London-based start-up the Photon Project plans to build what it claims to be the world's first all-glass, modular residential structure designed to address the benefits of natural light on human health. The proposal is part of the Photon Project, a four-year study on the biological effects of daylight in the built environment and that aims to gather evidence to support improvements in how building occupants live and work.
Photon Space is made of a steel frame and nearly all-glass envelope, which is fitted with the latest in thin-films, coatings, and nanotechnology. Glass panels in the roof are bonded to curved glass beams using structural silicone, providing a 360-degree view of the outdoors. The design responds to a question asked in a discussion among architects, engineers, psychologists, and scientists five years ago: how would we design our houses if we only considered human needs and desires?
The design of the Photon Space is supported by years of research from neuroscientist and Oxford University professor Russell Foster, who studies non-visual photoreceptors, which communicate with the brain to set a person's internal body clock, or circadian rhythm. Foster’s research concludes that regular exposure to daylight can regulate circadian rhythms, thereby improving moods and reduce stress.
Disrupted circadian rhythms can be detrimental to health and well-being. Modern lifestyles, the Photon Project claims, are the main cause of these conditions, due to an increasing amount of time spent inside buildings using artificial light and a constant exposure to blue-light screens. These trends are causing a number of health problems, including stress, inadequate sleep, low energy, mood swings, mild depression, decreased immunity to diseases, and a loss of libido. The Photon Space is designed to be what the team calls a "daylight suite" for use in hotels, spas, offices, and residential spaces.
A coating on the glass obstructs UV rays and partially blocks infrared rays, reducing solar heat gain and glare while improving occupant comfort. Built-in nanotechnology darkens the glass with the flip of a switch, the touch of a smartphone app, or even a gesture to create an appropriate environment to regulate sleep when it's needed—even in broad daylight. The technology features nano-scale particles suspended in a liquid and laminated between two pieces of glass. The particles can be manually or automatically set to control the amount of light, glare, and solar-heat gains to manage interior comfort.
The Photon Project is currently crowdfunding through a U.K. site, Crowdcube, with a goal of raising £395,000 (around $620,400) for a collective 20 percent equity in the company. The crowdfunding campaign closes in January when the company hopes to have enough funds to begin production. The Photon Space is also available to order. The product can be manufactured and delivered within three months and constructed within four weeks.
The Photon Space isn't the project's first all-glass structure—the team also built a prototype structure, the Photon Pod, with a glass curtainwall for display in the 2013 London Design Festival to see how an all-glass module would be received by and engaged with by the public.
Over the next four years, Foster and other Oxford researchers will test nine Photon Pods in Denmark to evaluate the positive effects of natural light on human health. A total of 300 participants will live in pods for an average of three weeks each during the four-year period to accumulate data about the benefits of exposure to daylight.
For more on the evolution of glass, check out ARCHITECT's history of window technologies.