Lighting Stairs for Health

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Lighting Stairs for Health

I’ve been thinking lately about how lighting can improve public health. Sure, you’ve probably thought of daylight or maybe even lighting for circadian rhythms, which get a lot of publicity. But today, we are going to look at one major way that lighting can help you exercise.

Lighting stairs is good for public health!

Think about your last trip to a medical office tower or your last hotel stay. Did you use the stairs or the elevator? Why are stairwells typically hard to find and hidden away from the main traffic areas? Sometimes you’ll even find stairwell doors are locked or you worry that you’ll set off the fire alarm by opening the door from the stairwell.

Obesity and Type II Diabetes are two of the prevalent public health challenges of our time, and both can be mitigated by physical activity. Using stairs burns calories, and research has shown that using stairs improves cardiovascular health and lowers cholesterol. By locating stairs near entrances and by making them more inviting and more visible with high-quality lighting, we encourage their use.

Every multi-story building has stairs somewhere. Since stairs are a code-required piece of real estate, let’s make the best of them. If the only time the stairs are used is during a fire emergency, you’re getting a pretty small ROI on that part of your building. Why not make them more prominent and inviting? You’re required to have them, so let’s use them!

Ideas to encourage the use of stairs:

  1. Invest. Instead of downgrading the finishes and the lighting in the stairs so that they feel like a creepy back-alley inside your building, keep the same level of finish as you have in, say, the elevator lobbies or the main corridors. Invest in finishes including lighting fixtures and light levels to make people feel comfortable, as if they belong in the stairwell.
  2. Increase Interest. Provide art or music in the stairwell. Include daylighting. Use beautiful or unusual light fixtures, or use usual light fixtures in unusual ways. Do whatever you can to make the stairwell interesting, and remember how lighting can be a part of that.
  3. Interact. These Piano Stairs in Sweden stole escalator riders. Because seriously, which would you rather do? Lighting can be interactive, too! Make lights come on or change color as you step on each tread.

There is a LEED pilot credit, Design for Active Occupants, which rewards encouraging the use of stairs. Lighting is an easy and important part of earning that credit. Be healthy. Take the stairs today! Encourage others to be healthy. Use high-quality lighting in your stairways!

Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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