In my last blog post about the future of lighting, I only mentioned circadian-supportive lighting in passing. I received a few comments that suggested I should be more-bullish on this type of light. Here’s why I stand by my opinion.
Over the last decade, I have attended countless lectures and panel discussions covering light, more specifically how light relates to health and our perception of color. Following the completion of the first session, I was immediately optimistic for the future. Initially, change seemed so easy. Unfortunately, the more I learned, the dumber I got.
Color wasn’t just CCT and Color Rendering. After each lecture, another wrinkle was added. Chromaticity, spectral power distribution, gamut, tri-stimulus values and metamerism all turned a simple solution into a complicated problem. What seemed like a “no-brainer” quickly turned into a much more complicated issue.
I remember attending an annual Energy Star conference. An open session on color damn-near turned into a bar fight between an audience member and the moderator. The topic was not a political fight, a sports-based disagreement or even a spurned lover. This was a harsh exchange about each person’s understanding of the color of light. Certainly not the typical argument you’re likely to overhear at Danny’s Tavern. (Feel free to insert the name of the local watering hole of your youth.)
Early on, the importance of circadian-based lighting in the future seemed obvious. Its increased use became my assumption, too. The more I learned and saw of the trajectory of LED, I began to pull back on the notion. LED is getting cheaper and with that, delivering poorer quality light. Why would I now expect a reverse of that trend? Will circadian sensitive lighting be the one thing that reverses our desire for cheap?
In one of the lectures, an audience member asked the speaker if he thought all light in the future would be circadian-regulated. He flatly stated, “No!” he gave his rationale. “We all know the typical office chair is bad for our body. Engineers have developed the quintessential solution to solve all of the problems that harm our musculoskeletal systems. How many people have purchased these chairs? Ten, twenty percent? If consumers will not purchase a more expensive chair to solve a known medical problem today, why would we think they will do so tomorrow?”
From my perspective, I want to believe lighting is much more important than a chair; but is it? I don’t suspect I’d get into a bar fight over it, but the evidence is not very compelling. Circadian lighting, like the Aeron Chain and GE Reveal lamps will appeal to a rarified population. They will be available, helpful and better, but because of the cost, ignored by the bulk of the population.