10 principles of lighting design
Welcome to the second #workingWELL blog – which looks at the key workplace aspects assessed by WELL, the leading building standard for health and wellbeing.
This week, we’re focusing on the effects of light in our indoor environments. It’s a big topic, considering we spend about 90% of our time indoors.
Poor light can not only reduce productivity, but increase absenteeism. Plus, age can have a huge impact on amount of light you need to work effectively. So if WELL’s assessors are due to visit, it’s vital that you make sure your workplace is seen in the ‘right light’.
Naturally, it’s best to sit in natural light
Ideally, you should work within 7.5m of a window – at most. And if you have good views, your ability to do focused work increases by 15%.
Equally, too much daylight can cause discomfort – so it’s important to have adequate shading options, like blinds or variable transmission glass (which dynamically changes opacity to limit solar glare and heat gain).
Good lighting design is essential to productivity
In wintertime (at the very least), artificial lighting is now a vital element of a workspace’s design.
There are several levels of lighting – for example general, task or decorative. Good lighting design will harmonise all of them across the workspace to suits every user, regardless of what activity they’re doing, their ages or their preferences.
And it’s easy to check if yours is up to scratch. Simply look around your workspace, and see if it meets our top 10 principles of lighting design.
- Light intensity
A lux is equal to the lighting level of a one metre square surface that’s one metre away from a single candle. European standards suggest a desk should be 500 lux. But for some this is too bright, for others too dim. That’s why it helps to have the flexibility of dimmable lights across your office, and lamps on each desk.
- Uniformity (Brightness)
The lighting levels on your desk should be relatively close to the lighting levels around your work area. Large variations can lead to visual stress and discomfort. Fluctuating light levels can be distracting too, and could lead to a high level of visual discomfort – reducing both productivity and wellbeing.
- Colour of the light
The colours we see in natural and artificial lights affect our mood. Warmer red, orange and yellow hues are great in breakout spaces and kitchens, because they make us feel comfortable and relaxed. Welcoming whites and light blues encourage alertness, so are great for conference rooms. And mid and deep blues improve productivity – so are useful in brainstorming and meeting rooms.
Glare is defined as an excessive brightness, contrast or quantity of light – and can cause everything from visual discomfort and eye fatigue to headaches and migraines. There are several sources of glare, so use a mix of solutions. Ensure windows can be covered to block the sun. Encourage everyone to work at angles that reduces the chance of glare. And use products (desks, dividers etc.) with matt finishes.
Electric lighting has low frequencies of flicker that are not present in daylight, and have been associated with eye strain, headaches, migraines and epileptic seizures. EU standards means it’s unlikely a new lamp will flicker. But it can degrade over time, so it’s important to regularly maintain them with new bulbs, and to check for faults.
- Brightness contrasts
While slight differences in brightness can help to create visual hierarchies – too much can cause glare or eyestrain. Your monitor’s a good example. A balanced contrast ratio between the backlit screen and the area behind it makes it easy to focus on work. Too much of a difference in light will make it difficult to read and see details, and could hurt your eyes.
An often-overlooked principal. Materials and products are key to any lighting design – and degrade over time. So make sure bulbs are properly replaced, and walls painted every couple of years.
- Tuneable and customisable lighting
To really boost productivity, it’s worth looking at tuneable lighting. Tuneable light is usually set to mimic the colour and intensity of daylight conditions – which is great for focus rooms or spaces without windows. It’s usually very flexible too, giving you the option to change the mood of a space with warmer or colder light.
- Circadian lighting design
Light is vital to our circadian rhythm – the internal clocks that keep our physiological functions (from sleeping to digestion) on a rough 24-hour cycle. Since poor lighting design can interrupt our circadian rhythm, pick lighting designs that combine natural and artificial light sources and ensure we get the periods of brightness and darkness we need.
- Blue light
Exposure to blue light suppresses your melatonin and can shift your circadian rhythm too. Try to limit the amount of TV you watch, or time spent looking at your mobile – especially late at night. Several apps and programs can help, warning you when you’ve been ‘attached to a screen’ for too long.
Want more advice on how to improve your lighting? Or what you can do to make your workspace fuel productivity and enhance wellbeing? Click here for a free consultation.
- Parsons, 2000.
- Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building, 2015. World Green Building Council.
- Light wellography – page 105 of 108 https://sc.wellcertified.com/wellographies/details/light.
- Viola A, James L, Schlangen L, Dijk D. Blue-enriched white light in the workplace improves self-reported alertness, performance and sleep quality. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health.
Don’t miss out on any of our blogs. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll keep in touch:
"*" indicates required fields