Modelling 'non-visual' effects of daylighting in a residential environment

The importance of light not only as a therapeutic tool but as an essential element of healthy living has been highlighted by the recent discovery of a specialized photoreceptor in the eye responsible for synchronizing our internal circadian pacemaker. This pigment, melanopsin, differs from visual receptors in several characteristics, here simplified into a blue-shifted spectral sensitivity and a dose-response curve established from night-time studies. While a vast range of tools has been developed to simulate the amount of light in lux or lumens falling on a static, horizontal surface, corneal exposure estimates are needed for modelling the biological responses to light in space, which require a vertical sensor that can rotate and translate as a human eye does. This paper examines the effects of housing design upon the amount of daylight available for maintaining synchronization of the human circadian system considered in conjunction with human movement, using historic Boston row houses as a case study. Based on a series of simulations taking into account the two above-mentioned characteristics of the non-visual system, this paper proposes a preliminary workflow for suggestions regarding lighting restoration and opens new perspectives on future variables to include. This study found that even modest renovations like painting the space a lighter colour have a noticeable impact on the light received by a moving sensor. More aggressive design choices, such as not using the basement floor of the house for apartments, raise the amount and timing of light received to nearly the level of the best-case scenario.

Published in:
Building and Environment, 70, 138-149

 Record created 2013-09-25, last modified 2018-01-28

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