Photon Space glass home to help residents get in the (circadian) rhythm

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The Photon Space is a glass building designed to improve our health by maximizing exposure to daylight (Image: The Photon Project)

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Our increasing understanding of circadian rhythms is changing how we think about the spaces we inhabit. Lighting, for example, can now be adjusted to alter mood and sleep patterns. A new building called The Photon Space, however, will take a more natural approach to help residents get in the (circadian) rhythm, being made almost entirely of glass.

Glass buildings or large glass frontages are nothing new, but usually they are employed in order to take advantage of surrounding views. Whilst that will certainly be one benefit of the Photon Space, its main aim is to expose residents to the natural rhythms of daylight and darkness in order to promote better health and well being.

Circadian rhythms are the in-built patterns of wakefulness and sleepiness we feel over the course of approximately 24 hours. They are what we otherwise call our "body clock" and are governed, in part, by our exposure to daylight, having evolved alongside the natural rising and setting of the sun.

The artificial interruption of circadian rhythms, such as by out-of-sync working hours, has been linked to conditions such as insomnia, stress, low energy, obesity, depression and other mental disorders. The Photon Space is part of a larger project aimed at researching the connection between daylight and health.

Led by Professor Russell Foster from Oxford University, whose previous research includes the discovery of a new type of non-visual photoreceptor, the Photon Project will research the extent of the positive effects of exposure to daylight for humans. The four-year study is expected to begin next year, with 300 participants each living for three weeks at a time in a glass Photon Pod, a smaller version of the Photon Space that was displayed in London during 2013.

The Photon Space was conceived based on the benefits that are already known to exist as a result of our exposure to daylight. It is designed to maximize the amount of daylight to which people are exposed with a view to improving health and happiness. The 45 sq m (484 sq ft) structure will comprise a steel frame and glass paneling and looks very much like your average greenhouse, but the glass used is much more complex.

It is designed to deliver an extremely high insulation performance, with a thermal transmittance of just 0.6 W/sq.m/K (0.06 W/sq.ft/K), which the Photon Project says will allow the Photon Space to be used all year round with very little need for heating or cooling. It is said to block 63 percent of solar radiation, 99.9 percent of ultraviolet rays and 85 percent of external sound. It can also be switched from transparent to opaque using electrochromic technology, where a remote control, a smartphone or even a gesture can be used to trigger an electric current to be sent through the glass, causing its opacity to change.

According to the Photon Project, it will be possible to build a Photon Space structure in four weeks. The simplicity of the design and building method means that it will be able to be installed in small and unusual places, such as on high-rise rooftops or on rocky terrain, and that it will have a low impact on its environment. It is designed to incorporate a sitting room, a double bedroom, a modular integrated kitchen and a modular bathroom. In addition to the Photon Space and Photon Pod structures, a design has also been created for a 250 sq m (2,691 sq ft) Photon House.

The Photon Project is currently raising funds to build the first commercial Photon Space, and to market and develop the product over the next five years. Individuals can contribute via crowdfunding website Crowdcube, which also allows contributors to take equity in the company.

Alternatively, the Photon Project tells Gizmag, it's possible to order your own residential Photon Space now. Prices start at £210,000 (US$330,000) and it can be delivered and built within three months.

The video below provides is the Crowdcube pitch for the Photon Space and provides a good introduction to the concept.

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