Benefits of Virtual Skylights in LINAC Rooms
Since 1998, I’ve installed over 200 virtual skylights in LINAC rooms.
As a student of the science of Biophilia, and a practitioner of Biophilic Engagement, I’m constantly striving to learn the most effective, and credible way to negate the unhealthy aspects of the windowless, healthcare environment through a visual connection with nature.
For cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, the LINAC treatment room is a windowless, high-tech, solitary confinement vault. There are absolutely no natural connections to the outside world.
Architecture Professor Roger Ulrich, Ph.D., is well known for his pioneering study of the importance of a visual connection with nature for healthcare patients. Ulrich’s research demonstrated that confined patients with a window featuring views of nature healed faster, and required less pain medication than those patients with views to parking lots, adjacent buildings, or other unnatural scenes.
Further research has led to the science of Biophilia, and has created a mass of credible evidence supporting our innate need to be connected with nature and the natural world. This connection is especially true for the patients under stress and confined within the high-tech, built environment of the hospital.
The radiation containment requirements of the LINAC vault prohibit the use of real windows or skylights. So, the best way to eliminate the isolation of the windowless rooms is to create a virtual connection with the sky and the natural outside world.
Experiencing a Virtual Skylight
By creating credible visual illusions with a virtual skylight, we can elicit the same positive responses realized with an actual view of the sky. Unlike artwork, there is no need for subjective interpretation of the image.
The result is a feeling of openness and a connection with the outside. The skylight is not necessarily studied visually at this point, but it is experienced, providing a direct benefit to all occupants in the room.
When the patient is being prepped for and undergoing the procedure, the virtual skylight becomes an intimate focal point — a visual library of positive stimuli. The effective illusion elicits the same positive feelings we have when laying under a tree on a summer day.
The correct composition of the image strengthens the illusion and makes it acceptable for everyone on a personal level.
For me, lying down and looking up at the deep, blue sky with puffy clouds simply creates a sense of well-being. Even virtually, my mind evokes similar enjoyable images that provide me with an easily recognizable, and positive psychic escape.
Cutting Edge Technology
Presenting an effective illusion with a virtual skylight is an artistic creation, combined with cutting edge image processing and lighting technology.
LED lighting provides virtually maintenance free, fully controllable, balanced image illumination without shadows, hot spots, or electrical interference. Lighting temperatures are matched with image processing and color components to ensure accurate reproduction of all the colors in the image.
The virtual skylight must also be a credible representation of a real skylight. The size, configuration, and placement affect the visual perception and, therefore, the strength of the illusion. All the benefits of a beautiful well-crafted virtual sky can be weakened by an inappropriate application of one of these single components.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to treat cancer patients. But we do. So why not make the environment as supportive as it can be?