The Seattle Mariners may have just upped their game when they retrofitted their clubhouse with an LED lighting strategy focused on intensifying the moods, energy levels and performance of their players.
The LED-based project, headed up by Planled CEO John Hwang, Lighting Wizards principal Stan Walerczyk, and Harvard professor Dr. Steven Lockley, aims to prepare the players for the game with one type of light, and then wind them down afterwards with another. The desired outcome is a baseball team that’s alert and awake before and during the game, and rested and relaxed after.
What is Human Centric Lighting?
Human centric lighting (HCL) is the study and application of light on the human body: mainly mood, energy & health. There’s no question that recent advances in LED lighting technology have helped our planet with its cost-savings and energy efficiency, but how might it benefit me, as a human being? Can a personal lighting strategy make me a better wife, mother, employee? Can it make a professional athlete perform better?
In an article published in Architectural SSL, Stan Walerczyk highlights five core areas of our life where lighting effects human physiology and performance:
- Circadian Rhythms
- Visual Acuity
- Improved Productivity
- Energy Efficiency and Sustainability
Circadian Rhythms — Back in November, we talked about how using your smart phone or tablet in bed isn’t the best idea for those suffering from insomnia. That’s because the LED light emitted from the screens has a stimulating effect, much like sunlight, which also radiates this same blue wavelength. The mood boosting effect messes up our body’s circadian rhythm, our internal clock that self-regulates around 24 hour cycles. Alternately, warm amber-toned light has the opposite effect. It signals your body that it’s evening, a time to wind down. Full recovery is crucial for professional athletes that are constantly pushing their bodies to the max. During rest is when the body repairs, rehydrates and regenerates. Using warm lights in the club house post-game gets the process started.
Mood — Realizing that light affects our mood isn’t exactly a mind-blowing discovery. Scientists have been studying the psychological effect of sunlight for years. Symptoms of natural light deficiency are combatted with light therapy devices — essentially lamps that artificially simulate the radiance of the sun. Will professional athletes trade their pump-up music for a light therapy session? Not likely, but there’s enough evidence to support adding it to a pre-game motivational routine.
Visual Acuity — In addition to lumens (the measure of light output or brightness), specific kelvins (color temperatures) can enhance visual clarity. In lighting design, we call this spectrally enhanced lighting. Adjusting light along the spectrum can improve visual acuity without increasing light levels and energy consumption. For the Mariners that means less shadows on the field and a better HDTV experience for the fans.
Improved Productivity — If I’m in a better mood, I’m not straining to see my computer screen, and I’ve had a good nights sleep — it’s not far-fetched to suggest that I’ll be more productive in my job. In the case of a baseball team where player stats are tracked and recorded in intricate detail, evaluating a change in productivity levels will be interesting to measure.
Energy Efficiency & Sustainability — Replacing outdated fixtures with LEDs has several sustainable benefits. According to a case study by Ephesus Lighting, when the University of Phoenix replaced their metal halide fixtures with LEDs, they experienced a 75% reduction in energy consumption, a statistic that probably took the sting out of the initial investment. The long-term benefits of LED lighting (less maintenance, a reduced carbon footprint) offer less in the form of immediate gratification, but trickle their gifts throughout future generations.
The Future of Human Centric Lighting in Athletics
The Mariners aren’t the first professional sports league to introduce high-tech LED lighting into their stadium. This year the Super Bowl will take place under 180,000 LED lights of the University of Phoenix stadium, making Super Bowl XLIX the first one played completely under LED lights. These LED’s power up immediately, unlike the ones used during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout. The Houston Texans and LA Lakers have also taken advantage of the cost savings and energy efficiency of LED lights. If the lighting changes in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse reveal a positive impact on player mood and energy levels (and ultimately effectiveness in the game), I think we’ll see a flurry of stadiums pulling the plug on their outdated fixtures.