Light in the workplace is crucial as it allows for people to see, to move about safely and perform work tasks efficiently. Light’s multifaceted nature means that an examination of lighting warrants an analysis of both natural and man-made light. The need for natural light and the control of light rank high in design elements for workplace productivity.
This report will commence by exploring the benefits of improving the quality of light in the workplace. In providing an overview of the most desirable workplace standards, it will discuss natural lighting, color appearance, and natural lighting, shielding against glare, light control systems, and task lighting.
In concluding, this report will identify areas for ‘quick wins’ to be made in terms of workplace lighting, as well as providing a brief overview of the long-term opportunities in lighting that will add the most value to employees and their work environments.
There is a high value placed on exposure to natural light. A lack of window access has been determined to be the most significant contributing factor to dissatisfaction with lighting. (Newsham, et al. 2008).
Rooms lit with daylight exposures have improved test scores by 15% on average than those illuminated with electric light (i.e., no daylight) (Heschong et al. 2002). In unstimulating environments such as call centers, the number of calls handled per hour increased if employees were seated near windows which filtered light in and provided views (Heschong Mahone Group, 2003).
Studies have also shown that exposure to views and daylight has a positive impact on reducing the sick leave of employees in offices. (Elzeyadi, 2011).
Maximizing daylight is a vital but complex element of sustainable design (World Green Building Council, 2015). The utilization of natural light has a relatively low cost of implementation, as it is a readily available natural resource. Natural lighting lower energy cost when found in new building selection. The key is to maximize its potential in workspaces and to reduce the perceived artificiality that comes with offices that are lit through a conventional long LED or halogen tubes (Jepsen, 2003).
Daylight can be harnessed through the use of roof lights to maximize exposure during the day, or by the utilization of other fenestration devices (ISO 2002). However, daylight must be carefully harnessed, as work areas further from doors will not receive the full benefit of the light (ISO 2002).
A significant advantage of using natural light can result in long-term cost savings (Jepsen 2003). However, the use of natural light brings with it increased upfront costs associated with its implementation. Depending on the office, spaces may need to be reconfigured to better utilize the available resource, typically requiring advice from an interior designer.
Available natural light should be focused on open space, office, collaboration, social and reception spaces to harness its full potential. Further, bathrooms, kitchens, printing rooms, and storage areas do not necessarily require natural light.
Natural lighting also brings with it health benefits. Morning light that filters into space such as an office space helps to connect workers with their natural circadian rhythm (Schnieder, 2015).
The use of color and layering in lighting can assist in the setting of a different mood and feel in each area or room.
Colors are generally divided into three categories (ISO 2002):
- Warm (below 3300 K)
- Intermediate (3300 K to 5300 K)
- Cool (above 5300 K)
The use of different globe colors, such as warm white instead of a stronger white in different parts of the office help to create a diverse work environment by physically differentiating the zones (Falzano, 2015). For each zone, the use of different colored globes may lead to the creation of themes and motifs, allowing for the subject to associate an area with a particular color. The essential idea to consider in the design is that the choice of color is appropriate in terms of employee psychology, aesthetics and what is deemed to be natural. Color choice depends on (ISO 2002):
· Colors of the room
· Surrounding climate
· The application of the light itself
· The climate in which the office is located
Layering is another consideration. It creates softness and visually comfortable feel to the room (Falzano, 2015). Notably, it leads to a perception of openness, and transparency and can be used to fuse spaces (Falzano, 2015).
Colored lighting such as blue light is also worth noting. Exposure to blue light at night, particular from computer and smartphone screens, at night has been cited as a significant source of restlessness in sleep and insomnia (Rosenfield, 2012). However, blue light in the morning has been shown to wake up the brain and increase concentration (Hughes, 2014). As the workday progresses, changing to a yellow light in the afternoon typically promotes relaxation, which is crucial in the afternoon when people tend to get tired (Hughes, 2014).
