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Healthy Home Lighting Makes a Difference in Your Home

Lighting in your home can affect your health.

Healthy Home LightingDo you ever think about lighting and how it affects your health? Not only is lighting extremely important in creating a particular atmosphere, but it is also affecting your health. Most people know that healthy home lighting can affect melatonin levels and sleep, but did you know it could also affect cortisol, asthma, and even blood sugar balance? And by the way, if you did not know this: melatonin is some of our best free-radical scavengers and cancer fighting protection.

Last month we discussed lighting geared toward workplaces and discussed the components of lighting. The information in that post is geared toward healthy office lighting, but many of the principles are applicable to healthy home lighting as well. Click here to revisit that office lighting post and review lumens, color temperature and color rendering index.

Keep in mind lower Kelvin temperature is warm and cozy while higher Kelvin values are more like daylight, which is invigorating. The higher the temperature, the more blue is in the light, which increases mental alertness and reduces melatonin.

A Side Note About Melatonin and Sleep

Electronic screens emit blue light which is one of the reasons using technology in the evenings and/or before bed could disrupt your sleep.

Have you been strong-armed into using CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs because you’ve heard they are green and consume less energy? Not so fast. CFL bulbs create dirty power on your wiring system. You could install filters to remove this interference, but these filters are still controversial as they sometimes increase other types of electromagnetic radiation. Plus, the electricity used by the filters would cancel out any type of energy savings offered by CFLs. That’s dealing with normal operation. But what about when you break a CFL bulb? The mercury released actually creates a hazardous waste area! Yikesola. They are very toxic. If — or in our experience when —you break a fluorescent bulb, we recommend you seal off the area, open a window and leave immediately. You can return 24 hours later for clean up after all has settled. Studies show if a fluorescent bulb is broken on carpet, you can never completely remove the mercury. Plus, in our opinion, they are pretty ugly and the light they emit is simply not attractive.

And while we are on the subject of fluorescent lighting, they really are not a healthy source of lighting as they are shown to cause migraine headaches (http://www.livestrong.com/article/122360-health-effects-fluorescent-lighting/) and eye disease (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222423/).

Conventional wisdom on “green” lighting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What do we do?

Remember those good ole incandescent bulbs? Yep those! They work just fine, the light is good and they don’t cause health issues. In the home, standard incandescent bulbs are great! LED lighting is another option. LEDs are generally better than CFL bulbs, but consider these two things:

  1. Some are worse than others, but our friends at Healthy Building Science have done some testing (http://healthybuildingscience.com/2013/09/10/emi-and-leds-not-all-leds-are-the-same/) and it appears that CREE LEDs are best.
  2. Be aware of Line Voltage vs. Low Voltage. “What?” you might say. Line voltage is the standard voltage found in outlets and junction boxes (examples include lamps, and most ceiling fixtures) while low voltage uses a transformer to step the voltage down from 120 volts to 12 volts.

Many recessed can lights are low voltage, as are task lighting, desk lighting and LED strips. Do we love having this kind of lighting for working or just creating a mood? Of course we do! However, it comes at a price, and that price is magnetic fields. If you choose this type of lighting, place the driver/transformer away from locations where you spend a lot of time


Well friends, there’s still a chill in the air where we are, so w’re headed to light our EcoSmart non-toxic bioethanol fire. We have to admit fire light might be our favorite source of lighting!

Cheers to living healthy!


Healthy Office Lighting: It Can Improve Workplace Productivity!

Healthy Office Lighting - tips and guidelinesHealthy office lighting is important.

As health trends continue to permeate the office and our working environment, one area not given much attention is lighting. Clearly we love what lights do to create an atmosphere. Although office design trends today tend toward open spaces with more aesthetic natural lighting, artificial lighting is a necessity in an office. If you can’t use 100% natural light, let’s at least make sure it’s healthy office lighting.

Lets quickly review some of the fundamentals of healthy lighting.

Most people think in terms of brightness, however, there are other factors to consider in addition to brightness.

Brightness. This important quality of lighting is measured in lumens. A 60-watt incandescent bulb has a brightness of 800 lumens.

Color Temperature. The second piece is color temperature measured in Kelvin: 2000K – 3000K is warm light which is cozy and inviting; 3100K – 4500K is cool white light which is bright and vibrant; and 4600K – 6500K is more like sunlight/daylight and is invigorating. By adding more blue light, this number can increase beyond 6500K.

Color Rendering Index. The final component is Color Rendering Index (CRI) and means the lights ability reveal the color spectrum in the same way natural light does. The higher the number, the fuller the spectrum and these numbers range from 1-100.

Natural light is best…

As we all know, offering as much natural light as possible in an office is best. In fact, a study published in Health Environments Research and Design Journal reported nurses exposed to natural lighting experienced lower blood pressure, better moods, increased alertness and better cognitive performance. And, a study conducted in Britain showed that windows were the number one determinant of worker satisfaction with the building.

Of course we know that abundant natural light is not always possible in an office environment, so what to do? The next best thing is to utilize lighting components to “simulate” natural lighting. Combining color temperature of 5000K or more and a CRI of between 80 and 90 is how this simulated natural lighting is generally accomplished.

