If you’re a workspace designer who thinks of light merely as an afterthought to make sure everyone can see what they’re doing or to highlight your latest and greatest art acquisition, you’ve got a lot to learn, says Humanscale’s Tim Goodred.
ADR: How did your interest in lighting design develop?
TG: My first job as a designer was as an interior designer for the exhibition and event space. That really started to make me understand a bit more about the ethereal quality of light. Light is something that we can’t touch. I think that’s what makes it really powerful and really interesting in the context of an unknown appeal.
What are the challenges of designing lighting in workplaces?
Effective lighting in the workplace really gives us two particular types of challenges. We are using two types of technology in the workplace. One is the computer monitor and the other is for paper-based documents. And both of these technologies require very different sources of light.
For looking at a computer monitor, we require about five times less light than we need to look at and read a paper document correctly. Basically, if we try and put a blanket light across the workplace, we’re really missing out on how people are engaging in multiple tasks in the workplace.
What we need to try and do, therefore, and what we call effective lighting solutions, is using the ‘dual source lighting solution’. This means actually introducing an adjustable task light, which is low energy and high efficiency, to read paper documents at the desk. Then you can rely on the lowered overhead light to be effective for the screen.
How do designers who are not specialists get the lighting wrong?
What they’ll do is say is, OK, we have a working office environment. The Australian standard says the majority of people need 500 lux at their desks. So designers will just wash the entire space with 500 lux at the desktop.
That does not at all take into consideration the fact that we need so much less light for the computer monitor, because the computer monitor is lighting itself. So one of my biggest bugbears as an interior designer was struggling to get feature lighting or different sources of light in a space because you’d be spending most of your money on completely washing a workplace environment. This is still common in this day and age.
What are the different lighting requirements in a workspace?
When you look at interior design and interior fitouts, there are lots of different areas. You’ve got task areas, where you need task lighting. You’ve got ambient light areas, such as corridors and transitional spaces. You’ve got bathrooms, and you’ve got specialist lighting areas. You’ve also got breakout spaces, like kitchens.
Another thing we need to consider is the building exterior, and how we get to the building, or to and from the building. This is becoming increasingly important these days, as we have people working longer hours. And we really want people to feel safe transitioning from the workplace to their car, or to their public transport route.
So, we are finding more and more, that we have to really consider not just what goes on in the building, but also how we commute to the building as well, to understand how people are interacting with their workplace.