KANBrief 1/17

Human-centric lighting: lighting for today, tomorrow and beyond

Light is important, and not only for human vision. Modern lighting systems also exploit non-visual effects of light, for example its influence upon the circadian rhythm. In line with the Arnsberg Roadmap (Result of a workshop attended by all stakeholders on the progress of scientific research into biologically effective lighting (human-centric lighting); see also KANBrief 1/2017), regulators, employers, employees and planners should address the opportunities offered by the new technology at an early stage in order for artificial lighting to support human health at the workplace in the best possible way in the future.

It is important that during the planning of human-centric lighting (also referred to as integrative lighting, dynamic lighting or biologically effective lighting), consideration is given from the outset to non-visual effects. A risk otherwise exists of mistakes similar to those made with LED products, which owing to their energy efficiency and stimulating cool white light are often used indiscriminately, even in rolling three-shift systems in which, as is now known, they may constitute a health risk.

In order for the current state of knowledge to be exploited safely in practice, manufacturers call for thorough planning with a multi-phase approach:


  1. In the first phase, the areas of application should be determined in which human-centric lighting delivers the greatest benefits and supports the human circadian (day/night) rhythm.
  2. For each area of application, dynamic artificial illumination should then be planned that adequately supplements natural light during the day and avoids excessively white lighting with a high blue component during the night.
  3. The final phase is selection and installation of the lighting components: luminaires that radiate the light appropriately and deliver both daylight and warm white light colours, each selected at the appropriate time by the light controller. In particularly complex cases, mutually adapted lighting and shift plans should be drawn up with the support of experts from the medicine and chronobiology fields.

Generating knowledge and enshrining it in regulations
In order to ensure that the illumination systems put into service across industry are properly designed, these new findings must be disseminated and enshrined in regulatory documents. In Germany, a working group in the state committee for workplaces (ASTA) is currently surveying the progress of relevant OSH research. The DGUV Lighting sub-committee is planning development of a DGUV Informative Document, and the DIN Lighting Technology Standards Committee (FNL 27) is working on recommendations for application. In addition, the DIN expert forum on non-visual effects of light upon human beings will be held for the 9th time in mid-2017.

Within European standardization activity, CEN TC 169 Working Groups 2, Lighting of work places, and 13, Non-visual effects of light on human beings, are working on incorporating the knowledge obtained to date into standards and specifications. At international level, Technical Committee JTC 9 of the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) is adopting principles for evaluation of non-visual radiation ("Quantifying ocular radiation input for non-visual photoreceptor stimulation"). ISO TC 274, Light and lighting, is drawing up a Technical Report compiling information from application studies of the non-visual effects of light. This report is to assist in the implementation of safe and beneficial lighting applications.

At the same time, universities and manufacturers are conducting a range of joint research projects the results of which can be progressively included in regulation and standardization activity and implemented in practice.

Illumination in ten years' time
Digitalization will enable information on individual persons to be linked and mathematical algorithms to be used to determine and set the "right light" for each individual or to average it for a group of people. Will our lighting therefore be controlled in future by the legislator or our health insurers, in order to retain our performance and good health? It is also conceivable that lighting installations will detect autonomously who is present in a building or room and where, and will deliver adjusted illumination that takes account of both the visual tasks and the desired non-visual effects of the light. Is this science fiction? No: research projects for this purpose are already in progress. Ultimately, the task of finding the right balance for appropriate implementation at workplaces will fall to the state and the parties to collective bargaining.

Jörg Minnerup

Chair of the DIN Lighting Technology Standards Committee (FNL)