Postgraduate Lives: Matthew Harrison, research assistant, Royal College of Art

Bad lighting can affect our health

My research is looking at the ways in which office lighting can improve the health and well-being of an ageing workforce. If you've ever been in an office then you know how awful the lighting is, and there is a lot of room for improvement. I met a PA who worked in a dark office with no window nearby and she was suffering from terrible migraines. Then, one day, the overhead fluorescent light broke, and she stopped getting migraines. We spend more time in offices than anywhere else in our working life and the lighting really affects our health.

My undergraduate degree was in mechanical engineering at Imperial College. I found the course quite dry and unemotional and I was aware of the Royal College of Art (RCA) next door and I thought, 'gosh, that looks a lot more exciting'. I did an MA in industrial design at the RCA where they encourage people to combine an engineering background with creative, socially minded, design. After that I applied for a research assistant post.

I'm 25 and I've never worked in a proper office, so I have a fresh perspective. My focus is on an ageing workforce because when you get older you have more individual needs and preferences. As eyes age they become less sensitive to light and after the age of 45 your visual ability to do difficult tasks reduces rapidly. Yet suitable lighting is rarely provided; instead offices often use the cheapest lighting possible with constant light on the whole day. There is no emotional or psychological reference to the time of day or to what people are doing.

Natural light doesn't just provide us with vision; it is linked to our own body rhythms. There are receptors in the eyes that react to a dark blue spectrum of light that occurs in varying levels throughout the day. This light suppresses the sleep hormone, melatonin, that informs our body clocks. It exists outside in the morning and makes you alert and productive. But in the afternoon it disappears. If you spend all your daylight hours in an office with fluorescent light bulbs then it has a dulling effect on the body clock.

I began with book research and an analysis of new light technologies. Then I sat and watched peoples' behaviour in different sized offices at Orange and EMI. The third stage of research was a design hypothesis in which I created images of light fittings. I have now produced a website style tool which can be shared by my industrial sponsors, Thorn Lighting. The next stage is to work on a prototype control interface. This is the way light can be controlled using a computer.

There is some scepticism from old industrial experts but computer control of lighting is inevitable and it needs to be used to its full potential, by giving individuals control.

People have different preferences when it comes to light; there is not one solution that fits all.

Email: Caitlind1@aol.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected