• Harry Booth

5 things I took away from the IESANZ Conference

As a 19-year-old, fresh out of high school, the IESANZ Conference was the first lighting conference I have attended and my first plunge into the professional world. I have only been working for Dad at OSIN for the past 5 months creating content like this. As a bit of outsider who wouldn't have known a lux from a lumen a few months ago, I wasn't too sure what to expect, but as I took my seat at the pre-conference workshop I couldn't help feeling grateful to be one of about thirty who were there to learn more about the future of lighting. I wrote this to recap to help digest the event because between the presentations and chats with other attendees, there wasn't much time to process everything we learned.

1. Light is about far more than being able to see

Whether it was Robert Soler’s keynote on circadian lighting, Mariana Figueiro’s overview of alertness and light, or Motoharu Takao's breakdown of the relationship between lighting and the perceived safety in urban environments at night, there was a clear consensus that light’s impact on our physiology is far-reaching. I think Luc Schlangen said it best during the final panel of the conference,

"Lighting is about biology."

Lighting has become a commodity, with a drive to provide enough light to ‘see’ at a lower cost, or while using less energy. This is based on the premise that light is merely needed to be able to see. However, this is a myth that was systematically dispelled time and time again, as many of the speakers stressed the importance of the other benefits light can provide, including the non-visual effects.

Credit to Robert Soler for this slide.

2. We need to use new metrics to measure the other benefits of light

Without metrics that reflect our biology, we fail to properly measure the benefits of light, which may be one of the reasons our society continues to undervalue light. In the words of Kit Cuttle, 

“The technology we use to specify, measure and to predict lighting is out of step with people’s response to the visible effects of lighting.”

During the morning of the pre-conference workshop, Mark Rea described how the metrics we all rely on are either obsolete or blatantly misused. For example, photopic illuminance, which is often used (or misused) to measure brightness, only measures the medium and long-wavelength cones' response to light, while ignoring the short-wavelength cones' response, making V(λ) an inaccurate model for predicting brightness perception.

While CRI is an elegant, simple metric, it merely measures an illuminants ability to reproduce a handful of sources to an ideal source with the same CCT, the problem being the ideal source itself may not reproduce colours naturally. This is especially true when looking at extreme CCTs (very warm or cool sources.) A lighting system’s ability to entrain or disrupt our circadian rhythm is an important consideration in spaces where people spend the majority of their day (or night), although, it is rarely measured. Thankfully, there are newer metrics and even standards to quantify this, such as Melanopic Lux and the LRC’s Circadian Stimulus.

3. Circadian rhythm’s are a pervasive part of all biology

A slide depicting a circadian rhythm seemed to appear in almost every speaker’s slide show, reflecting the importance circadian lighting is going to play in both the lighting industry and the post-industrialised world. As Robert Soler said, “circadian rhythms are a pervasive part of all biology,” meaning every living organism that lives longer than 24 hours displays some form of an active and passive phase in sync with the sun. And light is the primary cue that sets that rhythm!

Unfortunately, artificial light, and especially current LED technology, have little of the light that sets our circadian rhythm. According to Robert Soler, this in conjunction with the fact that we are spending an average of 90% of our time indoors, means that approximately 87% of us are suffering from some form of social jet lag. Although it wasn't all bad news! With speakers from The United States, Canada, Japan, Holland and Malaysia all dedicating time to discussing the importance of circadian lighting, I began to feel there was a global effort to drive circadian lighting out of the labs and into people's everyday lives.

4. Human-centric lighting doesn’t just mean ‘tuneable lights'

During the pre-conference workshop,

Mariana Figueiro emphasised that human-centric

lighting is a far bigger subject than just tuneable lights. It is a topic that requires holistic consideration. Mark Rea affirmed this when he implored us to consider how the space will be used and which benefits from the light the occupants require. Robert Soler reestablished this on the first day of the conference when he demonstrated how even using tuneable white or high CCT sources during the day is an imperfect way to provide circadian entrainment.

“Lighting designers need to get creative about how they deliver light at the eye. Think layers of light!”

Mariana stated the above as she encouraged the audience to think beyond horizontal lux from lighting in the ceiling. While tuneable spectrum lighting is just one tool in the toolbox, vertical illuminance, intensity distribution and duration of exposure are also important considerations when designing healthy, lit environments.

5. The 'cash value' of Circadian Lighting is better sleep, not productivity!

While we have good reason to believe that someone with an entrained circadian rhythm will be more productive than one whose circadian rhythm is disrupted, productivity is notoriously difficult to measure, as it can be influenced by other variables which are incredibly difficult to control. Personal issues, the construction next door, or a surprise Windows update are all factors that can impact productivity. Sleep time, quality, and regularity are much better proxies for how well entrained one’s circadian rhythm is.

Moreover, the benefits of better sleep are difficult to overstate. Considering it lowers your risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, a growing list of cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease, sleep really is an overlooked wonder drug! Did I mention it also helps prevent depression and anxiety?

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