Visual Amenity

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Lighting Aesthetics

Lighting not only allows us to see, it can be used to manipulate our senses and evoke deep psychological responses. Many pleasing effects are creations of nature – sunrises, sunsets, white clouds, stormy skies with lightning, and dramatic visual effects caused by sunlight and deep shadows. People are mesmerized by the flickering light of candles and fireplaces. Man‐made lighting effects can produce a wide range of responses in the observer, and theatrical effects are often carried over to architectural lighting designs. Lighting can enhance form or destroy it. It can produce effects that are serene or terrifying, joyful or playful, stimulating or boring. Light can be used to indicate that spaces are private or public, to redirect attention to objects or events, to create anticipation or promote calm.

Light is a power tool for the designer, and the appropriateness of a design is dependent upon the application and the intent.

Section Key Resources
  • Hopkinson, R.G., (1963) Architectural Physics: Lighting, Chapter 1. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London. Philips, Derek.
  • No links specific to this section have been listed.

Lead Author(s): Hayden McKay

Social Behavior

Social behavior within a group is an important factor in settings where there are potentially multiple users that have control of shades/blinds, lights, or other architectural attributes that affect the workplace.

Studies point to greater occupant satisfaction/productivity when users have individual, personal control of their environment (Leaman and Bordass, 2000, Brager 2004). This leads to the conclusion that providing some level of control for glare, light, and thermal comfort are important aspects for designs that address high interior environmental quality.

However, when looking beyond the individual to group dynamics in places where multiple users have access to control, there is a potential for conflict between occupants. Sometimes these group dynamics can be so negative that the controls are not used. Occupants who take a back-seat to utilizing the environmental controls, such as blinds, have more negative attitudes about the interior environmental quality, and experience a higher level of stress than those who utilize the controls. This speaks to careful consideration of group dynamics when designing environmental controls such as blinds, operable windows, or any other dynamic architectural element. People’s reaction to quality is greatly affected by the ability to alleviate discomfort without causing disruptions for other users (Boyce, 2003).

Another aspect to social behavior in respect to environmental controls is ownership. Occupants are willing to give up daylight and view when closing a blind/shade increases visual and thermal comfort. Users are likely to close a shade or blind when direct sun, high glare, or thermal discomfort arises. These blinds/shades, however, tend to stay shut far after the time of discomfort days, weeks, months, or even years (Maniccia, 1999, Rae 1984, Boyce 2003). Without individual or group ownership of the shades, they may stay drawn and not allow full daylight performance over time. Careful consideration of the control patterns and ownership of these dynamic elements are very important considerations to designing elements that function optimally and provide comfort to the greatest number of individuals. One successful strategy that allows individual control and addresses both ownership and daylight performance is a shading strategy that is lowered manually when discomfort arises, but is automatically programmed to retract when darkness sets in.

Section Key Resources
  • Boyce, P., Hunter, C., Howlett, O. (2003). “The benefits of daylight through windows.” Troy (NY): Lighting Research Center.
  • Carmody, J., Selkowitz, S.E., Lee, E.S., Arasteh, D., Willmert, T. (2004). Window Systems for High-Performance Buildings. New York: Norton & Company.
  • Brager, G., Paliaga, G., et al. (2004). "Operable Windows, Personal Control and Occupant Comfort." ASHRAE. 110:17-35.
  • Leaman, A., and Bordass, B, (2000). “Productivity In Buildings: The “Killer” Variables.” Creating the Productive Workplace, ed: D. Clements-Croome, E. & F. N. Spon: London.
  • Maniccia, D. Rutledge, B., Rea, M., and Morrow, W. (1999). “Occupant Use of Manual Lighting Controls In Private Offices.” Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society. 28:42-56.
  • Rae, M. (1984). “Window Blind Occlusion: A Pilot Study.” Building and Environment. 19:133-137.
  • No links specific to this section have been listed.

Lead Author(s): Heather Burpee

Outside View

Rikshospitalet, Oslo Norway. This staff lounge has abundant daylight and views to nature. Photo Credit H. Burpee
Radium Hospital, Oslo Norway. This patient waiting room has a view to nature, thought to relieve stress and anxiety. Photo Credit H. Burpee

Most people prefer workspaces with views, though there is a limited understanding of why and how views impact mood, productivity or satisfaction. Connections between windows, daylight and view are inherently intertwined in the perception of space. Positive attributes from each are difficult to isolate since they are so intricately intertwined.

Positive Effects of Views

Evidence suggests that views of natural environments have a greater positive impact than other views or no view at all. For example, Roger Ulrich studied a group of surgery patients who had a view of a brick wall versus another group of patients that had a vegetated view and found that those with the vegetated view had, on average, shorter hospital stays, fewer negative evaluations in nurses’ notes, and used less pain medication (Ulrich, 1984; Christoffersen, 1999). Physiological manifestations of viewing natural spaces such as water, greenery or flowers are measurable within five minutes of viewing such a scene. Stress responses are decreased: blood pressure, heart activity, muscle tension, and brain electrical activity (Ulrich, 1981; Ulrich 1991). “Because natural views tend to produce positive responses, they may be more effective in reducing stress, decreasing anxiety, holding attention, and improving mood (Edwards, 2002).” Views and natural light are inherently intertwined, and the positive effects of windows, light, and views are difficult to discriminate.

Circadian Rhythm & Dynamic Natural Variation

The dynamic natural variation in color, quantity, and rhythm of light has positive impacts on both perception and physiological health. The natural shifting of light quality and color through the day and through seasons is an important factor in grounding human experience in time. Scientists have discovered that the color of light that stimulates the circadian clock is slightly different than the color of light that is used for the visual system. The maximum visual sensitivity lies in the yellow-green region of the light spectrum, whereas the non-visual system perceives light that is shifted into the blue spectrum. Thus, blue light is more potent for stimulating physiological responses through the non-visual system. Human beings evolved with different colors of light shifting throughout the course of the day: the sky ranges in color from blue in the morning to red in the evening. Similar patterns are necessary for our non-visual response to light. The complexity of light and view can provide stimulation and ground experience through providing visual meaning of time, place, and season.

Section Key Resources
  • Berson, D.M., Dunn, F.A., Takao, M. (2002). Phototransduction by retinal ganglion cell that set the circadian clock. Science, 295: 1070-1073.
  • Boyce, P., Hunter, C., Howlett, O. (2003). The benefits of daylight through windows. Troy (NY): Lighting Research Center.
  • Edwards, L., Torcellini, P., et al. (2002). "A Literature Review of the Effects of Natural Light on Building Occupants (Technical Report)." National Renewable Energy Lab. Golden, CO.
  • Christoffersen, J., Peterson, E., et. al. (1999). “Windows and Daylight – a Post-Occupancy Evaluation of Offices.” Statens Byggeforskningsinstitut (SBI) Report 318, SBI: Horsholm, Denmark.
  • Ulrich, R. (1984). "View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery." Science. 224:420-421.
  • Ulrich, R. (1991). "Effects of Healthcare Environmental Design on Medical Outcomes." DCHP 2000. 49-59.
  • Ulrich, RO. (1993). “Biophilia, biophobia and Natural Landscapes.” The Biophilia Hypothesis, eds: S. K Kellert and E. O. Wilson, Island Press, Shearwater Books: Washington DC.
  • Ulrich, R. S., and C. Zimring. “The Role of the Physical Environment in the Hospital of the 21st Century: A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity.” Concord, CA: The Center for Health Design (2004).
  • No links specific to this section have been listed.

Lead Author(s): Heather Burpee

Page Key Resources
  • No publications general to this page have been listed.
  • No links general to this page have been listed.
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