People in Glass Houses: Homes Designed For Your Health

In my opinion, natural light is truly one of the most beautiful things that we come across in our day-to-day lives. First of all, it makes you look amazing. Have you ever been photographed in natural light? After seeing what you look like in natural light, seeing what you look like in artificial light will most certainly ruin your day. Then, there are the good vibes. Now, good vibes can be had on days without sunshine. In fact, I love an especially rainy day curled up in a blanket on the couch with some tea and perhaps too much television. But a little too much of that and don’t you start to worry about your health? And you know what fixes it? Natural light! One step outside into the sunshine and suddenly I’m capable of back flips while drinking coffee. Maybe not always…but it’s hard to deny that Vitamin D doesn’t work just the tiniest bit of magic on my mood.

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As it turns out, I’m not the only one who feels that way about light. In fact, even as I type this there is a collection of people dedicated to creating living residences with more natural light in order to “enhance the positive effects of natural light on health, well-being, mood, and behavior”. That group of people, more formally known as the “Photon Project” make up a British start-up. As a company, they are currently exploring the idea of homes made entirely out of glass.

The Photon Project was born after a chance encounter between Oxford University neuroscientist Russell Foster and Charlie Sharman, the director of UK architectural firm Cantifax, in 2010. A statement released by Sharman reveals how pivotal their encounter was. Sharman says:

“The biological facts about the relationship between daylight and health Russell told me about over a cup of coffee changed the way I thought about the world we live and work in. If it is true that light is the major stimulus for setting our body clocks, and when these clocks get out of sync with environmental time the impact on our health, mood and behavior can be extremely serious, then this must be an essential part of the conversation when designing buildings for human habitation.”

The houses the Photon Project plans to build will be the world’s first all glass, modular residential structures. The carefully though out structures are proposed as a “Photon Space” made out of a steel frame and an almost entirely all-glass envelope. The building’s glass is fitted carefully with the latest technology. The roof (also made of glass), is curved using structural silicone, ultimately provide a 360-degree view of the great outdoors. The project’s current models are 45 square meters and are reported to cost anywhere from $325,000 to $410,000 to build. Initially, the startup revealed a prototype for a Photon Space at the 2013 London Design Festival.

Foster, who has spent his career studying the way light effects our circadian rhythms, will use the Photon Project to study 300 participants over the course of four years in a more remote area of Denmark. The Photon Project is adamant about their belief that with an alarming amount of time spend indoors amongst artificial light, our bodies become victim to stress, inadequate sleep, low energy, mood swings, mild depression, loss of libido, lowered disease immunity and more.

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Concerned about participants increased exposure to the sun’s rays? A coating on the structure’s glass will defer UV and infrared rays, reducing increased heat and glare and ultimately working to improve occupant’s comfort levels. Nanotechnology also allows for the glass to be darkened with the flip of a switch or the help of a smartphone app.

Eventually, the Photon Project hopes to offer an architectural blueprint to society that finally takes into account scientifically proven human needs. Currently, the project is funded through a UK crowd-funding platform, Crowdcube. The group hopes to raise around $620,400 to use in order to build and market their first official space. The company hopes to have the funds to begin production this January, with commercial versions becoming available shortly. According to recent interviews, they are planning to market to luxury spas and hotels, with an expansion into the residential market in the foreseeable future.

Now, would I live in a glass house if it eliminated my mood swings and helped me sleep like a baby? Throw in the notion that it will make me skinnier and you’ve got a deal! In all seriousness, I can’t say the prospect of more natural light on a day-to-day basis sounds like a bad thing. There must be rhyme and reason as to why we complain about rainy days and get sick of the winter months so quickly. While I won’t be tearing down my walls and rebuilding a glass version anytime soon, I can say with enthusiasm…let there be light!

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