Human-centric lighting: adapting light for people

By: Secom
9 de May, 2022
Reading time: 6 min

What exactly is human-centric lighting (HCL)? What are the technical specifications for a system that imitates natural light? Human-centric lighting brings together a set of lighting requirements designed to exploit the benefits of sunlight on health, well-being and human biorhythms.

In this article we will talk about...

  • What is human-centric lighting?
  • The benefits of human-centric lighting
  • Types of human-centric lighting
  • How to implement human-centric lighting
  • Suitable locations for HCL

What is human-centric lighting?

Sunlight lets us see sheen, shapes, colours and contrasts clearly. It also impacts our biology, hormones, concentration and energy levels and controls our biological clock and our circadian rhythm.

Human-centric lighting or HCL takes a holistic approach to the effect of light on all these factors and applies natural lighting criteria to the benefit of human beings. In other words, the lighting system provides clarity and comfort to balance our visual, emotional and biological needs.

The benefits of human-centric lighting

The human eye perceives HCL as sunlight. As the day progresses, the brain interprets the changing colours and differing intensities of light as it would sunlight.

Improved mood

Two of sunlight’s major effects on the human organism are improved mood and an enhanced sense of well-being. Research suggests that hospital patients recover more quickly when exposed to this kind of light, and luminaires with these features help to cut the length of hospital stays by between 16% and 41%.

Luz saludable para las personas

Increased performance

HCL has proven effective in boosting workplace performance in several sectors including aviation, medicine, education and administration. New LED lighting systems enable wavelengths and light intensity to be adjusted to support human tasks. They also allow us to induce states of alertness and rest at appropriate times.

There is no doubt as to the potential of LED technology in this area compared with other sources of artificial light.

Sleep cycles

HCL imitates natural light, helping regulate sleep cycles and improve rest quality. For example, hospital patients fall sleep 30% more quickly and sleep for 8% longer.

Not all light affects sleep equally, however. Bright blue light suppresses melatonin, whereas night lighting in warm shades does not.

Positive health impacts

Aside from better quality sleep, the pattern of natural sunlight benefits our health in general. For example, it reduces insomnia and helps treat depression and eating disorders. This is because lighting directly impacts the production of melatonin. When the body produces this hormone at the appropriate time of day, it helps prevent long term health problems. By contrast, exposure to too much light suppresses melatonin production and leads to reduced performance during the day and a weakening of the immune system.

Types of human-centric lighting

There are various ways to create lighting that meets the desired objectives and functionalities of the system while imitating sunlight cycles.

Circadian lighting

This type of lighting simulates sunlight conditions in real time. The natural sunlight cycle follows a gradual increase in intensity through to midday before a gradual decrease until night.

Productivity lighting

The most productive times of day coincide with the coolest lighting. In the morning, the light is cold. As time goes on, the light temperature increases. Hence, productivity lighting (that aids concentration and prevents visual fatigue) is cold. It is the recommended type of lighting for working and for reading and studying.

Luz ambiental adaptada

Relaxation lighting

The light in this case is warm and relatively soft. It has a relaxing and calming effect on the human organism and usually has a yellow or orange hue to imitate natural light at sunrise and sunset.

How to implement human-centric lighting

An HCL lighting system requires products designed specifically for this purpose in addition to automated and manual controls.

Some systems have seven independent colour channels to reproduce any spectral configuration without UV or IR emissions. The luminaire modules connect to a concentrator via a bus. This enables them to communicate with a lighting network controller or a management system.

Mejora rendimiento colegio iluminación

Suitable locations for HCL

The following areas are among those that stand to gain the most from HCL:

  • Offices: HCL boosts productivity and improves employee mood.
  • Schools: HCL supports the learning rhythm and academic performance.
  • Hospitals: HCL improves well-being, sleep quality and patient mood.
  • Industry: HCL increases energy and concentration among employees.

Human-centric lighting has enormous potential and there is widespread consensus around its benefits. That’s why there is predicted to be a significant increase in the manufacture and marketing of these products in the coming years. The Secom catalogue includes a range of options for use with HCL systems.

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