Quality not quantity

Interior lighting is eventually starting to get the attention that it deserves – the recent trends, focussing on occupancy sensors and lighting for the workplace – are testament to this.

The link between light and human health is embedded in our molecular make-up. Lighting levels determine our body clock, affecting the biochemical, physiological and behavioural processes that keep us alive and healthy. Light also affects our circadian rhythm, helping us distinguish between night and day and different seasons. And while light has an effect on our sleeping patterns, it also affects the functioning of our immune system and psychological well-being.

The power and impact that light has on one’s wellness should not be under-estimated. Light therapy has been used to treat various illnesses by relieving symptoms of diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Chronic Fatigue. It has also shown positive results in treating depression, sleep disorders and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a well-documented condition caused by a lack of sunshine.

Our modern lifestyle dictates that we spend much of our time indoors under artificial light – either at work or home. Despite the essential role that light plays in our lives, office design and contemporary residential architecture often fails to optimise the use of this important element. There are, however, various steps you can take to optimise your wellbeing within the context of time spent in artificially lit environments.

Valerie Poyurs, GM of Marketing at Radiant, says that there should always be enough light to enable the tasks to be done without having to strain the eyes. “Poor lighting can lead to asthenopia, an ophthalmological condition which causes symptoms such as fatigue, red eyes, blurred vision, headaches and occasional double vision.” The level of lighting should also always suit the nature of the task. For example, if the job involves detailed, visually taxing work such as inspection or technical drawing, make sure a bright light that helps the user see clearly is used. In addition to fluorescent overhead office lights, use a task-specific lamp to illuminate the workspace. At home, it’s a good idea to invest in a dimming system which allows the occupant to adjust the intensity of light in different rooms.

“Lighting in general has been getting more attention over the years with people realising that it compliments and finishes off the look. The quality of light in the workplace is essential with it having an effect on the moods and performances of the work force,” says Jason Rivkind of Streamlight. “Workspaces that are brighter and correctly lit can improve productivity over spaces that are underlit and stale.”

“Quality of light is as important as quantity of light,” says Allan Loxton of Voltex Lighting. “It is necessary to understand the difference between price and cost, and through the use of specialised software, life cycle and pay back costs can be verified.”

To avoid errors, fatigue and accidents in the workplace, it is important to limit glare. In indoor workplaces, glare can be caused by bright luminaires or windows. Direct glare from light bulbs can cause eyestrain. “Avoid direct glare by positioning lights so you can’t see the bulbs directly,” says Poyurs. “Use lampshades and adjustable lamps to achieve ambient lighting without the glare.” Reflected glare, such as that on computer screens, can also cause eyestrain. But its worst effect may be that you subconsciously change your posture in order to see well. This can lead to back and neck problems. Use blinds to reduce glare and soften the light.

The light used to illuminate our homes and workplaces is of a different frequency to sunlight. Ordinary incandescent light bulbs as well as fluorescent bulbs produce a yellow frequency of light. Although this is the brightest of the colours in the light spectrum and reaches the cones in our eyes quicker than other colours, it also causes the eye to contract causing low-grade stress on our bodies. “If possible, supplement artificial light with sunlight through a window or purchase a daylight globe, a lighting option which emulates natural light,” says Poyurs.

New generation fluorescent bulbs use 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. 
One study shows that some individuals experience headaches because of the light ripple caused by the 50-Hz power supply of fluorescent lamps which are operated on magnetic ballasts. However, fluorescent lamps running on modern high-frequency electronic ballasts operate at around 30 kHz and do not exhibit flicker or ripple phenomena, significantly decreasing the amount of headaches. Another lighting alternative to consider is halogen lights which produce one of the brightest lights and can be used in areas where maximum illumination is required.

Properly designed, the overall working environment can have a stimulating effect on those working within it. Lighting in a workplace must ensure that people within that environment are able to perform their tasks even under difficult circumstances and over long periods. It should help them feel comfortable which, indirectly, will assist in elevating their efficiency and even productivity. “Good office lighting actually improves bottom-line profitability. Workers see better which increases their productivity; they make fewer mistakes, reducing waste and accidents. Appropriate lighting has, in fact, even been shown to reduce absenteeism levels due to sickness,” says Poyurs.
Lighting must also help promote safety in the workplace. Stroboscopic effects can lead to dangerous situations in which rotating or reciprocating machinery appears to be stationary.

