Department of Architecture, Design, and Media Technology

Designing light for health and wellbeing

How does the light around us affect our wellbeing? What can we do to improve patients’ health by designing indoor lighting? These are some of the questions students from the master’s programme in Lighting Design at Aalborg University have been working with at the 3rd Erasmus summer school project this spring, under the name Light4Health.

Last modified: 16.06.2021

Waiting rooms at hospitals have several functions and uses that set them apart from almost any other room in the world. Some spend only a couple of minutes there, some are there for longer. Some are anxious. Some are expectant. Some are unwell. Some are just plain bored. 

“We have tried to put ourselves in the situation of the patients in the waiting room at a hospital. What are their thoughts and needs? And how can the lighting design help them feel better? Then we worked on designing a waiting room with the placement of windows, the use of artificial lamps to reflect and support the light outside, the way surfaces and colours on the walls, floors, and furniture can contribute to an overall feeling of wellbeing, as well as entertainment areas for both children and adults who may get bored while waiting,” says Laura de Frutos Llorente. 

She studies Lighting Design at AAU and took part in the 3rd international Erasmus course together with students from all over the world. All worked with designing light under the headline Light4Health.

Computer simulations, research on light’s influence on our health, and data about light and circadian rhythms, which is the daily rhythm of the mind and body, were all used in the process, as well as the use of artificial light combined with natural light, called dynamic light.

Reminders of nature brings comfort

Laura de Frutos’ classmate at AAU, Emmanuel Alvarez, was also part of the Erasmus school. He and his study group designed a room for a physiotherapist.

“We had to think of both the patient and the physiotherapist when designing the light and the room. Both have to feel at ease in the room at the same time. We wanted the patient to feel entertained, for example when lying on a massage table, so we put a lot of thought into the patterns on the walls, floor and ceiling for the patients to look at while being treated,” Emmanuel Alvarez says.

He also points out that reminders of nature often have a positive effect on people. Therefore, they wanted to bring elements of nature inside, without anyone on the outside being able to look in.

“A physiotherapist’s room has to be very private and comfortable. Often, as a patient you have to take some of your clothes off, and that is a strange experience for many. We wanted them to feel comfortable in this situation and to find out how the indoor surfaces and light can support this feeling of wellbeing, and also give them something to look at for the mind to relax while being treated” he says.

New insights and knowledge to bring back to AAU

Even though it was hard sometimes to juggle both their regular classes and their Light4Health classes, both Laura de Frutos and Emmanuel Alvarez have gotten new knowledge and insights that they will bring back to their courses at AAU.

“We were supposed to travel to the different universities that take part in the course, but because of corona it was all done online. That was fine, although it was a bit difficult to meet sometimes because of our different time zones. But we learned a lot, both about different approaches to studying, different methods, and new computer programs to use,” says Emmanuel Alvarez.

“We got new insights and learned practical instruments and methods that can be applied to other projects as well,” Laura de Frutos says.

About the Erasmus summer school

The summers school is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and consists of a consortium of universities from many parts of the world; The University of Wolverhampton (UK), Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) (USA), KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), The University of Applied Sciences in Wismar (Germany), ITMO University (Russia) and Aalborg University (Denmark).

All participating personnel members have research expertise in fields related to lighting and design, including some EU-funded projects.

This year’s course was held online in spring 2021 and was coordinated by AAU, Lighting Design Research Group. It focused on lighting for Healthcare Environments with classes on best practices and standards of the physiological impact of lighting, daylight, dynamic and interactive lighting, as well as biofeedback and measuring devices. The course was rounded off with a presentation of the students’ final projects.

Read more about the Erasmus summer school 

Read about the master’s programme at AAU