August 2, 2018 by Kirsten Nelson

Sometimes all the caffeine in the world can’t help you if you’re sitting in a dark room. Especially if it’s the late afternoon witching hour, when your mammalian brain demands carbs and sugar to survive.

OneButton Offices, shades up creates glare on theaottomon and greater contrast in the scene | AVIXA OneButton Offices, shades up creates glare on the ottoman and greater contrast in the scene. Photo credit: Banno Lighting

It was precisely that dark and challenging hour when I stepped off the hot, humid sidewalk and into the dimly lit hallways of a former rope factory on the waterfront in north Brooklyn last week. After navigating past numerous film sets and a bustling co-working space, I opened the door to an office that was about to change my mood by sheer force of atmosphere alone.

This was the headquarters of OneButton, where humans and technology work together to bring aesthetically pleasing comfort to residential and commercial environments. And not only did they have kombucha on tap, but when I requested my more old-school energizer of espresso, they generously provided that as well.

What I didn’t realize though was that I wouldn’t need that caffeine after all. All I needed was some good lighting (and maybe some nice acoustics and excellent conversation) to boost my energy level and mood.

You see, what was also on tap at OneButton was a highly calibrated circadian lighting system. Maybe you’ve heard about these body-clock-realigning combinations of full-spectrum LED lamps and advanced control systems that regulate brightness and color temperature according to an astronomical clock. Purportedly beneficial for overall health in addition to regulating sleep and wake cycles, they’re appearing in hospitals, offices, hotels, and homes.

And maybe just reading that paragraph made you realize what OneButton already knows. Circadian lighting systems require some pretty specialized control system design, i.e., a systems integrator with serious chops. That fact might brighten your mood a bit.

“People are very excited about circadian lighting, and very few people are able to do it well,” said Matt Emmi, Co-Founder of OneButton. “What we realized is that it’s more of a technology thing than it is a lighting thing, so lighting designers who want to deploy it will be engaging with us to make it happen. Because it really requires a sophisticated control system.”

That’s why companies like Lutron, Crestron and plenty of others are all over this trend.

So, if circadian lighting is so good for the soul, why aren’t we seeing it everywhere? Well… the usual hurdles of budget and general skepticism apply. But in a recent survey analyzed by Metropolis Magazine last year, the other limiting factor was “controls complexity.”

Time to jump in and handle that complexity, AV experience designers!

OneButton Offices | AVIXA OneButton Offices

The science and math required to calibrate a circadian scene to match a specific room environment is certainly advanced, as I learned during a demo provided by OneButton Project Manager Hugo Fontanges.

But those layers of complexity also equate to the ability to tailor circadian lighting to different types of rooms. In fact, the multi-purpose room where I experienced the demo was a good example. OneButton has designed and optimized a large, open area of its uber-hip loft office space to accommodate home theater demos (complete with Dolby Atmos, everyone!), meeting room and conferencing tasks, and social/dining options to provide its team members with a place to recharge.

Though most multi-purpose rooms tend to have that jack-of-all-trades failure to be great at any one thing, Emmi observed, “we’ve really made this room work well for all the things that it does. And a large part of that comes from our ability to control the environment. We can shift the amount of ambient lighting with motorized shades and drapes, and also control the temperature coming into the room.”

And then, of course, with the recent addition of a circadian lighting system, OneButton made the room even more adjustable with the ability to change the color temperature of the light. But they’re not just winging it with a wall of dimmers, they’ve programmed a Lutron HomeWorks system with Savant automation, which is tied in with an astronomical clock to track daylight.

The result works so well that when OneButton made a 14-hour time-lapse video to illustrate the circadian lighting changes over the course of a day, the behavior of people in the office can be seen to echo the energetic mood shifts. They didn’t plan that, it just happened.

This new level of experience design is part of an overall trend toward wellness in many residential and commercial projects, Emmi said. “Circadian lighting is much more in line with sound baths and yoga than it is with OLEDs and home theater. So, we’re really moving into that space because it is a quality of life upgrade.”

Overall, this sounds like a better way to handle those mid-afternoon energy dips. Just imagine if a lighting system could help to crush your afternoon cravings and make you feel like you’ve gone fully paleo for months and as a bonus, you’re also on a juice cleanse?

About Kirsten Nelson

Kirsten Nelson has written about audio, video and experience design in all its permutations for more than 20 years. As a writer and content developer for AVIXA, Kirsten connects stories, people and technology through a variety of media. She also directs program content for the TIDE Conference and Technology Innovation Stage at InfoComm. For three years, she also created conversations around emerging media and experiential design at InfoComm's Center Stage. Prior to that, Kirsten was the editor of SCN magazine for 17 years.