Natural light makes us more productive, less stressed, and, if we get enough of it during the day, helps us sleep better at night. The problem, of course, is that most of us spend our days inside, often in windowless cubicles or dimly lit apartments. A new design demonstrates a different way to live: This all-glass building is essentially one seamless window, letting in as much light as if you were sitting outside.
The building, called the Photon Space, uses an advanced type of glass that blocks harmful UV rays and sounds from the outside, and can also darken automatically via an app, so if you’re living inside, you don’t have to worry about privacy. Nano-scale particles sandwiched between two layers of glass can be adjusted with the app to control the amount of brightness and heat streaming in. It can also be programmed for special situations, like recovering from jet lag after a long trip.
The manufacturer, a U.K.-based glass engineering company called Cantifix, envisions the buildings as backyard “daylight suites” for hotels, offices, and homes, where people can spend time to relieve stress and sleep better. While it might not replace typical buildings, the company thinks that those need to change as well.
“We don’t expect a wholesale shift towards people living in all glass buildings permanently, as there are times when it would be at odds with contemporary life–i.e. light pollution, urban density, etc.,” says Fayza Nawara from Cantifix. “We should start by designing houses with far more access to daylight, about 40%, which would have a major effect on the overall health of the inhabitant.”
The company also plans to work with researchers from Oxford University on a long-term study that will test the impacts of spending time in a Photon Space. 300 people will each spend around three weeks in one of the buildings, while researchers measure how that impacts their mood, productivity, and health. Disrupted circadian rhythms are already linked to serious diseases like diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Currently raising funds on a site called Crowdcube, the company plans to launch first in the “wellness tourism” market at spas and resorts, where people can use the buildings to reset their body clocks.
“200,000 years ago humans lived on the equator where 12 hours of darkness relentlessly follows 12 hours of light–our body clocks were therefore set by messages from non-visual photoreceptors about light and dark,” says Nawara. “If we confuse these messages our circadian rhythms run free and lead to health issues. However, they can be rebalanced in a relatively short time, about three to four days, if you return to a more natural life controlled by daylight.”
If you’re feeling like Photon Space is just what you need to fix your sleeping problems, you may still be out of luck: A basic version of the Photon Space is available for $330,000.