Lighting for Human Needs: Where does Lighting for Health fit in?

This could be a great topic for a philosophical discussion or a full-day training session.  Rather than addressing the question scientifically or even as a lighting designer/architect, I will simply ask:  What does the average worker understands about their own lighting needs? 

These are my guesses, although I’m sure some may see priorities differently. 

1.       Need to find the way.

2.       Ability to do work.

3.       Understanding the time of day, and how this affects one’s schedule.

4.       Need for connection to nature, with daylight and views being a major factor.

5.       Psychological need for comfort and support with ability to vary lighting.

Assuming I have correctly tuned into the psyche of the average American (other cultures may rank these differently) it would appear that the health and wellness aspects of lighting are not invisible to the average person.  Based on buildings that most people work in, however, it seems that only the top two are common to nearly all buildings.  Office buildings usually have views to the outside, but these may not be universally accessible to all who work there.  With hermitically sealed windows, the connection to nature is rather limited. 

Psychological and lighting needs vary throughout the work day.  It follows that having the ability to dim and raise the light level or even change the warmth or coolness of the light color would be important if more people realized that such features can be achievable with LED lighting.  

Employees are the most valuable resource in an office building, so logic would tell us that rather than designing and retrofitting lighting mainly for energy efficiency reasons, we should instead be looking to retrofit worker occupied buildings to dimmable and even white-tunable LED light to ensure that we support and nurture the best workforce.  

Recall that in the economics of the workplace:

1.       That $3/square foot (sf) of the cost of a business office is for utilities to run the building.

2.       That $30/sf of the cost of the business is for the real estate and infrastructure cost.

3.       That $300/sf of the cost of running a business is the employees and their benefits which include healthcare and sick time. 

A stressful work environment, exacerbated by a glary lighting system with no manual controls is not conducive to a health work environment.   It would follow that understanding the effect that lighting has on our health and well-being, we also would want our workplaces designed to provide more than adequate illuminance for way finding and performance of work tasks.  And yet, utility costs are the factors driving many lighting retrofits.

Isn’t it time to reevaluate?