Chasing Daylight

The “indoor generation” is opening its windows and doors to re-introduce daylight into everyday life and enjoy its benefits
Laurie Cowin
May 22, 2019
THE TALK... | Design & Performance

For several years, I worked in an interior office with nothing but a buzzing fluorescent light to illuminate my space. After buckling down on a project for hours, I was always surprised when I emerged, looked out someone else’s window and saw it was snowing. Or storming. Or that it was a rare Chicago picture-perfect day. I’m now fortunate enough to work from a home office in rural Pennsylvania where my office has windows so I can breathe fresh air, feel the breeze, enjoy the sunshine and look out over my yard. 

But my easy access to daylight and the outdoors is an anomaly. According The Velux Group’s video “The Indoor Generation,” we spend 90 percent of our life indoors, a figure that has negative ramifications on our health and wellbeing. “It all started the day we left nature behind,” the video says, continuing that, “Artificial light replaced daylight and we built our houses so that nothing could escape. [...] We had closed ourselves in. To the point where nothing could get out.”  
 
The video painted a dark picture from our removal from nature and corresponding poor air quality: increased use of sleep aids, more allergies, risk of depression and a 40 percent higher risk for asthma. Research showed the air inside homes is up to five times more polluted than air outside, with children’s rooms often having the highest concentration of toxins. “Millions of homes are unhealthy to live in,” the video asserts.
 
Velux is a fierce advocate for daylighting. It hosts a biannual daylight symposium, the next one coming up in October in Paris. The two-day program will aim to address questions of how buildings can support human needs, be healthy places for occupants and use energy and resources efficiently while staying in balance with nature. “How the story ends is up to you because it’s not written yet,” Velux’s video concludes. “Let fresh air into your life again. Even small changes can make a huge difference for coming generations.”
 
Other sources also document the host of benefits that accompanies harmony with the outdoors: improved focus, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, reduced inflammation and even a lower risk of early death. Last week, Eric Thompson wrote about the role fenestration companies play in the growing biophilic design trend. At its core, biophilic design aims to create spaces that incorporate natural elements to ultimately reduce stress, enhance creativity, improve well-being and expedite healing. He challenges manufacturers to prepare for this growing trend by ensuring their product portfolios offers appropriate products to meet changing needs.
 
Helen Sanders, PhD, Strategic Business Development with Technoform North America also addressed the topic during the National Glass Association’s Thirsty Thursday webinar series. She covered “The Health and Wellness Benefits of Daylighting,” informing participants about how light regulates our circadian rhythms, which is what makes us function on a 24-hour cycle. With interrupted rhythms—a result from too much darkness or too much artificial light, she said—comes an impaired immune system; increased likelihood for cancer, heart disease and depression; and disrupted sleep. “There’s a lot riding on having light at the right time of day,” Sanders said.
 
Windows and doors are the gateway between our homes and the outdoors and manufacturers increasingly are recognizing the role they play in merging our indoor and outdoor spaces.
 
I want to hear: What small changes have your clients requested in the name of bringing more daylight and fresh air into their homes? Is your company affected by the burgeoning biophilic design trend? Email me at lcowin@glass.org.
Laurie Cowin is senior editor of Window + Door. Contact her at lcowin@glass.org.