BOOK REVIEW: The Light Revolution

The Light Revolution

Health, Architecture, and the Sun

by Dr. Richard Hobday

In times past, we instinctively understood that our lives depended on the glowing warmth of the sun.  Without space heaters and microfleece, every winter was a stark reminder that the sun’s warmth can be all too fleeting on a winter’s day.  And in the spring, great rites and festivals celebrated the coming of longer, more fertile days.

Somehow, however, the sun’s importance in modern architecture has diminished over the course of the twentieth century, often even as firms attempt to “green” buildings by reducing airflow (and therefore, heat loss).  The Light Revolution is a beautifully researched book about the sun’s journey over time through our collective consciousness.  It is also a medical book, celebrating the healing power of sunshine, which has been known to cure a whole host of diseases and other maladies. Even as a solar enthusiast, I learned a lot about ways in which solar power and medicine has been utilized in the past, and also about why current architecture has strayed from its heliocentric past incarnations.  When you realize just how many things the sun can cure, and how many very respectable people have argued its merits over the years, it is almost hard to figure how the box factory/warehouse/office building came to be.

What I liked most about the book was its discussions of quality of light.  After all, sitting under a tree is hardly the same as sitting on a beach, though both can be considered daylight.  According to Dr. Hobday, our modern lighting systems are negatively affecting our health, and costing us billions of dollars in loss of health and productivity.  The quality of indoor light is most often below the luminant threshold necessary for internal vitamin D production.  As you’ll discover in the book, vitamin D is absolutely critical to our ability to prevent and heal infections and diseases.

Rounding out the interest to readers is an interesting look at how political considerations often eclipse design considerations in the planning and construction of buildings.  He showcases some nice attempts at solar building design from the past, and shows how each achieves or falls short of its goals.  In the end, the lessons from the past serve to greatly underline the future potential of light therapy and its applications in health and architecture.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    fluorescent bulbs are just awful … and now there’s a big “green” push to change all existing light bulbs – the traditional, incandescent kind – to the mercury-filled “low-energy” fluorescents.

    thanks for the review … i’ll have to check out the book. what’s he a “Dr.” of?

  2. 2

    solarious said,

    Here’s a bit about him from an article he wrote:

    Richard Hobday, MSc, PhD is a member of the British Register of Complementary Practitioners and has studied traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese exercise systems in China. Dr. Hobday has many years experience of solar design in buildings and is a leading authority on the history of sunlight therapy. Visit the author’s website at http://www.healingsun.co.uk

    The article this was taken from can be found at:
    http://www.innerself.com/Health/sunlight.htm

    The compact florescent bulbs actually give off more light than incandescent bulbs, especially when compared to the energy used to do so! But you’re right, there is a long way to go until florescent bulbs have that “warm” feel of a traditional bulb. The mercury issue is certainly a valid point. They are perhaps victims of their own efficiency, as they convert very little of the energy used to make light into waste heat. I do think that heat is somewhat important, but Hobday’s point is that both incandescent and florescent lighting pale in comparison to the healing powers of natural sunlight.


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