The Photon Project to Launch at London Design Festival 2013

All-Glass Pod Tests The Biological Effects Of Daylight On Humans


The Photon Project is a ground-breaking scientific study that is being launched at the 2013 London Design Festival – with a week-long installation at The Building Centre in Store Street, WC1. A prototype all-glass Photon Pod will be built in the forecourt – and the public will be able to experience ‘life under glass’ from sunrise to sunset – as well as take part in specially designed tests to measure their levels of alertness or relaxation.


This event will launch the Photon Project, and introduce the public to this unique and important study – which addresses a modern problem that’s negatively affecting the health, wellbeing, mood and behaviour of millions of people – disruption to the biological clock caused by lack of daylight.


Cantifix Ltd – a market-leading specialist glazing company, has asked a scientific research team from Oxford University to be the academic partner on the Photon Project – and to establish a more direct link between daylight and living under glass on wellbeing - that in the long run will benefit our quality of life and health. “Our feeling was that this is a very big idea that has a simple and accessible solution that is available to everyone,” says Charlie Sharman, Managing Director of Cantifix Ltd.


The scientific team is led by Professor Russell Foster – who is Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. He and his colleagues are credited with the discovery of non-rod, non-cone, photosensitive ganglion cells in the retina - which provide input to the circadian rhythm system. “Few of us appreciate this internal world and we are seduced by an apparent freedom to sleep, work, eat, drink or travel when we want,” says Professor Foster. Disruption to these circadian rhythms causes a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing – over a short period this would typically lead to depression, nausea and high blood pressure; however over a longer period this would become chronic depression and secondary hypertension. There is also evidence that the lack of sleep caused by an inability to reset the body clock can have a critical impact on: schizophrenia, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, diabetes, some cancers and many other life threatening conditions.


The research phase of the Photon Project will last 4 years, and involve 300 participants spending time in Photon Pods – 30m2 all-glass living enclosures -which incorporate both living and sleeping areas between a module integrating kitchen and bathroom. These participants will be scientifically tested in order to investigate the impact of natural light on their biology and wellbeing. The results will create the blueprint for design to take account of human needs, and are likely to have an impact across the medical, therapy and leisure markets – as well as the global glass industry.


Brent Richards is Principal of Transpolis Global Architects and a lead innovator in the field of glass architecture. As architect of the Photon House and conceptualiser of the Photon Pod and future living solutions involving greater access to daylight, he is the Strategic Creative Director for the Photon Project. Cantifix has applied its expertise in glass and engineering to develop a specification for the innovative ‘healthy’ glazing used on the Pod – designed to allow the optimum amount of natural daylight into the interior, whilst still delivering the insulation and solar control required to provide a comfortable living environment. Over the course of the Photon Project this glazing specification will be developed using the latest nano-coatings – towards a surface that responds intuitively to individuals and climatic stimulus, changing colour and transparency for shading and privacy.


The Photon Project will be launched at The London Design Festival between 14th to 22nd September 2013, with a prototype Photon Pod being built outside The Building Centre in Store Street, WC1. Each day will start with a Sunrise Experience (7am – 9am) – where visitors will be scientifically tested on their level of alertness and readiness for the day, and end with a Sunset Experience (6pm – 8pm) – where visitors will be tested on their level of relaxation and readiness for sleep. These tests have been designed specifically for the event by scientists at Harvard and Monash Universities. The prototype Photon Pod will be accompanied by a Photon Exhibition within The Building Centre, which will guide visitors through the wider vision, ambitions and context of the Photon Project. The launch event will also feature presentation and discussion sessions, which will be held on the afternoons of Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th September – and will involve international scientists, academics, architects, designers and global corporations who will debate the link between daylight and science, technology, health, wellbeing, architecture and design.


The prototype Photon Pod will be built in association with Philips – who have integrated their latest LED lighting technology to compliment and harnomise with the artificial light system, when natural light (daylight) is not available. Dupont, Southwall Technologies, Sharda Glass, Cube Construction and 4C Developments have all also donated their products and services to build the prototype Photon Pod.


Visit the Photon Project website to learn more.
Read about the Project Partners.
Read more about the discovery of non-rod, non-cone, photosensitive ganglion cells in the mammalian retina.
Read a report commissioned by Glass for Europe into the benefits of glazing on human health.

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