Lighting is fast becoming seen as one of the most important issues in the office environment. Not only does lighting account for roughly 25% of the energy bill in commercial buildings, it also can affect mood, promote levels of concentration and enable workers to feel a range of emotions from relaxed to alert.
Because of these factors, the commercial building industry now targets lighting as a key element in their sustainable design and solutions.
Environmental regulations are tightening up, as are many companies’ purse strings. Because of this, sustainable lighting is often a must in the office and finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint whilst also reducing costs is at the forefront of research and architecture.
Natural daylight is the obvious first choice. Not only is it free, but it also offers a wide array of proven health benefits that artificial light can’t match. The latest offices are being carefully designed to achieve the most natural light possible through panoramic windows, skylights, atriums and translucent panels. The real genius comes in the way the light is then reflected evenly across the work space – this is known as daylighting design.
Solar panels are coming into play more often now and although not subtle or inexpensive to install, the payback is virtually free energy. This fact alone has led many new office buildings to install the panels on their roofs to store the incoming sunlight and then convert it into raw energy.
However, by far the most popular sustainable lighting design to reach offices recently is LED. The bulbs of LED lights are small and solid and are lit by the movement of electrons in a solid semi-conductor material as energy is passed through it. LED’s last over 100 times longer than incandescent bulbs and are far more durable given there is no filament or tube to break. The bulbs require very low power levels and generate far less heat than standard light bulbs. This office lighting case study demonstrates just how successful LED lighting can be in the commercial environment.
Biological effects of lighting
Lighting also has a wide range of biological effects that companies are only now beginning to tap into. A recent study on the biological effects of light by lighting giant Osram, found that light can be “invigorating, motivating, relaxing or calming. Light can also provide support for medical treatment, promote levels of concentration at work or in schools and also enable passengers on long-distance flights to relax.”
Because of studies like the one mentioned above, architects and designers are having to take the effects of light far more seriously than before. Not only are people’s wellbeing and mood affected by lighting, but depending on your age light can affect you differently. Older eyes for instance, struggle more with bright lighting. This being said, brighter light has often been proven to keep workers more alert.
There is also the question of colour. It has long be known that we associate colours with moods, but now this must also be taken into account in the office space. Blue is said to ‘activate’ people whilst red is said to calm them. Therefore, designers have to manipulate the work space and lighting to often include both which generally requires artificial lighting.
It is clear that companies are having to take sustainable lighting issues far more seriously. Not only do they save money whilst saving the environment, lighting also effects the mood and wellbeing of their workers. Therefore, one can only imagine that architects and designers will be pushed further than ever now to bring sustainable lighting into the forefront of their blueprints.