Light is a healing force. Researchers have found that light impacts human health and performance by controlling the body’s circadian rhythm, elevating mood, improving perception and enabling critical chemical reaction in the body to take place.
Healthcare settings rely on a combination of daylight and electrical light, though the degree to which they utilize natural light can vary greatly. Maximizing natural light in healthcare settings has several advantages:
Optimal Patient Outcomes
The body’s circadian system is regulated by daylight. Access to natural light in healthcare facilities reduces depression among patients, improves sleep, and results in an overall decrease in the length of hospital stays. Light exposure is critical for vitamin D metabolism, which further decreases depression.
Researchers have found that patients admitted to brighter rooms spend up to 41 percent less time in the hospital than those who are admitted to dim or windowless rooms. They have also found darker rooms to be associated with higher mortality rates. Similarly, rooms with lots of natural light and access to views are correlated with lower stress and blood pressure, which is essential to patient recovery.
Higher Performance Levels Among Healthcare Staff
Studies demonstrate that higher natural light levels are associated with better performance of complex visual tasks. In pharmacies, research has even found that adequate light levels are associated with fewer medication-dispensing errors. Natural light also helps night-shift workers adjust to throughout their shifts.
Windows and natural light are linked to increased satisfaction with healthcare working environments. Many hospital employees work long hours and experience fatigue. By boosting staff morale and productivity, healthcare workers will carry more energy throughout their shifts and transfer that energy to those they are caring for. In the long run this will result in lower stress levels and health-related absenteeism.
Increased Functioning in Senior Care Facilities
The amount of light required to perform visual tasks increases with age. Natural light is also associated with decreased agitation among dementia patients and less pain with chronic illnesses.
How to Maximize Natural Light in Healthcare Settings
While advances in artificial lighting have allowed architects to create large, deep buildings with enclosed spaces that rely solely on artificial light for illumination, these environments are not optimal for human health and functioning. Although they are habitable, they are typically less efficient and conducive to productivity than areas with natural light. Patients in windowless rooms tend to experience higher stress levels and even develop Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).
Increase Use of Glass
There is significant pressure for modern healthcare designers and architects to create sustainable or green designs that maximize natural light. The easiest way to accomplish this is to increase the use of glass. However, this comes with the caveat of decreased privacy. Fortunately, Smart Glass Technology provides greater design freedom with glass by instantly going from transparent to opaque.
Avoid Curtains & Blinds By Using Smart Glass Technology
Hospital privacy curtains are notorious for holding onto pathogens and posing a contamination risk in healthcare settings. They are constantly touched and adjusted but need to be removed in order to adequately be cleaned or replaced. Smart glass, on the other hand, can be cleaned just like regular glass multiple times per day if necessary. Switchable glass and film also allow for contactless control via remotes, wall switches or voice command, making it more efficient for healthcare staff to adapt patient environments.
Switchable glass allows architects to create medical facilities where natural light flows through spaces so that it can reach areas that tend to be central and deeper into hospital floor plans such as nurses stations. Whenever staff and patients require privacy or a room is in use the glass can simply be switched to private. Even when smart glass is in it’s opaque state it still allows natural light to come through while cutting the overall unwanted glare from sunlight, meaning patients and staff are still able to experience the benefits of natural light.
Adequate natural light is critical to the health and well-being of both patients and staff. Natural light has the added benefit of being completely cost free! Contact us to learn more about how Smart Glass Technology can enhance healthcare settings and fit into your upcoming projects!