Implementing color and layered lighting requires a high level of effort in terms of design, but is relatively easy to achieve in terms of time, investment and effort. Notably, interior designers will need to be engaged to advise on the best approach. For example, the practice of wall washing, such as that seen in the image above, could be implemented. They are seen as more preferable compared to lensed and parabolic fluorescent fixtures, with 70% of workers preferring them. (Hermann Miller 2016).
Glare is caused by excessive light or contrasts in the field of view (ISO 2002). It can impair one’s ability to see objects (ISO 2002).
Glass shielding against glare can be achieved by using glass partitions in the office. Additionally, glass shielding also assists in the creation of zones in the office, as they physically divide the space (Falzano 2015). The other main ways to shield against glare include shielding of lamps, shading of windows by blinds or by using daylight sensors. In the case of lamps, the minimum shielding angle varies from 10o to 30o depending on the lamp luminance.
Light control increases personal control over the system and allows for autonomy. The current industry trend is manufacturers starting to bring forward lighting systems with sensors and the ability to capture data such as room occupancy, temperature, and humidity (World Green Building Council, 2015). More complicated light control systems can use smartphones to control the lighting in open offices and temperature in small rooms (World Green Building Council, 2015).
With the ability to customize lighting conditions come an increased initial outlay, longer implementation period and more complicated design requirement.
However, productivity gain may be significant. It may be worthwhile to implement such a system in offices where the workforce is completing a variety of different tasks, each requiring a different level of lighting, e.g., writing code, analyzing data and reports, liaising with colleagues, taking phone calls or writing reports. A field study conducted in Albany, New York found that comfort levels among employees increased by 91% in environments with electricity controls (Herman Miller 2016).
Light control systems could reduce costs through the integration of sensors into the system. Sensors reduce costs by ensuring that lights are operational only when the relevant space is occupied (Schnieder, 2015). Additionally, once the system is up and running, the use of smart lighting to group different lighting into centers of control can minimize the initial outlay costs. It is an issue of system design and does not require the renovation and complete overhaul that some associate with changes in light control systems.
Further, in considering individual lighting controls, some may argue that this leads to increased costs as employees will start to use more electricity (Herman Miller 2016). However, this is false. Studies have shown that installations with personal light controls are operated at below the maximum output, putting downward pressure on costs (Herman Miller 2016).
Task lighting seeks to allow lighting to be more suited to a relevant task. It implies the creation of zones, each with their own unique lighting needs (Jepsen, 2003). The cost, time to implement and complexity of implementation all increase when the number of zones created increases.
Task lighting is the most effective where the illumination is between 300-500 lux (World Green Building Council, 2015). The ideal situation for task lighting is a desktop illuminance of 300 lux, with surrounding and background areas having lower levels of light (World Green Building Council, 2015). This draws the attention of the subject to the task at hand.
The recent Nasdaq Workplace Survey stated that employees spend over 30% of their time on average in meetings. Hence, it is worth noting the importance of the correct task lighting in meeting rooms. Diffused indirect lighting is best suited to these rooms, as it creates a warm and peaceful glow to the office (Falzano 2015). This generates a relaxed vibe which is well-suited to meeting rooms (Falzano 2015).
Here are some easy to implement recommendations on improving the lighting conditions at your workplace:
- Maximizing the use of natural lights in workstations, open spaces, reception, etc.
- Use of colored lightings in meeting rooms, reception, etc.
- Use of energy efficient lights (LED) in meeting rooms, open space, workstations, bathrooms, etc.
- Use of do not disturb lights in workstations
- Use of window blinds and curtains
Here are some recommendations for future improvement in the lighting conditions at your workplace:
- Building selection: optimize natural lights
- Circadian light systems
- Automated blinds to maximize natural light
- Use of overhead lightings in workstations
- Use of task lightings in workstations
- Use of light sensors in meeting rooms, open space, workstations, bathrooms, etc.
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