Edge of Innovation

This futuristic greenhouse could make us happier and healthier


We all want to live healthier and happier lives, so it’s strange to think that the houses we live in could be stopping us from doing exactly that.

According to London-based startup The Photon Project, we’re not getting enough natural light in our lives these days. This disruption to our natural circadian rhythms can lead to health problems that range from anxiety to depression, low energy levels to mood swings.

The offices we work in and the homes we live in are causing us harm

“We have designed buildings to modify the climate and filter the daylight, whilst including artificial light to extend and orchestrate the working hours,” say the Photon Project team. The more we deviate from the natural day/night cycle – working under artificial lights and gazing at backlit LED screens – the more we suffer.

“We still require regular contact with natural light for psychological and physiological reasons – to literally stay in tune with [the] biological clocks that keep us healthy.”

This thinking is based on the work of Professor Russell Foster, Chair of Circadian Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. Working together with glazing firm Cantifix, it lead to the creation of the Photon Pod in 2013 – a 30 square metre, all-glass mini-house that showcased a novel approach to maximising interior daylight. Gimmicks aside, it’s part of a four-year research project that will study the health of 300 participants living/working in the pod over three week periods.

Photon House
The Photon Space is described as an “environment without walls” – a more natural way to live. © The Photon Project

Nano-particles in the glass panels can be “tuned” to control the amount of light passing through them

The Photon Space is the next step forward – a 45 square metre house with an integrated steel frame and double-glazed smart glass panels that can “switch from transparent to opaque at the flick of a switch or the swipe of your phone.” The design can incorporate a sitting room, double bedroom and a modular kitchen and bathroom and The Photon Project is crowdfunding it as a recuperative “daylight suite” for luxury spas and hotels.

This doesn’t mean that the team behind The Photon Project expect everyone to knock down their brick and mortar homes to live in futuristic greenhouses. While the Photon Space is available to buy for residential builds, for most of us the idea is more of an argument for more light, bigger windows and fewer curtains. A new conservatory at the least.

“At present the average home has 12% of the walls glazed and the expectation is that this should be closer to 40%, with at least 10% of the roof glazed,” says The Photon Project. “This is the architectural and design challenge for the immediate future.”


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