10 things you need to know about workplace lighting

Neil Knowles is the director and principal of Elektra Lighting, an award-winning London independent lighting design consultancy. The practice specialises in offices, hotels, retail, restaurants, bars, private houses and workplaces. www.elektralighting.co.uk

Workplaces are deceptively difficult places to light well. They are also one of the few categories of lighting with solid restrictions on light level and do’s and don’ts. Few will suffer if your building façade is lit to 20 lux not 50; make a similar mistake in the workplace and you have a lawsuit on your hands. Here Neil Knowles shares his top 10 tips for a perfectly-lit workplace.

 

  1. You can and shall obey
    Always good to stick in a Joy Division reference at the start and in this instance, it’s well deserved. Guidelines on office lighting are not legally enforceable but if you don’t obey them you run the risk of employee complaints, increase in sick leave and more. In the UK, the CIBSE guide LG7 is your new bible.
     
  2. Avoid the cave
    The temptation with a lot of lighting schemes is just to light down to the desk, creating what we call ‘the cave effect’ – dark walls, dark floor. This is unpleasant to work in and makes the space seem gloomy and underlit; never a good feel and doesn’t make your staff feel valued. it also causes eyestrain as people continually look up from bright desk to dark wall. Adding a splash of lighting to wash walls will create a better working environment. 

     

  3. Brand identity
    Your interior design says a lot about your company. Do you want your company image to be ‘outdated fluorescents hanging off string’? If so, well done! But perhaps you want your company to appear slightly more professional, and for an integrated lighting solution which enhances and supports the interior design. All these things are possible. For a price. 
     
  4. Flexibility
    How flexible do you need your office to be? Will the seating be reorganised regularly?
    No, how flexible do you need your office to be really? Everyone says that they need complete flexibility and end up with a complicated re-programmable control system that they never use, because in reality the accounts person sits where accounts always sits and will never move. Be honest with yourself at planning stage, as this costs you money. 
     
  5. Ganglion cells

    These sit at the rear of your eyeball and are tuned to blue light. When they get it, they tell your body it’s morning time and wake you up, stimulating alertness. You can use this knowledge for great good. Simply make the lighting this cool colour and all your staff wake up and are more alert. A bit like giving them free coffee, but with light.

    Alternatively, avoid this colour and staff will chill and relax, better for creative tasks and softer environments. Work out which one you want your office to be and plan lighting colours accordingly. For offices with a three-shift system, you can adapt this further.
     
  6. It’s not just about the desks
    Sure, you need to provide enough lighting to the desks. But there are lots of other things lighting can do. It can guide and lead people around spaces; it can add to the interior design, draw attention; it can enhance the architecture. If you’re just using it to light the desks, it’s a missed opportunity.  
     
  7. Flicker-free
    Not the social media app. All lights flicker to some extent, but when it’s visible it creates problems. Invest in good quality drivers and fittings to avoid staff taking days off for migraines repeatedly. Saving money on your luminaire costs will impact in the long term. Oh! Don’t forget about flicker’s ugly brother: glare! Avoid that especially on the nice tablets and screens.
     
  8. Turn them off!
    My biggest bugbear is walking past an empty office block at midnight and seeing thousands of luminaires blazing in an empty office. A simple bit of control will stop this. Why are you doing it? Do you want to kill polar bears? These days it’s much easier to have control and options are as varied as budgets go. 
     
  9. Give staff control
    People like being able to control their environment. It’s the Goldilocks effect: not too dark, not too bright, but just right. So enable this. A decent control system will allow even a huge office for thousands of staff to have individual control of the lighting to their individual desks.
     
  10. Don’t give staff control
    They’ll be messing with it all day and then complaining it’s not working. Honestly, are they lighting designers? No. (Assuming you are not developing an office for lighting designers. In which case they’ll all be downloading the app and complaining about the colour temperature by ten past nine on the day you move in). You can’t win, can you? 

 

  • Office lighting is one of the sessions at the LuxLive exhibition and conference in ExCeL London on Wednesday 15 November and Thursday 16 November 2017. Entry is free if you pre-register HERE.

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