Wellness and Glass: Designing Better Spaces to Promote Human Well-Being
Architectural glass allows natural light into buildings to enhance living and working conditions and is proven to contribute to occupants’ well-being. According to a report the "World Green Building Council, Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building," it has been determined that people are more productive when they have greater access to windows, particularly when their views look directly out into nature.
Glass with a high visible light transmission is key to creating a naturally well-lit environment. AGC Glass North America’s ENERGY Select is a high-performance, Low-E coated glass that allows architects, designers, specifiers, and window fabricators to customize their solar heat gain, insulating value, and visible light transmission levels.
Depending on climate, performance requirements, and positioning of the structure, architects can dial in the right kind of glass for their needs, maximizing views to the outdoors while maintaining optimal aesthetics and saving energy.
In another study, “Impact of Windows and Daylight Exposure on Overall Health and Sleep Quality of Office Workers: A Case-Control Pilot Study,” published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, two groups were monitored. The first worked in windowless spaces, or spaces where workstations were far away from windows and without any exposure to daylight. The other worked in spaces with absolutely no access to natural light of any kind. Results illustrated that those lacking access to natural light sources during the day did not perform their duties to the highest capacity. They also experienced physical problems, diminished vitality, and poor or interrupted sleep.
Bringing daylight deeper into a structure allows more people to enjoy the benefits of natural light. This can be achieved using a material like Clearvision, an extremely transparent low-iron glass with a high visible light transmission — 92% at 3mm thickness — to serve as internal partitions, office dividers, or cubicles. It provides outstanding visibility and clarity, thereby filtering daylight deeper into the building’s interior spaces.
The relatively new Well Building Standard, a global rating system intended to transform buildings and communities, aims to make architects, designers, and building owners more aware of how a space can affect occupants and the environment, ultimately enhancing their experience of a space. One aspect of the certification program provides illumination guidelines to maximize worker productivity, improve sleep quality, and to minimize disruption to circadian rhythms. It is important that individuals have a somewhat consistent sleep and wake schedule, and this is connected to their light schedule — the daily cycle of light and dark experienced across a 24-hour period.
A being’s daily experience of light affects its circadian rhythm, which is defined as the “physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle,” according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. To optimally function, it is important to maintain a consistent experience of both natural daylight and natural darkness. Fluorescent lighting does not replace natural daylight, meaning that those who work indoors all day should be exposed to as much exterior light as possible to maintain a healthy wake/sleep cycle. This can be achieved with the optimal number of windows in a structure and ensuring that those who work inside can see outside for the greater part of the day.
Significantly, the office setting is not the only place were daylight can help with human health: Natural light also benefits hospital patients. The paper by The Center for Health Design, titled "Impact of Light on Outcomes in Healthcare Settings," demonstrated that access to natural light also helped regulate patients’ circadian rhythms. This helped reduce patient depression, decreased the length of time patients spent in hospitals, improved sleep amongst patients, enabled dementia patients to feel less agitated, and helped night shift work staff better adjust to their schedules. “Irregular rhythms have been linked to various chronic health conditions, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder,” the National Institute of General Medical Sciences reports.
Glass is an ideal material to ensure individuals living, working, or recuperating inside can access and experience the outside and optimal daylight. With an increased focus on health in today’s society, and new standards in place to emphasize its importance, glass can help architects create beautiful, functional structures that promote human well-being.