Feature, IoT/Smart Lighting, Lighting Controls, Office

Property giants cautious about human-centric lighting

WeWork’s office in Hudson Street, New York. The company’s head of lighting, Star Davis, won’t implement human-centric lighting without further evidence of its effectiveness. Picture: WeWork

THE IDEA of tuning workplace lighting to support the human circadian cycle might be catching on in some quarters, but it has yet to win over many potential users, judging by statements from panellists at LuxLive 2018’s Property Technology Live conference.

‘I’m cautious of over-promising,’ Star Davis, head of lighting for New York City-based shared workspace startup WeWork, told the London event. Davis was delivering a keynote speech about work cultures and data-driven smart buildings, when she was asked about the potential for circadian lighting, also known as human-centric lighting or lighting for health and wellbeing.

British Land’s 7,000 square metre Marble Arch House in London’s West End. The company remains cautious about human-centric. lighting. Matthew Webster, head of wellbeing and future proofing for the company, said that he was ‘not so sure’ about the concept. Picture: British Land

Like many of the property gurus who expressed reservations, Davis said she was not ruling out the potential for circadian lighting. But for the moment, WeWork, for all of its modern, people-first facilities around the world, does not see enough evidence for its effectiveness, and is running just one pilot at a small meeting room at its home facilities in New York.

Davis said natural light and ceiling height are a priority when it comes to human-centric lighting design.

Matthew Webster, head of wellbeing and future proofing for the UK’s second-largest property company British Land, was equally cautious, noting in a keynote on employee-centric workspaces, that he was simply ‘not so sure’ about the concept.

Likewise, in a panel discussion about the digital workplace, Matthew Marson, head of smart buildings for Montreal-based property engineering giant WSP — associated with London’s Shard — expressed hesitance until the concept is more proven. So did Simon Rawlinson, head of strategic research and insight for Amsterdam-based property engineers Arcadis, who said the firm has yet to advance the notion of circadian lighting.

Even presenters from the lighting industry acknowledged that the field could benefit from more evidence. ‘Tons of research has to be done,’ said David Vanbeselaere, product manager for LED linear modules for Philips OEM, part of Signify, a company that has itself conducted a fair amount of study on the subject. Vanbeselaere was presenting on ‘how to create a human-centric environment’. Like others throughout the day, he noted the best source of human-centric lighting remains the sun, and he advised people to take outdoor breaks during their workdays.

‘There’s still research to be done,’ said Craig Casey, senior building science engineer for Coopersburg, PA-based lighting controls specialist Lutron in a presentation on ‘the human side of smart lighting’. Casey said that a lot of human centric lighting boils down to common sense, such as ‘making sure the buttons are labeled in a way that makes sense’.

Not everyone expressed reluctance. Katie Watkinson, special projects manager for Birmingham, England-based fitness apparel maker Gymshark, said her company has implemented circadian lighting for workers on the customer support teams, which work in shifts from 6am until midnight. In a related deployment, Gymshark has also installed tunable lights that let the company check the colour appearance of outdoor wear in different potential environments, such as the Australian summer versus the US summer.

Circadian lighting is gaining traction, especially in the healthcare field, and it has also had its share of deployments in commercial offices, with several notable case studies showing positive impact from human-centric lighting design.

But judging by these comments, it still has a long way to go on the road to convincing people.