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Frequently-asked questions and blurry backgrounds

The same questions from Kettering to Krakow –

It’s a privilege to be invited to bang the drum for better lighting all over the world.

The same questions come up every time…

  1. What is ‘Human-centric’ lighting anyway? (Isn’t it another name for tunable white?)
  2. Do you need it for offices and schools where people go home in the evening?
  3. How do we know it works?
  4. Why is it so much more expensive? (and how can I justify the extra cost?)
  5. Is anyone else doing it- or is it just wishful thinking?
Here’s a summary of the answers I give – would love to hear your thoughts!

1. What is ‘it’?

Human-centric lighting isn’t a product – even a colour-changing one. 

And it’s not a miracle cure. It’s an integrated approach to a place for people. It begins with daylight and the colour and qualities of surfaces to actively support the health and happiness people who will use the space now and into the future. Those responses to light can broadly be divided into visual performance and comfort, including emotional response; and non-visual or non-image-forming response including setting the body clock, mood, metabolism and attention. 

These reactions are uniquely personal and change over time.

The most beautiful lights in the world won’t make up for a toxic culture, poor air quality or constant background noise. 

2. Do you need it for offices and schools where people go home in the evening?

‘Circadian’ lighting is a subset of human-centric lighting focused on the qualities of light that set the body clock, specifically brightness, spectrum and timing. Lighting that references the dynamic shifts of natural light over the course of the day helps the body clock to stay on track.

3. How do we know ‘it’ works?

It’s not rocket science.

  1. When we can adjust the lighting to see clearly and comfortably, we read more quickly and make fewer mistakes, are at lower risk back ache, suffer less from computer vision syndrome and migraines. 
  2. When we can see where we’re walking, especially around stairs or curbs, we are less likely to fall over.
  3. When there is a clear and regular contrast between light levels during the day and the evening- and it’s completely dark at night, we feel more alert and productive during the day, recover from stress and conflicts more quickly and sleep better at night.
  4. When we enjoy a burst of bright light – ideally sunlight – at the same time every morning, we are less likely to suffer from winter blues.
  5. When we feel the lighting is designed with our comfort in mind, we judge the space to be  more pleasant, we are more engaged and we get more done – Lighting quality and office work: two field simulation experiments.

4. Why is it so much more expensive?

A truly human-centric solution is going to cost more than a basic plug and play product, starting with the time and effort to get the brief right. The components need to work harder and be more user-friendly too.

But seen in context of your most expensive asset – your people – the incremental cost of a people-centred solution could be a great investment.

5. Is anyone else doing it?

Manufacturers all tell me they struggle to sell these integrated solutions. They cite a lack of client awareness and appetite to spend.  And yet I’m seeing more and more successful businesses choosing to invest because they can see the difference it makes to the bottom line. From the CBRE, Cundall and Schaeffler to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Gundersen Health and WCS Care. I’m putting together a new series of interviews to share in the New Year. More on that soon.


Lighting Controls for Retrofit- Case Study debate at Light23

Tuesday 21st November 3pm. Tridonic Showroom. Design Business Centre.

Please join John Bullock and I as we review the scientific objectives and practical constraints of retrofitting a Residential Care Home on a tight budget. We’ll have one of the luminaires there too, so we can get into the technical details too! Please send me a message or reply in the comments if you’d like to join us – spaces are strictly limited.


Blurring your background on video calls?

Think again!

If you want to seem more trustworthy and competent on zoom, ditch the blurred or fake background or fake office and opt for a real bookcase or plants. And don’t forget to Smile!

This study compared novelty, fake and blurred backgrounds, with blank walls, plants and bookcases and smiling or neutral expressions.  The blurry or fake backgrounds suggested the speaker might have something to hide, reducing perception of trustworthiness. But the biggest predictor was the smile, indicating self-confidence and competence –Virtual first impressions: Zoom backgrounds affect judgements of trust and competence.

Consider turning your camera off altogether if you’re tired though. Women and new hires suffer most from zoom fatigue which can in turn reduce your ability to participate effectively in the meeting, leading to a negative spiral of reduced confidence – The Fatiguing Effects of Camera Use in Virtual Meetings: A Within-Person Field Experiment.

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