Hard-to-light places need illuminating too, says Anouska Nemchand.
09 October 2018 | Anouska Nemchand
Workplace lighting is no longer just a utility element; it's a well-being and happiness enhancer for employees that can boost productivity.
Consider HR advisory firm Future Workplace's research that over a third of employees say their workspaces don't include enough natural light, with 47 per cent feeling lethargic and 43 per cent gloomy because of it.
Our 'Wellness Together' syndicated research project, sampling 1,000 UK office workers and 50 FM experts, shows inappropriate lighting (too harsh or too dim) is a big distraction. For FMs, underlit areas were an even bigger issue.
Employees gravitate to workplaces that have all the comfort factors - furniture, air and light - in place, so how do we ensure that hard-to-reach spaces have the same quality and parity of light?
Get creative with designs
Reuse of buildings, whether that is a change of use (for example, hotel to office such as Sea Containers in London) or a retrofit project, presents lighting challenges - in particular, in a low floor-to-ceiling space.
The optimum floor-to-ceiling height is between 2.5m and 3m. But there are many places where a height restriction of about 2.5m exists with no ceiling void to recess into.
Designing fully compliant lighting systems with the demands of the SLL Code For Lighting is a big issue particularly where the glare indices are taken into account.
With little or no ceiling void and restricted headroom, a bespoke answer is required.
For example, at London's Clyde & Co lawyers the perimeter partner office didn't benefit from ceiling light so an innovative lighting solution projected light from the top of wall-mounted storage units, illuminating the ceiling and walls. This provided the general illuminance to the rooms while direct illuminance to the desks came from discrete luminaires installed under the same storage units.
Look to LEDs
The flexibility of LEDs makes them powerful tools for hard-to-reach spaces. Not only can levels be turned up and down, but tuneable sources can be used to give a less clinical feel.
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes - especially with low ceilings - it may be necessary to install a greater number of luminaires with the illuminance levels dialled down to achieve uniformity targets, so as not to cause visual discomfort or affect energy use.
Light up the stairs
Stairs can be tricky to light, but for safety's sake getting it right is essential. Restrictions in the building or the stair design can impede luminaire placement and make lighting the space a challenge - so the solution has to work harder.
Knowing the reflectance of stair treads helps with design, as low-level lighting can cause high contrasts and hot spots on the steps. Any surface-mounted fittings should be sited without obstructing stair users' movement or casting shadows on the stairs, which could impede users' vision. And using treads, handrails and stair walls can give a dynamic and visually engaging feel.
Illuminate the office
An office may seem straightforward to light, however, the challenges of agile working, an increasingly diverse workforce demographic and the drive towards well-being means there are many considerations.
Using tuneable white light is effective as it enables lighting to be more dynamic, tuning into the daylight spectrum. The colour of the light can change during the day to keep people engaged in their environment. It can also zone areas for specific tasks such as concentrated work, creativity and rest areas.
Lighting designers and architects should meet early to establish the intention of the space and how lighting features and tuneable white light can aid a more people-centric design that promotes well-being.
Anouska Nemchand is head of design at FUTURE Designs