There is no doubt that design and cost associated with office lighting can be significant – but as a general rule it is a small sum compared with the human centred costs – wages, welfare, insurance, furniture and so forth.
So why on earth do so many companies skimp on lighting – to the physical detriment of their people?
Good lighting pays dividends
Office lighting design is very tightly constrained by legislation and guidance from both the UK and EC – well that is the theory – but it doesn’t stop the frequent installation of obsolete garbage that is really really bad for the people working under it.
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 can wax lyrical on the evils of CAT2 lighting for ever.
CAT2 fittings are those aluminium “egg crate” louvre monstrosities (sample below) which arose in the 80’s to protect the eyes of desk-bound workers from reflection.
They are obsolete but remain the default for the terminally unimaginative. The picture above was taken this year (2018) – what a mess and what a horrid environment to work in.
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 CAT2 (4x18W) is installed in a 2.4m x 1.8 grid (which is generous – I have seen much tighter spacing) – so there are 30 fittings in total.
30 fittings each 82W = 2.46kW x 10-hr x 5-days x 50-weeks = 6,150kWh/year in electricity to illuminate this space.
Replacing these fittings with simple 36W LED panels will reduce the office lighting installation to 22 panels.
22 panels at 36W each = 792W x 10-hr x 5-days x 50-weeks = 1,980kW/year to illuminate the same space.
Not exactly rocket science to see that this offers 4,170kWh/year saving which is likely to be worth at least £500/year and probably rather more than that.
22 LED panels at £30 each (and that’s being conservative as they are available cheaper) will cost £660 = payback inside 1.5 years from energy savings alone.
So why are we still seeing offices lit with obsolete CAT2 fluorescents? Frankly I don’t know – I just keep banging on doors trying to make clients see the light (haha).
Now obviously I have grossly simplified matters here. Office lighting requires design and consideration for the occupants of the treated space.
That is where I come in folks – in my capacity as an Energy Consultant I have trained in the use of RELUX which is free lighting design software – producing professional designs as below.
This software allows me to input the details of fittings from all of the major manufacturers which means that you are assured of an impartial and independent design.
I do not work for any manufacturer / supplier. I have no commercial axe to grind.
Once I have found you the right fitting and the most appropriate layout we can talk about Project Management.
People-Centric Office Lighting
This is one of my high horse moments so fair warning.
I believe that office lighting is about people and not just money. My advice is to engage with a designer / supplier who puts people above all else when it comes to creating a lighting scheme.
What do people need most from office lighting?
Visual Comfort – lighting that is as close to daylight as possible – it is just one of those basic physiological things.
We humans tend to respond favourably to natural daylight during the working day.
Now I do recognise that this is slightly contentious and some folks seem to baulk at the use of daylight fittings in their workspace.
“It’s too cold” “It’s too blue” “It gives me a headache” “It makes my eyes hurt” – sorry but that is just a complete load of drivel – in my opinion.
Some people just like to moan and object to anything without actually experiencing it first.
In a modern working environment where there are desks for people to sit and write stuff, read stuff and play on their computers I recommend high colour temperature (5,600-6000K).
This is very close to natural daylight – it is sometimes called “full spectrum”.
Interestingly (well I like the ‘sciency’ bit) 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 general 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 working applications – offices, education, healthcare, workshops etc.
There are implications to not paying heed to the quality of office lighting
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 me to design your workplace lighting and I will 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 good control.
These days we don’t just stick in 500-lux on the desk either!
Office lighting must be serve all of varied tasks your people undertake and 370-380 lux most often provides the ideal balance between desk and screen.
Here are just a few examples of projects I have been involved with over the past few years.