Education, Feature, Healthcare, Office

What’s lighting up the workplace right now?

Coming soon, to an office near you...

Are you ready for the workspace of the future? Lux and Osram assembled a panel of leading lighting professionals to discuss emerging trends in workplace lighting, across offices, healthcare and the education sector.

What will the workplace of the future look like? How do we design appropriate lighting for space that needs to include desk areas, more relaxed breakout zones, meeting rooms and catering all on the same floor? LEDs and controls technology offer occupiers much lower running costs, saving on energy and with a long life that sees maintenance costs fall as well. Does any other lighting technology get a look in these days? The latest biodynamic lighting offers a Brave New World where we can help the productivity levels of staff. Do we know enough yet about the science behind the technology to research on workers in this way?

Lux, in association with Osram, invited a panel of industry experts, with participants including lighting designers and consultants, workspace providers and engineers from NHS Trusts, to its Workplace Forum to discuss the issues in a roundtable discussion. Key areas covered included:

  • What are the challenges in new and refurbishment projects?
  • How to best create high-quality working environments and manage energy across an estate?
  • What are the experiences with controls systems and smart lighting systems?
  • What is important when considering controls installations?
  • Are developments in biodynamic lighting an important consideration in workspace lighting applications?


Clients are looking to ensure good performance with a good payback and are moving to nearly all LED-based fixtures, despite the impact on upfront costs, said Graham Large

LED dominant

“Clients are looking to ensure good performance with a good payback and are moving to nearly all LED-based fixtures, despite the impact on upfront costs,” said Graham Large, head of architectural lighting design at Chapman BDSP. “Clients are seeing the benefits of long-term savings in running costs, energy use and maintenance costs, as well as long-term colour stability.”

Developers are also drawn to solutions that meet their sustainability agendas. “Clients want sustainable buildings and lighting can play a big part in achieving their goals, such as BREEAM Outstanding accreditation,” commented Nitika Agrawal, lighting designer at AECOM. “Budgets are often limited. Designers want to know how you can be as sustainable as possible on a limited budget.”

Lead times for products are also crucial. Once the money is released on a project, timescales can be short and designers will only specify a product if it meets the programme requirements. On projects with a long lifecycle, designers will look to re-specify the design as lighting moves onto the critical path.

“Clients are tending to focus on simple metrics around energy consumption,” stated Neil Foster, consulting engineer at Couch Perry Wilkes. “There is a trend towards very low lighting power densities. Designers look at LENI to try to get the kWh ratings of buildings down.”


The lighting community has to be sensitive to the growing trend towards the personalisation of space and respond to it, said Mark Ridler

Personalisation of space

Research points to staff feeling much better about their working environment when they can exercise some degree of control – whether that’s opening a window or adjusting the lighting. “The lighting community has to be sensitive to the growing trend towards the personalisation of space and respond to it,” said Mark Ridler, lighting director at BDP. “People want, to an extent, to have control over their individual environment. Clients want buildings that enhance productivity and studies show that productivity rises when staff have control over their individual environment – sickness rates and retention of staff is improved.”

There is a debate about how that demand manifests itself in terms of lighting technology. Does control come from intuitive, traditional smart interfaces, such as clever light switches or will it be driven by smartphones, iPads and the like? Some in the lighting community believe that personal control is best achieved if elements of the lighting are moved away from the ceiling to free-standing fixtures or lighting that is integrated with the office furniture. “Controls are often not used because they are not intuitive,” said Gareth Davies, senior lighting designer at Dpa Lighting Consultants.

Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) solutions with smartphone control are starting to appear on the market. “I’m not convinced of the argument in favour of PoE lighting,” said Dominic Meyrick, lighting principal and partner at Hoare Lea Lighting. “The quality of luminaires going into this technology leads to poor lighting schemes.” Kristofer Karlsson, associate lighting designer at Buro Happold felt that control via a smartphone or iPad is turning into a gimmick: “Planning ahead so that you know how the space is going to be used is crucial.”

 “The Big Data possibilities of PoE control solutions are of interest to our clients and us as facilities managers as it allows tracking of traffic, meeting room usage, cleaning rotas and so on,” commented Kevin Harkus, maintenance manager with workspace provider Regus.

Of course, workplace schemes come in all shapes and sizes. “The NHS demands solutions that are intuitive and simple to programme and use,” said Brian Randall, engineering officer at Bedford Hospital NHS Trust. “There is little local control, other than PIR control. NHS rules and regulations mean that the IT system is locked down, so PoE-type individual control is unlikely. There is also resistance to DALI solutions as these have to be hardwired.”


Circadian rhythms and biodynamic lighting

Both the NHS and offices are potential applications for biodynamic lighting solutions that tie in with the human body’s natural circadian rhythms. There is a consensus that the lighting industry needs to know a lot more about human-centric lighting. “More research needs to be done before lighting designers start getting too enthusiastic about engagement with the technology,” said Mark Ridler.

Changing the colour of the light is not going to create some super-duper, productive human being, said Dominic Meyrick

“It’s important that we don’t flog a dead horse with human-centric lighting,” stated Dominic Meyrick. “Changing the colour of the light is not going to create some super-duper, productive human being.”


Flexibility of space and lighting

Offices are not just places of work. Office floors now have breakout areas, café areas, meeting rooms double as dining areas. “Office lighting today needs to encompass elements of hotel lighting and restaurant lighting,” says Graham Large.

Access to daylight and fresh air are increasingly important, as is a positive and productive workforce. “Clients want their workforce to be engaged and feel looked after, that the client has their best interests at heart – what can lighting do to promote that?” asked Large.


Costs and new build versus refurbishment

Typical budgets allocated to lighting varied from £65-70/m2 for a University building, up to £79/m2 for an office for a blue-chip client. Controls systems were allocated £10/m2. Experience of leasing the lighting rather than buying outright was limited. One designer put current workloads at around 70% new build, 30% refurbishment.

The Lux Workplace Forum was sponsored by Osram