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Incube wants to bring ‘daylight’ to apartment buildings

For anyone designing an office space or learning environment, there is plenty of research available on the best types of lighting setups to aid concentration and productivity in conjunction with our circadian rhythms. When it comes to the home, the same lessons are rarely applied. In Norway, with its long summer days and almost total lack of daylight in winter, Incube struggles to try to bring more daylight to residential buildings.

“I’m not Norwegian, but I moved to Norway in 2013,” said Maria Perdomo, CEO of Incube Lighting. “Where it’s really dark in the winter and really sunny in the summer, and that was tough for me. And after a few years, I started to suffer from SAD, which is a kind of depression that occurs due to lack of light.

Knowing that it was a lack of light that contributed to her situation, Perdomo drew on her training in architecture and was inspired to investigate new styles of construction where the emphasis is on bringing in the outdoors, l inside and keeping as much light inside as possible.

“We got in touch with the University of Barcelona, ​​which is now our collaborator,” Perdomo said. “And we researched what makes our brain generate the hormones that affect us so much, and how natural light affects us in different ways, much more than we usually know.”

It took some time for research funding to be approved for the project, and there was also some skepticism that needed to be overcome, but the three-year project is now well underway and producing interesting results.

“Our proposal was to redesign really common apartment buildings and experiment with bringing the garden to the middle of the building,” Perdomo said. “At first, everyone was really skeptical about it. But they decided to open it with us.

Flipping the architecture of a building, the theory was to open up traditionally dark spots, like stairs, and show that it was possible to bring light and, most importantly, growth inside. . Significantly, the study showed that it is not enough to have only natural light for the brain to function, but that there must also be a combination of natural elements. The company solves this problem by adding plants and other natural materials to the built environment. By having plants indoors, their natural phototropy helps convince our brains that indoors is outdoors.

In traditional architecture, elevators often occupy the dark innards of the building. Picture credits: Incubate

The Incube team observed that in most residential buildings, stairs and elevators occupy the middle of the building. It makes sense; this means that the apartments can have as much light as possible. However, the company offers a different approach:

Incube wants to bring 'daylight' to apartment buildings

By moving the elevators to the side, residents walk through a garden to get to their homes. Picture credits: Incubate

In this design, part of the building’s interior is transformed into a garden, inviting residents to walk through simulated light and real plants to return home. The general idea is to encourage social interaction with neighbors and make hallways more pleasant.

“Your brain is a perfect machine,” Perdomo said, “so you need to bring in more than daylight for your brain to realize it’s outside and start producing, for example, melatonin. We have to create a recipe with many different elements for the brain to say okay, it’s out.

The research garden, known as OBOS Living Lab, is powered by a combination of light collected from the roof of the building and carried inside, and light generated by LEDs. The electric lights are all made in Spain, while the natural light is a perfect rendition of outdoor conditions, reflecting the moving clouds and birds flying overhead. This, too, is important in aiding the brain’s response to indoor natural light. Natural light is constantly changing, and even if we don’t register it automatically, the brain recognizes it and differentiates it from artificial light.

“The photosensor reads the light intensity as well as the color and movement of the light,” Perdomo said. “The optical fiber starts from these sensors inside the building. So we transport this information to the middle of the building.

But of course, in the middle of the Norwegian winter, there is not much light to carry inside. This is where LEDs come in. The control center stores light patterns from month to month, which can then be used to program a cycle that provides more light. So instead of a December sunrise at 10:30 a.m., you can mimic an earlier fall sunrise, say at 7:00 a.m.

In addition to the Living Lab garden, the Incube team is working on the development of a device to bring you light in your individual homes, and not just in the shared spaces of buildings. The Sky panel is connected to a photo sensor located outside and can be controlled by an app. The idea is that you will be able to recreate light patterns that are longer in the darker months.

The Incube team sees their work as crucial in times of climate crisis and when our relationships with cities and buildings are changing.

“Most of us have really bad daylight indoors, and we want to change that,” Perdomo said. “The future of architecture is being able to reuse existing buildings. We are facing a climate crisis and we need to think differently about how to bring us natural light. »


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