February 13, 2024

The Human Touch: Lighting Design and Application Magazine

How human-centric lighting can be a game-changer in three environments.

Colm Nee

Our surroundings affect our mental health and productivity, but it’s not always easy to create spaces that bring out our best. As people spend more time indoors, it’s important to consider the impact that lighting can have on occupants’ well-being. In a school environment, students should be in the most optimal space to learn and stay focused. In a hospital, surroundings should promote healing. Office interiors should inspire productivity.

Human-centric lighting can promote health, wellness and productivity by delivering the right light at the right time for the right task. Using IoT data, human-centric lighting improves comfort and performance by controlling the intensity and color temperature of white LEDs, as well as adjusting CCT (the color hues within white light that affect mood). Organizations can harness this power.

Though school infrastructure doesn’t always offer the most optimal space for learning, lighting sensors can help fix this problem. Lighting sensors can be integrated into tunable-white light sources and also used to adjust the color temperature and intensity of light to fit the setting. During the winter months, lighting can be adjusted to mimic sunlight and make classrooms feel brighter, but not uncomfortable. In the summer, electric lighting can shift to allow for sunlight as the main source of illumination.

For students in a classroom, lighting technology is a game-changer. It can enhance alertness for learning or encourage relaxation for recess or naptime. It can help students adapt to fixed schedules and prepare them for better sleep at night—promoting a healthier circadian rhythm, and thus, academic success. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine1 letting the most sunlight inside during the morning and dimming lights in the evening promotes a better circadian rhythm and sleep schedule.

Some schools have implemented such lighting technology, for example: California State University Dominguez Hills implemented IoT-enabled smart lighting across its campus, not only for energy savings but also to enhance the quality of learning for students.

Similarly, the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) implemented task tuning, which allows lights to be dimmed to the most appropriate level based on use and energy savings. “With the Enlighted system, we’re able to set lighting configurations based on occupancy levels, individual needs and behaviors,” said Jordan Sager, UCSB’s energy manager. “This task-tuning capability has proven to save us tremendous amounts of energy while better serving the needs of our students and staff.”2

The lighting industry can expect this design trend to continue in 2024 throughout K—12 and higher education institutions.

As Americans spend 90% of their time indoors,3 it’s important, no matter their occupation, that people should feel comfortable in the buildings. where they spend most of their time. For hospitals, a place where health and wellness are a top priority, flexible lighting can improve conditions for patients and hospital staff alike. For example, light sensors can provide operating and treatment rooms with the equivalent of theater-quality lighting for improved staff alertness. Alternatively, sensors can be adjusted to promote rest and recovery in a patient’s room by changing the intensity. Again, research4 has shown, light, at the right time, at the appropriate level and with spectral distributions, has the opportunity to restore and strengthen the natural human circadian rhythm. By recreating daylight patterns and helping to regulate the sleep-wake-cycle, human-centric lighting is shown to decrease patient recovery time and need for medication.

Similarly, a focus on human-centric lighting can mitigate staff weariness during shifts—something especially important for nurses, who may work up to 12-hour shifts. A recent CDC study5 suggests a link between exposure to light at night, such as during a night shift, to some types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. While this is not proof that nighttime light exposure causes these conditions, it’s known that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, which can lead to health issues. 

Moving forward, the lighting industry can expect hospitals to continue to build upon a foundation of smart lighting, incorporating data analytics to gain insights into patterns of occupancy within their facilities. This will enable administrators to identify areas of congestion and optimize the flow of patients, visitors and staff.

Lighting can also have a significant effect on office workers’ productivity, creativity and overall mood. According to research,6 daylight enhances human performance, as it helps regulate circadian rhythms. With lighting flexibility, employees are able to create the most optimal atmosphere to be productive. In commercial offices, the lighting community can expect to see a significant shift toward human-centric lighting, and the continued prioritization of employee well-being. This evolution in smart lighting technology will empower offices to customize the lighting experience to the specific needs of individuals. And, these smart lighting systems will be adaptable to accommodate different workspaces for the hybrid workplace, including collaboration areas, meeting rooms and flexible workstations. They will create a welcoming and comfortable environment for the growing number of hybrid workers. 

In today’s world, where our physical environment is becoming increasingly dominated by indoor spaces, the profound impact of lighting on our well-being and productivity cannot be understated

“The lighting industry can expect hospitals to build upon a foundation of smart lighting, incorporating data analytics to gain insights into patterns of occupancy”

The importance of crafting environments that facilitate learning, healing and optimal work performance is gaining prominence, and human-centric lighting stands as the solution. By harnessing the capabilities of IoT-driven lighting technology, organizations have the power to transform spaces into dynamic ecosystems that respond to the everchanging needs of their occupants.

Access the full issue of LD+A Magazine here.

THE AUTHOR | Colm Nee is the Chief Technology Officer of Enlighted, a smart building infrastructure company that uses IoT lighting technology to operate, orchestrate and optimize sustainable spaces.


1 American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “College Students: Getting Enough Sleep Is Vital to Academic Success,” Nov. 6, 2017. Available: https://aasm.org/college-students-getting-enough-sleep-isvital-to-academic-success/

2 Enlighted, “Case Study: University of California, Santa Barbara.” Available: https://www.enlightedinc.com/customer/uc-santa-barbara/

3 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Improving Your Indoor Environment,” May 15, 2023. Available: https://www.epa.gov/indoorair-quality-iaq/improving-your-indoor-environment

4 Marie Engwall, Göran Jutengren, Ingegerd Bergbom, Berit Lindahl and Isabell Fridh, “Patients’ Self-Reported Recovery After an Environmental Intervention Aimed to Support Patient’s Circadian Rhythm in Intensive Care,” HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, Mar. 23, 2021.

5 Christina C. Lawson, Elizabeth A. Whelan, Tania CarreónValencia and Claire C. Caruso PhD, “Recent News about Night Shift Work and Cancer: What Does it Mean for Workers?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Apr. 27, 2021.

6 Sean Peek, “Flick of a Switch: How Lighting Affects Productivity and Mood,” Business.com, Mar. 23, 2023. Available: http:// www.business.com/articles/flick-of-a-switch-how-lighting-affectsproductivity-and-mood/

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