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Healthy Lighting Equals Healthy Living

Observations from the 2018 IES Research Symposium.

By Annemarie Erbel, CEM, LEED GA

Humans evolved to live under the sun

Light quality. What does that mean?

It means humans have come up with many methods of manufacturing light. Some are worse than others but not one of them could possibly come close to the quality of light we get from the sun. We are animals and no amount of fancy clothes or gadgets is going to change that. Animals need natural light, not to see by but to live by.

Human health is linked to natural light

There are so many things we are still exploring and discovering about light and its effect on human health, which was the topic for this year’s IES Research Symposium in Atlanta, GA.

After drinking from a firehose for two days at the 2018 IES Research Symposium, the drops that have stuck with me are that we as humans need as much daylight as we can possibly get.

Although lighting products, like Philips tunable white solutions, can create an environment that mimics daylight patterns by adjusting color temperatures and brightness, we have not found a substitute for natural light.

This graph shows that we have made a good light for simulating sunset but nothing on there manages to match the beautiful full wavelength spectrum of daylight. Maximizing natural light in designed spaces that we live, work, and play in has to be our priority if we plan to live long and live well.

Going from dark to light

While at the symposium, one of the speakers made a statement that “we are living in the dark.” This thought crystallized the insanity we have embraced as a species in that we are purposely tearing ourselves away from our natural environment. It is not a plus for our health that we work in fluorescently lit work spaces or try to heal in rooms that have a big glare bomb on the ceiling. These are not healthy places to live and work.

Let’s work together to bring the outside in

We all need to work together through obstacles of budget, lack of cost effective products, close minded traditionalists, among many others. In attendance were lighting designers, lighting manufacturers, optical researchers, visual ergonomists, and more. Everyone was there to collaborate and share knowledge to determine what call to action each of us can answer to bring awareness into the mainstream about how essential quality of light is to our well-being.


About the Author

Annemarie is a native Bay Area Californian and lover of the built environment. After earning degrees in mechanical and aeronautical engineering from the University of California at Davis, she traveled in the South Pacific then spent the first part of her career in Vancouver, BC designing mechanical building systems. While at this firm, she worked collaboratively with architects and various engineering disciplines to design office towers, hospitals, defense facilities, high rise residential buildings and even a daycare for a Living Building Challenge. Upon returning to the Golden State, she transitioned into a role as an energy engineer to impact the consumption of energy in existing buildings. She is now using her diverse network and design knowledge to bring the light of lumenomics to the Bay Area.


IES Research Symposium

Established in 1906, the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) is the recognized technical and educational authority on illumination. It’s annual IES Research Symposium brings together researchers and design professionals for an open exchange of ideas that will influence future priorities for developing and adopting metrics, standards, and recommended practices. At the 2018 IES Research Symposium the latest research on how light during the day and night affects our circadian, biological, and behavioral responses was presented along with discussions on how this research might affect current and future design applications.


lumenomics is a certified women and LGBT owned human-centric natural lighting company providing integrated window covering and lighting systems using smart technologies. lumenomics helps increase the comfort, productivity, and happiness occupants experience in designed spaces. Utilizing smart technology connecting its natural lighting solutions to the Internet of Things, so facility managers and/or occupants can easily manage their buildings' energy efficiency through user-friendly controls.

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