Recent interior lighting trends

“Lighting design and engineering professionals are facing the challenge and demand for energy conservation in buildings and in residential houses,” says Nico van der Merwe from Schneider Electric. “Effective lighting control saves energy, reduces operating costs, and helps maintain a safe and productive environment for occupants. Well designed and installed, lighting control also provides convenience for occupants and enhances productivity,” he continues. Designing an optimal lighting control system may often incorporate several types of controls as well as different control strategies to achieve an integrated, total-facility approach.

“When looking at the latest trends in lighting we look at the fixtures and the effects,” notes Rivkind of Streamlight. “With regards to fixtures there has been a big move towards more energy saving lighting and this has led to introduction of LED’s (light emitting diodes). These are used because of their long life and low power consumption and are available in a wide range from downlighters through to foot lights and cove lighting. The introduction of colour and colour changing lighting has become more and more popular giving a more emotive and less static affect. Cove and indirect lighting is still one of the most effective ways of filling and highlighting spaces. Task lighting such table and floor lamps have definitely become more popular again adding that final touch to the application and creating further ambience,” he explains.

Loxton from Voltex has also noticed the trend towards efficiency. “Direct to the increased awareness of energy saving, a trend towards better performance and higher efficiencies are being sought. This is being achieved through better optics and luminaire designs. Aesthetically a move away from typical louvered fixtures, which result in a dark cave like environment, creating shadow and dark walls is taking place. These are being replaced by luminaires that produce excellent horizontal conformity and high levels of vertical illuminance when compared to daylight fixtures.”

Occupancy sensors

Are occupancy sensors becoming a standard in corporate environments? “They are not standard yet, but we are seeing a conscious movement towards occupancy sensors,” says van der Merwe. “The optimal energy efficiency is achieved if the sensors are part of a lighting control system and in turn managed on the Building Management Platform. We are experiencing that there are many installations where the energy efficiency programme is based on installing motion sensors. Good energy efficiency programmes are the ones where there is an integrated BMS.”

“No, but they should,” states Loxton. “One of the simplest ways to reduce energy in a building is to switch off lighting in areas that are vacant. Occupancy sensors will automatically switch on when someone enters the room, and more importantly, switch off when no one is present,” he says.

Lighting for the particular space

“More attention is being paid to space and lighting, and to achieve the best effect it should be area specific in order to create the correct ambience for the application,” says Rivkind. There are, however, exceptions which does make it more challenging with regards to rooms that have more than one application or for a room where the client is unsure of what application it will have. Separate switching and dimmers will definitely aid in these instances.” Loxton concludes by saying that he believes that spaces are starting to get the specialised attention they deserve. “Voltex Lighting carries a range of sensors to suit different applications and environments from the simple passive infrared for use in kitchens, toilets, break rooms etc, to the more advanced dual technology which incorporates PIR and Ultrasonic for use in offices where line of sight could be disrupted due to partition, cabinets. This ensures that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not taken.”

The experts on lighting

Want to know more about lighting? Radiant Lighting, in association with Leading Architecture, will be hosting three talks, two in on October 8 and 29 and in Cape Town on October 22. Renowned editor Annemarie Meintjies will be speaking in Johannesburg, while award winning architect, Liam Mooney, will be entertaining guest in the Cape. For more information, call 011-386-0000, visit <a href=”http://www.radiant.co.za”>www.radiant.co.za</a> or look out for the invitation in this issue. Space is strictly limited.

Contacts

Radiant Lighting – 011-386-0000 or www.radiant.co.za
Schneider Electric – 011-254-6400 or www.schneider-electric.co.za
Streamlight – 011-440-4142 or www.streamlight.co.za
Voltex Lighting – 011-879-2000 or www.voltex.co.za

CAPTIONS:
HYPERLINK “http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-10902985/stock-photo-conference-room.html” http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-10902985/stock-photo-conference-room.html: The level of lighting should also always suit the nature of the task.
HYPERLINK “http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-12162679/stock-photo-reception-in-modern-office-d-image.html” http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-12162679/stock-photo-reception-in-modern-office-d-image.html: Properly designed, the overall working environment can have a stimulating effect on those working within it.
http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-33108007/stock-photo-modern-office-premise.html
: The quality of light in the workplace is essential with it having an effect on the moods and performances of the work force.
HYPERLINK “http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-7576414/stock-photo-modern-interior-design-of-cabinet-boss-room-d-render.html” http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-7576414/stock-photo-modern-interior-design-of-cabinet-boss-room-d-render.html: Despite the essential role that light plays in our lives, office design and contemporary residential architecture often fails to optimise the use of this important element.