interest from the UK for its fibre optic daylighting solution

While the Parans system has largely been adopted in Sweden, a UK reseller is reporting high levels of interest in this country, with the healthcare market a particularly-attractive sector.

An example of the system can be found at the department of coronary angiography at the Hospital of Helsingborg in Sweden, which is situated in the centre of a large building complex where no natural light can pass into the rooms.

Parans used two systems on the east and west facades of the building.

One brings the morning sun into the control room. And, when the sun moves to the other side of the building, the other brings light into a break room along the other wall.

This way, both weather and time are considered.

The L1 Medium luminairesused in the control room are placed so that light does not hit computer screens and it gives a high and airy feel to the room.

With long cables, L3 Spotlights were mounted on the wall in the break room. That way some distance was covered and the light is bounced off the white ceiling to spread it further.

As this wall is a firewall, a wooden canal was built to match the hardwood flooring and wall panel, and the L3 spotlights were then snapped in place.

In the coming years we expect UK architects to take much more of an interest in this type of solution in order to ensure that buildings contribute to the overall experience of patients and staff

We appreciate the sunlight we get through the Parans system”, said Lennart Sandhall, the hospitals’ chief physician.

“It gives us a clear connection to the outside.

“If the sun is shining, we are almost able to set the clock according to how the light is shifting inside.”

Zrimsek concludes: “There are many different solutions available and different ways to work with the light they bring into the building.

“In the coming years we expect UK architects to take much more of an interest in this type of solution in order to ensure that buildings contribute to the overall experience of patients and staff.”

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