Letting natural light in highlights benefits for workers

How many different words could you describe the visual environment at your workplace – too bright, too dark, too much glare?  

A Griffith University PhD candidate from the School of Engineering and Built Environment has found that the benefits of allowing natural light to stream through go beyond the productivity of office workers suffering from this visual discomfort. 

Zahra Hamedani and a team of researchers, who have published the findings in Building and Environment, found that favouring the use of natural light over office lighting saved costs, energy and supported mood and sleep. 

“We are also reading more text and media than ever before, on more devices, scales and contrasting lighting levels,” Hamedani said. 

“Visual discomfort is not only a recognised factor in fatigue, lower productivity and job satisfaction, but can also prompt lowering of window blinds in favour of electric lighting. 

“This in turn precludes the daylight health benefits, such as circadian rhythms which affect mood and valuable sleep patterns, and increases energy costs.” 

Hamedani said research and development into utilising daylight in indoor workplaces while avoiding or eliminating glare for workers could be valuable for many office workers, around the world and in Australia particularly, with its high proportion of annual sunny days. 

Measuring visual discomfort from glare has until now been problematic due to subjectivity factors.  

Investigating more objective factors, such as physiological responses, represents a way of overcoming this limitation.  

Hamedani’s review paper, ‘Visual discomfort and glare assessment in office environments: A review of light-induced physiological and perceptual responses’, identifies the promising responses and those that require further investigation, as well as responses that cannot be used for evaluating glare as an indicator for visual discomfort.  

“The great value of this review paper is that it serves as a go-to reference point for research aimed at providing further objective indicator for assessing glare, and for innovative building designers and facility managers interested in live monitoring of visual discomfort so as to programming dynamic daylight control systems and shading strategies,” Hamedani said.  

“Successful research and development can pave the way for a brighter future of comfortable, productive and healthier indoor workplaces.”