Lighting Industry

Lighting: We’re doing it all wrong, say experts

A light meter reading 925 lux
The experts say we need ‘to stop designing lighting to deliver a specified uniform illuminance on a horizontal working plane

WE’RE DESIGNING lighting for buildings all wrong, say four of the world’s leading experts. 

The scientists – New Zealand’s Christopher Cuttle, the UK’s Peter Boyce and Peter Raynham and Ireland’s Kevin Kelly – want us to tear up the existing standards, guidance and procedures and start again.  

They say that we need ‘to stop designing lighting to deliver a specified uniform illuminance on a horizontal working plane, and to start giving priority to lighting the space rather than just focusing on the visual task’. 

The current practice is out of date, they believe, as it’s based on office workers using mainly paper, not computer screens. Additionally, fewer employees need light to see fine detail in the workplace.

‘This means that much lighting is designed to fulfil needs that no longer exist’.

The foursome also point out that we know much more now about human-centric lighting, the connection between light and our health and wellbeing.

This isn’t being catered for in the current guidance and standards. 

‘Unless lighting frees itself from the chains of illuminance on the horizontal working plane, there is a risk that lighting will be seen as a simple commodity where innovation and creativity are limited and price is everything. The implications for the lighting industry are not attractive.’

The lighting experts – Kevin Kelly, Christopher Cuttle, Peter Boyce and Peter Raynham – believe that current lighting practice is out of date and we need to move to ambient lighting as a priority.

Instead, they want to move to a ‘minimum ambient illuminance’, the indirect lighting in the volume of a space.

‘Ambient lighting is real human-centric lighting’, they say in their manifesto, published in the current edition of Light Lines, the journal of Society of Light and Lighting. 

They call the new method the Lighting Design Objectives, or LiDOs, procedure. 

They are calling for research to establish the right light levels for an ambient lighting standard, and the manufacture of a new meter to measure it. 

‘The present understanding of efficiency may be literally turned upside down – and needs further investigation.’

They say that because the current bodies which draw up the standards and guidance are ‘conservative’, both approaches could be used concurrently for a period and lighting professionals and clients could choose which design method they favoured. 

The scientists concluded: ‘There is a long way to go before a shift from working plane lighting to ambient lighting can be justified and made to occur.

‘However, it will never happen unless all those involved lift up their eyes from the horizontal working plane and see the opportunities for better lighting practice presented by ambient lighting.’

A smiling Ray Molony in a smart suit