Designing a Comfortable Environment: A Basic Manual on Lighting and Warmth in Residential Design

Eugene Vargas

"The home is where the heart is." Potential home builders today face the daunting task of designing and furnishing their dream house. Often, however, people tend to overlook the qualities that makes a home a pleasant environment - the two factors of light and warmth. Here is a brief introduction to these basic needs that should serve you well when thinking about designing a home for your family.

Lights on!

It's well known that light makes a space feel larger, more open and comfortable. As obvious as it is, scientific research has pointed out time and time again that lighting is essential to our productivity and alertness.

A study by scientist Mirjam Münchon on the effects of natural VS artificial lighting compared the effects these types of lighting had on people. Participants were exposed to two conditions - one with more daylight and the other with more artificial light over several days. The group who received more daylight were found to be more alert for longer. This is related to the level of cortisol present in our body - the same chemical that makes us alert when we consume caffeine. Lower levels of cortisol makes us more sleepy and more stressed.

So, daylight beats out artificial or poor lighting, what then? Well, when it comes to designing your home, different rooms require different levels of light - a measure quantified in units called lux. An architect will always try to situate rooms that need more light to places that receive more light on the site, and vice versa. However, besides having a great spatial organization, some rooms eventually do get on the wrong side of the sun due to site constraints.

In these cases, consider having reflective materials to bounce more light into the space. Large mirrors, reflective tiles, light-coloured materials, glass as the finishing material for your kitchen cabinets - little things that all help to introduce more light to those hard-to-reach spaces.


Human bodies are sustained at a temperature of 37.C. In the UK, the recommended average temperature for a home is 21.C. Warmth plays a significant role in how comfortable we are in our environment. But without incurring a large heating bill or having our 24/7, how do we keep our homes at the perfect temperature?

It is through the building itself that we can improve how the right temperature can be sustained. Architects have constantly tried to answer this question with new and innovative technology. The Passive House, a new standard of architecture has recently emerged as the answer to low-energy consuming buildings that keeps it as warm or cool as necessary.

Passive Houses creates these environments through several means: super-insulation that keeps heat in (or unwanted heat out), a ventilation system that keeps air fresh and clean, and utilizing the heat given by sources within - such as computers and people. In a bombshell, staying warm in your home has never been easier before - employing these new technologies in your home easily creates comfortable environments that won't left your shivering in the winter night.

For more information, check out architects such as C Slater.