23 June 2022
Illuminating the Workplace

Illumination for offices has always revolved around allowing for ample light to perform visual tasks with little or no glare, high color rendering index and energy efficiency. Most lighting standards only accommodate to a specific level of illuminance, uniformity and glare requirements within an office space as the primary benchmark of adequate and comfortable levels of lighting for a visual task. The Australian Standards for office lighting (AS/NZS 1680.2.2) complement these criteria very well and thus most lighting designs are realized simply through “compliance” with the standards’ requirements. Although these factors do assist in setting up a well-lit workplace, there are limitations to the adaptability and flexibility to an occupants’ needs.

Lighting is the biggest consumer of electrical energy in workplaces and after going through an entire pandemic with people having to ‘adapt’ and create ‘flexibility’ with not just their work but their lives we need workplaces – now more than ever to acclimatize to new protocols and priorities to cater for more control and flexibility of work. Office lighting has significant opportunities for improving energy efficiency and thus reducing energy consumption in general. Illuminating these workplaces today should mean a far more flexible and user-centric environment to not just maximize productivity and efficiency but also respond to the health and emotional wellbeing of the occupants as well minimize its overall carbon footprint.

Office workers have always had various styles and needs with which they carry out their work. However, addressing these differences within the workplace is a relatively new subject, at least with respect to lighting. With the advent of new lighting systems, personalized occupancy controls allow users to reconfigure their workplace lighting needs to best suit their workstyle and comfort. These controls, if designed well in line with the lighting system may also allow functional changes to the workplace and diminish the need for rewiring when doing so. These changes allow a workplace to be much more inclusive as well, catering to neurodiversity and disability. These occupants may personalize their workplace setting to allow themselves to be more participate in the office. Such technologies only contribute immensely to energy savings, curtail all sorts of costs and boost occupants’ satisfaction.

Lighting has an immense role in the workplace. With new technologies that allow occupants to dim, color tune or set the quantity and quality of light (with appropriate limitations) right from their workstations or even their phones, these features will also have a positive psychological influence on everyone as studies have gone on to show.

Health and emotional wellness are relatively new concerns that have increased importance over the past few years, to which the pandemic has contributed ever so significantly. A major aspect of creating a healthy workplace environment is the optimal quality of light. As humans we need to allow our bodies to respond to the environmental changes that happen throughout the day. These circadian rhythms are affected if the quality and quantity of light our bodies are exposed to is too much or too little or at a constant level throughout the day with little or no ability to adapt.

Circadian lighting systems that cater to tunable white light and mimics daylight depending on the geographical location may contribute to a more comfortably lit environment for all occupants. Some innovative luminaire manufactures have gone a step further and incorporated particle and CO2 sensors embedded into their new line of fixtures. The TRILUX Opendo is one such luminaire ideated as a result of the pandemic. Sensor based luminaires that sense movement can also assist in tracking people in motion and hence improve wayfinding and allow less usage when there is a lack of movement contributing to lower costs and more energy efficiency.

The WELL Building Standard (WELL) is an example of a building performance rating system that caters more than just the architectural quality of the building but also its occupants with respect to health, safety and well-being. It incorporates many several unique energy efficiency methods to allow a building and its occupants to live and work more sustainably. With respect to lighting, WELL addresses flexibility, automation, personalization, glare control, visual comfort, daylight inclusivity, surface reflectances, quality and color of light. It also addresses the need for lighting systems to adapt to our circadian cycle whilst introducing a metric to measure the biological effects of light on humans through equivalent melanopic lux (EML). This metric, as opposed to the conventional lux, attributes itself to ipRGCs rather than cones and is measured on the vertical plane at the occupants’ eye level. Such measurable metrics that incorporate not just what our eyes need, but also responds to our entire bodies needs is what will shape the future of lighting, primarily at the workplace. 

As we look ahead, the need for a healthier, smarter, energy efficient and inclusive workplace has never been greater. Maybe it’s about time we shed some light on it.

 Written by
Vikram Shivdasan


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