Ti Installations’ joint MD Mark Copley was recently asked to pen some thoughts about the importance of lux levels in the workplace. His knowledge and advice then appeared in renowned facilities management journal, Tomorrow’s FM. If you missed the resulting article, you can read it in full here:
When it comes to modern, best practice lighting, there’s one topic that hopefully spring to the minds of facilities managers throughout the UK – LED. But they’re not the only three letters to consider, stresses Mark Copley, joint director of Ti Installations. Lux is important too…
If we think of the multiple day-to-day challenges that organisations face, the length and breadth of the country, it’s perhaps little surprise that a new lighting scheme is nowhere near the top of their agenda. Usually, it is only ever a real consideration when undertaking an interior refurbishment. Otherwise, apart from the need to replace the odd bulb when it goes out, the lighting just… exists.
And that is the trend across varied sectors, whether we think about office space, the retail sector, healthcare, factories or industrial warehouses. When a business moves into different premises, old or new, the expectation is usually that the existing lighting is fit for purpose. So why would there ever be a need to change the lighting scheme, unless a problem arose?
This approach has become more commonplace as a result of tougher economic times. Businesses have become inclined to make the most of what they’ve already got, in the hope of saving money that would otherwise be required to invest in new fixed or current assets. However such a mindset, whilst understandable, can also be dangerous. There is a risk that opportunities are being overlooked or that facilities are falling short of compliance standards.
Thankfully, the growing buzz surrounding LED lighting is a catalyst for change. More and more organisations are increasingly acknowledging the power and cost saving benefits that come with this energy-efficient lighting alternative. And, as a result, existing lighting schemes are being assessed and the scope for improvement welcomed.
However the majority of FMs and their clients still overlook the importance of Lux levels, largely, no doubt, because they don’t know what the phrase even means.
In technical terms, Lux is the metric SI unit of illuminance, with Lux levels measuring the luminous flux per unit area. One lux is one lumen per square metre. However, such technical knowledge or understanding isn’t really required. All businesses need to recognise is that lux levels must be measured, because the amount of lighting within a space can have an overwhelming impact on employee productivity, wellbeing and safety.
In an office environment for example, if the lighting is too bright, glare could cause eyesight damage or headaches, which may upset staff wellbeing, cause long-term health effects and create productivity or absence problems for the business. If the lighting is too dim, employees could strain to see what they’re doing, which is likely to create the same consequences.
In businesses where more physical work or movement is required, such as a warehouse, inadequate lighting could heighten the risk of trip hazards or the likelihood of an injury. And if an incident was to subsequently occur and lighting was identified as a contributory factor, the penalties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 could be incredibly severe.
Employers are regulated under this legislation to protect their staff, and the provision of appropriate lighting is key to this duty of care. Not only does this help to ensure all work can be undertaken safely; it also protects employees’ eyesight and wider health. The Workplace Regulations Act 1992 (regulation 8) also states that employers must ensure every workplace has suitable and sufficient lighting, with the provision of suitable and sufficient emergency lighting where needed. Again such ruling exists to safeguard individuals in their place of work, and, ultimately, protect organisations from liability too.
Different working environments have different recommended lighting levels of course, according to the type of work being carried out in the space concerned. These are outlined within CIBSE guidelines. General offices, for example, are advised to achieve 500 Lux; 1000 Lux is advised for a DIY superstore; and up to 2000 Lux may be required in some engineering inspection environments. There is no ‘one size fits all’ caveat however, as specific building considerations and the exact nature of the business activity, also need to be taken into account.
To ensure accurate measurements and appropriate next step action, a site survey should be carried out by a professional electrician or lighting specialist. Usually these are free of charge. The electrician/surveyor will assess the colour of the carpets, walls and ceilings, as well as the size of the space, the intricacy of work involved and the presence of a 600 x 600 ceiling grid that could enable light fitting flexibility moving forward. Utilising all findings, a full lighting design can then be prepared, with notes of the most suitable light fittings, their recommended positioning, and how many of each are required. Emergency lighting plans can also be included.
In around 75% of cases, these replacement lighting schemes will utilise LED, and the reasons for this are multifaceted. LED lights can achieve up to 30% lux level improvements, they come with a five year guarantee and are maintenance free. Because they are 80% more efficient than traditional lighting, with drastically lower power consumption, an organisation’s energy bills will also drop significantly. A small-medium sized office can save £3,000-5,000 per year in electricity costs, for instance, meaning a 2-3 year payback period is achievable. Plus the installations are currently 100% tax allowable.
LEDs are kinder to the environment too, and are compliant with the EUs plans to phase out all old style bulbs by 2018. Because of this, approximately 95% of new/replacement lighting schemes will be LED by this time next year.
Of course it could be argued that it is not the default responsibility of facilities managers to ensure optimum lux levels throughout a property – after all FMs are faced with an array of assets and operational challenges to take care of on a daily basis. However, the benefits of a carefully planned and executed lighting scheme are clear to see. What’s more, with increasing demands being placed on FMs as the economic recovery continues, now is the time to capitalise on lux level improvements, to ensure facilities remain welcoming, productive, compliant and safe.
If you’d like to speak to Ti Installations about lux levels, or LED lighting for your workplace or home, please call the team on 01484 818180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.