Comment, Office

The way we use offices is changing. Lighting has to change too

Cundall's new office in Birmingham boasts a lighting scheme designed around people - not desks and screens

Good lighting is essential in the workplace and in recent years lighting technology has evolved, with a big shift to LED lighting. Office lighting is now designed to suit specific activities rather than generic coverage of the office space. It is no longer acceptable to light a large expanse of office carpet to 500 lx.

Office lighting is now designed to suit specific activities rather than coverage of the whole space”

In recent years we have also seen a shift away from the traditional office layout of desks and meeting rooms, and good lighting needs to suit the demands of these different areas and tasks. We’ve also seen businesses increasingly use lighting to create a mood: uplighting for beams and soffits can create a more relaxed workplace, for example. 

Eighteen months ago the British Council of Offices published its Guide to Lighting, which provides a practical interpretation of the requirements of existing standards and guidance. 

Jenny MacDonnell is director of research and policy at the British Council for Offices

The guide sets out some of the most important aspects of lighting in the workspace, and highlights that the best lighting for any office is natural daylight and it should be used effectively. Also, the guide advises that organisations must reduce the amount of energy consumed by office lighting, by complying with the latest energy efficiency standards. 

The guide also addresses the science and principles behind the lighting criteria for visual comfort and performance. The key message is that offices must provide comfortable lighting for the people within the space. The primary goal of office lighting should be to promote good visual communication for occupants, with well-lit vertical surfaces and an interesting degree of contrast. 

Finally, the guide provides practical advice on how to address the three development stages of an office fitout: shell and core (focusing on lobbies and toilets), category A (coordinating lighting with ceiling systems and mechanical services) and category B (the finished office, which is usually the occupier’s responsibility).