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Wellness and glass: Designing better spaces to promote better living

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Wellness and glass: Designing better spaces to promote better living


Elizabeth Cotton | May 7, 2019

Architectural glass allows the flow of natural light into buildings, and this 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 home and work 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 the amount of solar heat that enters the building, the amount of heat that is retained, and the amount of light that passes through. 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 subsequently these individuals lacked exposure to daylight. The other group worked in spaces with absolutely no access to natural light of any kind. Results illustrated that those without 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.

Using glass to bring sunlight deeper into a structure allows more people to enjoy the benefits of consistent exposure to natural light. This can be achieved using a product like Clearvision™. This glass product is an extremely transparent, low-iron glass with a high visible light transmission – 92% at 3mm thickness – which can be used for internal partitions, office dividers, or cubicles. Glass this clear allows the light coming in from outside to filter further inside, while serving as attractive, modern, interior structural elements.

 

 

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. A human’s daily experience of light affects their 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. 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. 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 by increasing the number of windows and glass products used within a structure and ensuring that those who work inside have access to natural light and outside views.

 

 

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 improved patient access to daylight 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. This is attributed to the better regulation of the patient’s circadian rhythm. “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 the ideal material to ensure that individuals living, working, or recuperating inside can gain access to the outside and experience the optimal amount of 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.

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