Money Saving Localized Lighting: Less is More

How's your business center lighting?
How's your business center lighting?

How Lighting Design Could Impact Your Office Space Renovation

Many people, especially young people, don’t need a lot of light and are perfectly fine with just the computer screen. What does that mean? Where a lighting engineer would typically design for 50 footcandles across an open office space, the truth is you really just need 50 footcandles for hand writing tasks.

At least that’s how Jason Brown, a certified lighting professional at GE Lighting, explains it. What does that mean for your business center? We asked Brown for some practical insights and he delivered.

“So now we start to think about how to localize lighting to where it’s needed most, rather than design one system to light everything to 50 footcandles. That’s path lighting, and it should be a huge part of every future office plan,” Brown says. “Today this typically ends up as a line item or additional fixture that must be paid for, and so it’s often one of the first things to go when budgets get tight. But the benefits are huge.”

Imagine lighting an entire open office floor plan with 50 footcandles, which might be 10,000 watts. Now imagine that same space if we were to localize the lighting to where it’s actually needed on the desks. Brown says we don’t need 50 footcandles in the corridor or over where someone is sitting – we need it on the task plane. If we do that – that is, bring the light source closer to the application – efficiency increases because we’re not just throwing light everywhere.

“We can take that 10,000 watts down to 4,000 watts and still light the task to our 50 footcandles, while the ambient lighting system provides an average of maybe 20 footcandles, which is all people really need to perform daily tasks,” Brown says. “It can literally mean a 50 percent reduction in energy costs simply by putting a new task lighting scheme to work.”

Brown also points to a trend where the height of office partitions is coming down, and so here is another opportunity to reduce wattages because light is no longer being blocked by walls and dividers, so you can use less to illuminate a larger area, naturally. He calls it a cycle: When artificial lighting was invented, people started to put fewer and fewer windows in the spaces they inhabited. They added privacy because they could. Now, with today’s energy crunch, we’re opening things up again and re-finding the sun.

“If you are doing a renovation, absolutely think about dropping partitions. The downside everyone is concerned about isn’t privacy so much as sound,” Brown says. “We’ve seen studies that show a negligible change in sound attenuation when partition heights were dropped from five or six feet down to four feet. It actually has very little effect on sound and more of an effect on visual privacy.”

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Image source: Victoria Avenue business centre, London

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