The trend towards large windows and smart glazing seems to confirm this. They connect us with the outside and provide rooms with as much natural daylight as possible. Further advantages of dynamic glasses such as high thermal and visual comfort, great potential for energy savings as well as clear, aesthetic lines are increasingly desired in health architecture as well. The latest reference object is a large-scale, smart skylight in the senior care center Avondzon in Erpe-Mer, Belgium. Realized with the switchable Halio® glass system, it serves in many ways as a connecting and health-promoting element.
The importance of biologically effective light
Each year when we change to summertime we notice how much influence light has on our well-being. A mini jet lag throws us some days off track. Many people complain of tiredness, lack of concentration, sleep disorders and depression. This is due to our internal clocks, which cannot adapt to the time zone change immediately. Each organ and almost every cell have one of these timers to clock bodily functions such as hormone production, cardiovascular activity or digestive apparatus. By doing so, they go by light and darkness in an approximate 24-hour rhythm. Light intensity and light color are essential triggers.
Daylight controls the day-night rhythm
It is better to get up at the same time every morning, to enjoy an energizing outdoor daylight bath during half an hour, to spend your working day under a biologically effective light that synchronizes its biorhythm with the natural environment, and to go to bed as usual shortly after the chickens. The most disruptive interruption to this daily routine is probably a hospital or retirement home stay. All of a sudden, we find ourselves in a strange environment, deprived of our daylight hours, and exposed to light intensities that depend on the processes in the hospital or nursing home, rather than the needs of patients and residents. Therefore, voices in favor of patient-centered architecture and daylight planning are increasingly being heard.
Windows with a view make you healthy faster
With Avondzon, a renowned Belgian geriatric care facility has opted for dynamic Halio insulating glass units. A total of 132 windows make up a glass roof that, on 304 m2, connects the old wing, built in 1978, with the new one completed in 2019. 73 modern, spacious rooms open to a light-flooded common area under the glazing. In bright sunlight, the Halio glass units - either separately or in groups - can be completely darkened in less than three minutes. In its dark state, Halio blocks 95 % of incoming energy and 98 % of light. Sandeep Kashyap, Sales Manager at Halio International, explains, “As much as possible daylight and as much visibility into the environment is what all these experts agree on these requirements for the hospitals of the future. The system also allows daylight to be controlled in a patient-friendly and precise manner within a light-flooded glass architecture. In addition, it lowers the energy costs for lighting and heating.“
Partial tinting of the panels in less than 3 minutes
The first experiences with the glass roof in the Avondzon building complex are all positive: “It stimulates the residents to get in contact and encourages mobility. This is very important to fight fears and loneliness,“ explains Avondzon CEO Katrien Thysebaerdt. The nursing expert points out the particular importance of daylight in healthcare: “Older people need three to five times more light than young people. Daylight provides orientation, promotes well-being, lifts the mood and reduces the risk of falling.“
Daylight’s positive effects
A generous supply of daylight in healthcare facilities can particularly affect the day and night rhythm, a restful sleep as well as the mood. In dementia sufferers it reduces restlessness and stress and generally plays an important health promoting role. The results from numerous studies point in this direction. For example, a 2016 study (Canellas, 2016) found that high daylight availability in people with depression reduced hospital length of stay. The administration of analgesic drugs after surgery was reduced by 22% according to a study (Walch JM1, 2005, Jan-Feb; 67) and also the performance, the error rate and the wellbeing of nurses appears to have a positive improvement thanks to daylight as it is shown by studies from 2012 (Mardelle McCuskey Shepley, 2012) and 2014 (Zadeh, 2014). Both absences and staffing rates improved.
Especially in elderly patients with reduced mobility, intelligent daylight management can influence health, safety and well-being. Changes in the aging eye such as cloudiness and yellowing of the lens, reduce the incidence of light on the retina, therefore, probably increases the propensity to listlessness and despondencies. Blue light is filtered out and can no longer affect cortisol levels as it was young. In addition, the glare sensitivity increases. ”The dynamic Halio glass with a smoother tint darkens slightly. At the same time, it ensures the highest possible daylight incidence at all times, but it removes the unpleasant dazzling effect of sunlight, bringing a perfect thermal comfort” adds Kashyap. With a color rendering index of 97 %, the electrochromic Halio glass is completely neutral in color and, when toned, shows neither blue cast nor raster or erratic gradients.
Especially in health facilities there is another application for dynamic glass: nearly-privacy even without blackout curtains, which always bring with it the risk of germ attachments. Halio Black blocks more than 99.9 % of incoming light and 96 % of incoming energy and can be used for both interior and partial façade partitioning. Untinted, it has a transmittance of 51 %. The Halio system is complemented by a cloud-based control, which can be integrated into any common building automation system. Halio Cloud adapts tinting to individual needs thanks to special algorithms, with individual parameters such as building use, location and orientation of the façades and weather conditions being included in the calculations. End user control is via intuitive and wirelessly networked interfaces.
Canellas, F. M. (2016). Increased daylight availability reduces length of hospitalisation in depressive patients. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci, Volume 266, S. 277–280.
Mardelle McCuskey Shepley, D. R.-Z. (2012). The Impact of Daylight and Views on ICU Patients and Staff. Health Environments Research and Design Journal.
Walch JM1, R. B. (2005, Jan-Feb 1967). The effect of sunlight on postoperative analgesic medication use: a prospective study of patients undergoing spinal surgery. Psychosomatic Medicine,, S. 156-63.
Zadeh, R. S. (2014). The Impact of Windows and Daylight on Acute-Care Nurses‘ Physiological, Psychological, and Behavioral Health. Health Environments Research and Design Journal.