Natural Light and Circadian Vision

Natural Light and Circadian Vision

Jonathan B.
Oct 19, 2007

What an eye-opening concept. On Thursday, Joel Loveland of the Seattle Daylighting Lab reminded a crowd of aspiring architects and planners at Berkeley of the importance of natural light... and on how much we still have to learn.

For example: did you know that there's more to vision than rods and cones?

Prof. Loveland had a great way of thinking about light quality and window type (including a good explanation for why the windows in so many modern buildings are unsatisfying and unattractive), and in the future, you can look for a series of posts on that topic.

But for today, we thought we'd share one exciting tidbit from the talk: the concept of circadian vision. Apparently, and we're just paraphrasing the experts here, so correct us if we're mistaken, your retina actually has two layers. Light passes through the outer layer to hit the rods and cones—if you remember biology class, that's where color and black and white vision happens. But on this newly discovered outer layer, other receptors take note of the color and quality of light at dawn and dusk, and adjust your body clock accordingly.

We've always been big fans of natural light and windows, especially after suffering two stifling years in a completely windowless middle school. But we're also excited about the broader implications here for greening the home: just because we think we've figured something out doesn't mean we've got the whole answer.

Rethink, reconsider: these are as much a part of green living as reduce and reuse.

image via Current Biology article, as linked above

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