Electrical contractors that perform a lot of hospital work, especially lighting projects, may have a whole new type of work to look forward to in the future. Rather than responding solely to requests for proposals that focus on brightness levels, fixture placement and light-efficiency levels, contractors may also be involved in installing lighting systems that are designed to improve hospital patient health and well-being and improve hospital worker productivity as well.


In an effort to study the effects of lighting on human health and diseases, the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced in January that it has installed a novel hospital inpatient lighting test bed at the University of New Mexico Health Center (UNMHC) in Albuquerque.


“At the ERC, we are building smart-lighting systems that automatically adjust the right lighting for us at any given time, with light coming from the right direction, with the right color and intensity, optimized for human health and productivity,” said Robert Karlicek, ERC Director.


For the first time, the smart-lighting-equipped hospital room will enable side-by-side controlled studies about how LED lighting affects human health. Researchers at UNMHC will use this facility to study the treatment of circadian rhythm disorders and health conditions, such as depression, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological diseases, that have previously been shown to respond to light exposure of the correct spectrum, intensity and timing.


“Not only will this new technology allow us to study classic circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders, but now we will be able to also investigate the effect light plays on such behavioral health disorders as depression and dementia,” said Lee Brown, professor of internal medicine and director of the UNMHC Sleep Disorders Program. “In the future, everyone may have access to this technology. Knowing more about the effects of lighting may actually help physicians prevent disease and increase productivity in healthy persons.”