Office Lighting

Office Lighting

It costs an awful lot of money to construct and operate a building, but when you set that against the ongoing cost of the people who work in the building the actual cost of construction is usually by far the lower of the two figures.  And the cost of the lighting in that building is generally insignificant in the great scheme of things.  So why on earth do so many developers skimp on the lighting to the eventual detriment of the building occupiers and the energy consumption?  Don’t get me wrong they skimp on lots of areas but it is lighting I am discussing here so let’s stick to the subject.

Good lighting pays dividends.

Office lighting design is increasingly constrained by legislation and guidance from both the UK and EC and only some – in fact only a very little actually proves useful or indeed relevant to the modern office building. 

Anyone who has met me and endured one of my wonderful lighting presentations will know that this is something of a “topic” for me and I love nothing more than waxing lyrical on the evils of CAT2 lighting (aluminium louvres – see below) which arose in the 80’s to protect the eyes of desk-bound workers from reflection but which have come to be viewed as good practice by non-lighting specialists – or better “those who have no imagination”.  

Hey this is 2014 isn’t it – but I still – and I mean very recently – in Aberdeen – in Portlethan – you know who you are – come across firms carrying out lighting refurbishments on a point for point replacement basis – because their fit-out contractor told them to!!!!!  C’mon guys – make your own minds up about this stuff – it is important.

Take a typical square office measuring 120m2 operating 10 hours a day 5 days a week on manual controls.  The existing lighting is CAT2 4x18W T8 on a 2.4m x 1.8 grid (I have seen them more tightly spaced but let’s be generous) – so there are 30 fittings in total.


Original Installation

Option 1 – Point for Point

Option 2 – complete design

Option 3 – LED grid lights

Connected Load (W/m2) 





Annual electricity use (kWh)





Annual electricity costs £’s





Lighting system energy saving





Annual running cost savings







These are gross representations and in fact the savings are likely to be even greater through use of automatic controls.  This is significant for any business – get in touch.

There are so many lighting systems out there – it is confusing – how do you make an informed choice as to which one suits your business?  For me lighting is about people and so my advice to you is to engage with a designer or supplier who puts the people above all else when it comes to creating a lighting system for your particular needs.  There are some good guys out there and I can help you find them and specify their systems – for the benefit of your business.

What do people need most from lighting – well other than to see of course they need illumination that is as close to daylight as possible – it is just one of those fundamental physiological things – humans tend to respond favourably to natural daylight during the working day.  I guess that if you are a vampyre reading this then maybe now is a good time to view another website.

One of the most noticeable aspects of any artificial lighting is the colour, which is expressed in degrees Kelvin, a scale based on the observation of light emitted from a black body radiator, usually a lump of iron, as the temperature rises – bet you never knew lighting could be so interesting eh!

Warm white colours have lower colour temperatures (below 3500K) and are rich in longer wavelength red light. 

As the temperature increases the white light becomes cooler (for example 5000K) with more and more light emitted as short wavelengths in the blue part of the visible spectrum.

For a modern working environment combining both desk and screen work I recommend high colour temperature (~6000K) close to that of natural daylight.  Interestingly (???) this cool light has been shown to suppress the hormone melatonin (sleep regulator) and enhance cognitive processes making people more productive and generally happier – especially children – note to teacher.

As a rule the closer artificial light is to natural daylight the more it supports normal biological well-being.

We humans need daylight for vision, psychology and health. Particularly here in the UK and Scotland many workplaces have insufficient natural daylight for the overall well-being of the occupants.

For this reason I generally specify daylight colour lighting for many applications – offices, education, healthcare, workshops, retail – especially retail – see separate page – that is, high colour temperature lamps (~6000K) emitting more short wavelength light in the blue part of the spectrum. When balanced in a luminaire with good colour rendering (CRI ~ Ra 80) this light is also easier to see in, improving the contrast between printed text and paper for example.

There are implications to not paying heed to the quality of lighting in your work-place.

Bad lighting can stimulate your body to produce hormones that try to send you to sleep, slow your body down and leave you feeling tired and irritable.    

Matching the quality of natural daylight means that visual tasks will become much easier.  Colours will be clearly defined and the clarity of objects vastly improved.

Engage someone like me to design your workplace lighting properly and sympathetically, work with your people (surely your greatest asset) to create a pleasing environment – delivering a lighting system that complies with the latest guidance, consumes as little energy as possible and provides controllability.  

These days we don’t just work to a flat 500 lux on the desk either!  There is a very close balance between tasks that needs to be achieved for ideal illuminance and it isn’t 500 lux in most cases. In fact we have found that 370-380 lux is the ideal compromise between reading paper and looking at screens and so this is where we aim to put the average illuminance.

Need an office lighting design – call or email me and let’s work together to create something really special for your business.  Here are just a few examples of projects I have been involved with over the past few years.

Abbey Astex BAE Channel 4  ITV City Council Chambers Heritage Site office Speculative Office Typical office space