Information also shows that adding blue to light can increase work performance, support mental acuity, and create a happier more productive employee. A UNC article says adding blue to lighting creates great brainstorming areas whereas warmer tones might be best for areas in an office like conference rooms and break rooms.

And finally, how much brightness is optimal?

Brightness is often a personal preference in workspaces. But a general rule of thumb is to ensure there is at least 215 lux at 30” above the finished floor, which is generally desk height. If you start there, it’s a good foundation for making any other smaller adjustments for the differences in personal taste or the requirements of specific tasks.

Clearly, lighting can impact employee health and productivity.

That being said, any improvements in your workforce are going to make a difference. We like to think of it in terms of the 3/30/300 Rule. If you spend $3 per square foot on utilities, you will spend $30 per square foot on facilities and $300 per square foot on the people in the building. Without a doubt, spending money on your employees is the biggest bang for your buck. And healthy office lighting is a hinge between your utilities, your facilities and your people.


As J.W. Marriott said so perfectly, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself.”


7 Ways to Create a Healthier Office Environment

We are a little obsessed at the moment with creating a healthier office environment.

7-ways-create-healthier-office-environmentYes, its true: We’re obsessed with offices. In fact, so excited we can barely stand it. Did you know health is no longer something you pursue before or after work? That’s right, health can be obtained while you work. Are we loving the relationship between building biology and workplaces? You bet we are. It’s like getting married, except the marriage is between work and health. And the great news is, more research is being done to show the relationship between buildings and health (check out McGraw Hill Construction’s Smart Market report on how buildings affect health). If you are interested in higher productivity and employee satisfaction while reducing sick days, keep reading.

Lets talk about all the ways to make an office or workplace healthy.

Air Quality

healthy-office-air-quality-fanWhether it’s new construction or renovation, you can ensure all the building materials and products used will not “toxify” the environment with a lot of off-gassing. In many situations an air flush (forcing air through a new construction building prior to occupancy) could be beneficial. And while we are on products, cleaning products will inhibit good air quality faster than most anything else. So once you make it healthy, don’t ruin it with unhealthy cleaning products. The healthy ones are everywhere, so that’s easy. Let’s also ensure there is not only a smoking ban inside, but one outside as well. Throw in some upgraded air filtration (or at least an individual unit in areas where there are machines like copiers which pollute the air), and your air will be much cleaner. A recent Harvard study showed that cognitive function and response rates are much increased with improved air quality.


Water

healthy-office-pure-waterThe stuff is necessary for life. Research shows we humans still aren’t drinking enough of it; and particularly enough clean and healthy water. Research also shows people will drink more water if its easily accessed. Solution: place healthy filtered water stations at regular intervals.

 

 


Lighting

healthy-office-lightingDid you know lighting is one of the biggest ways your circadian system is regulated? The circadian rhythm is the biological mechanism for regulating the cycle of sleep and activity. Proper lighting, glare control, and exposure to daylight can dramatically influence eyestrain and productivity. It will also decrease eye related health issues such as headaches.

 

 


Fitness

healthy-office-fitness-take-the-stairsExercise at work? Yep, you heard that right. We love incorporating walking and cycling desks. Why not burn more than three times the calories of sitting? Even a standing desk is better than sitting all day. Or, go ahead, ride your bike to work. Many offices are equipped with showers and bike racks. Maybe you are lucky and there is a gym in the office so you can grab a workout during lunch. Yoga classes onsite? Sure, healthy employees are more productive employees. If the above options are not present, at least take the stairs. Six flights a day is enough to offset the average annual weight gain.


Electromagnetic Radiation

healthy-office-hard-wired-networkAdmittedly, this is a little more difficult to control with the demand of WiFi and other technologies. However, you can ensure workers are as far away as possible from routers and offices are not located adjacent to mechanical rooms. And did you know, a hard-wired system is more reliable for that super jazzed up conference room you use to impress your clients?

 

 


Collaboration

healthy-office-collaboration-teamWork spaces are opened up. Gone are the days of the private office. Collaboration is key so work spaces are designed with more comfortable groupings to encourage teamwork. This is fantastic because we all know teamwork creates success and mental stimulation. Remember, the healthiest happiest societies are those where people are more (and more often) relational. You need a minute to revitalize? No problem, lets incorporate a meditation room. 15 minutes and you are nearly as good as new. Many offices also offer seminars about sleep support, stress management, or nutrition.

 


Food

healthy-office-food-strawberriesAre there onsite food options? Perfect! But lets be sure vending machines are free and clear of unhealthy items and plenty of fruits and veggies are accessible. Maybe there is a coffee bar. We suggest offering hot tea and healthy juices as a complement to the typical coffee with cream and sugar.

 

 


Ahhhhhhhh… so many fun ways to make an office healthier. Are you trying to recruit the best talent or the next generation of workers? A more collaborative, healthier office could be a key component. And why wait? In the future this will be the norm. Work, home, play, live — the lines are getting blurry. And that is music to our ears.