Office design, and in turn, office lighting, has changed dramatically over the years. Better workplace lighting (both natural daylight and artificial light) has been linked to a 15 percent reduction in absenteeism in office environments, while other studies have reported productivity in- creases ranging from 2.8 to 20 percent attributed to optimum lighting levels. Below are the latest trends driving office lighting in the modern workplace.

Controls and the IoT

According to Lux Review, controls are a big topic of conversation at the moment. Light sources are only half the story because everyone knows the most efficient light source is one that’s turned off. The rise of controls came hand-in-hand with the rise of LEDs, which can be dimmed and can send and receive data. Improvements in user interfaces, and the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, are also helping. And with the rise of wireless controls and power-line communication, it’s no longer as demanding to add controls to an existing building.

Trends driving office lighting

Human-centric design

Biophilic design is becoming more than a trend; it is a scientifically proven philosophy of our innate connection with nature and natural elements. Modern humans spend about

90% of their time indoors, which has resulted in an outcry for a deeper connection with nature. Fortunately, the response to this outcry has gone far deeper than adding a few plants around the office. Instead, it has inspired architects to use nature as the framework, allowing aspects of nature to be built into the indoor environment. This has affected the lighting aspect of office space design immensely, demanding greater amounts of natural light as well as softer lighting instead of windowless cubicles under fluorescent lighting.

Generational differences in workers

The current workforce is a melting pot of talent spanning five generations, from pre-1946 traditionalists (also known as the silent generation) to post-1997 kids of Gen 2020 (also known as Gen Z). Physical comfort, acoustic privacy, separate meeting spaces, security, lighting preferences and employee engagement are all values determined partially by age and life stage. As many companies have workforces that span the generations, companies need a logical way to provide a workplace that is flexible enough to meet everyone’s needs and deliver an experience.

Adapting to new working patterns

We don’t work in the same way we used to. Mobile working and hot-desking are growing, and people may work in different spots throughout the day. This means task lighting is increasingly important to give people control. Some countries have a stronger tradition of task lighting than others, but it’s becoming more popular, partly because energy is saved by lighting only what is needed, and partly because it’s good to give people some control over their own lighting.

Energy efficiency is more important than ever

Stringent code requirements are a modern reality and lighting controls are critical to meeting modern energy requirements. The programmable nature of LEDs benefits developers and tenants by introducing lighting fixtures that can incorporate integrated sensors that map and quantify energy savings.

Communication and collaboration

“Collaborative sharing is going to be the engine driving growth in the economy and the latest generations have grown up doing that, it’s all they’ve ever known,” says architect, Charles Fair. By offering flexibility, there’s likely to be more communication and collaboration as team members move around the workspace. Providing a range of spaces designed for specific tasks, like quiet work, brainstorming, meetings and presentations, employees will be able to concentrate better, and produce a higher quality output.

Reducing the glare

For desktop or laptop work, well-distributed diffuse light is best. There are fewer hot spots, or glare surfaces, in the line of vision. In addition, the contrasts created by the shape of objects will often be softer. One design trick is to use light, matte colours and paint finishes on walls which reflect indirect lighting while reducing dark shadows and contrast.

Breaking conventions

“LED technology allows designers and architects to break the convention of traditional ceiling design,” says Davis Kaminski from GE Lighting. “We no longer have to have to be stuck with 2x2 or 2x4 circles or square patterns. Now it is possible to create the functionality of traditional t-grid ceilings but with a clean, monolithic look. From a designer’s perspective, they can design the ceiling and lighting as a 5th wall. This enhances style and brand identity.”

Bearing maintenance in mind

Maintenance factors are an important consideration in the planning of lighting installations. In fact, the US’s Society of Light & Lighting’s Code for Lighting states that: “The lighting scheme should be designed with an overall maintenance factor calculated for the selected lighting equipment, environment and specified maintenance schedule.” When specifying LEDs it is important to indicate the service life used in calculations because it will lead to decisions on the initial light level and the number of installed luminaires. This will greatly affect the amount of lighting required – and therefore have an impact on both capital and operational costs.

Sources: Lux Review, Strack, The Lighting Resource, Philips Lighting, Strong Project, Huffington Post.

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Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.