When you first read that headline, I'll bet you thought "Lighting Efficiently" meant lighting that saves money, right? It actually has to do with worker productivity and customer experience. Let me illuminate you.

Lighting Efficiently: Going Beyond the Utility Bill

Steve Maurer, IME
When you first read that headline, I'll bet you thought "Lighting Efficiently" meant lighting that saves money, right? It actually has to do with worker productivity and customer experience.

Let me illuminate you.

I want to introduce you to an exciting concept: HCL.

HCL is an acronym for Human Centric Lighting. And it encompasses far more than just seeing your way around without banging your shins on a coffee table or the corner of your desk.

More, because in today's world where worker productivity is vital to business efficiency, light plays a vital role. More, because lighting isn't just illumination, it's a philosophy.

In an increasing number of commercial applications, designers and architects are realizing lighting design plays a huge part in enhancing worker productivity. From the time they arrive until they leave for home, the right lighting options are essential.

So in this scenario, lighting morphs from a noun to a very active, essential, and powerful verb.
It's not the purpose nor within the scope of this article to go into exhaustive detail. But I want to quickly describe four very significant aspects of the HCL experience:

  • Quality of light
  • The role of natural light
  • The connection to outdoors, and
  • Adaptive and personalized lighting control
Let's look briefly at each element and how they interact with each other.

Quality of Light
Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind it how adequately or poorly a space is illuminated. When I stumble around in a dark or poorly lit room, bad things are bound to happen to my toes and shins.

But quality goes beyond lumen levels. In my home office, my lights are dimmable to match the task at hand. A high lumen level is great for intricate or detailed work. But a softer level is better for a more relaxed experience.

Add to that the color temperature, from a warm/yellow spectrum to the bright whites and blue hues of a daylight setting. My office lights adjust for that as well.

In an office setting, the proper quality of light—both lumen level and color temperature—set the mood, so to speak, for worker productivity and interaction. Not only that, but from more of a design perspective, the correct quality of light enhances the architectural look and feel of a room or office.

The Role of Natural Light
From time immemorial, we've labored under the natural light of the outdoors. It's in our nature to feel more productive under the sun. Often, working solely under artificial lighting stunts our creativity.

We don't feel "at home" under the glare of incandescent and fluorescent lighting. It breaks that circadian rhythm we've listened to for millennia.

But with tunable lighting, we're able to bring more of a natural feel to the interior workspace. Additionally, the tunable LED lighting can mimic the natural light outside as it transitions from the warm glow of the morning to the bright, cool light of mid-day.

Automated shades integrate with that tunable lighting to mix outdoor and indoor lighting. But it also seamlessly integrates with the third characteristic of HCL lighting: bringing the outdoors inside.
Many restaurants use the combination of natural light and nature-mimicking artificial light to give their customers a more pleasant dining experience.

The Connection to the Outdoors
As a child in the classroom, I often gazed out the window (wishing I was out there, not cooped up inside).

In my home office, I still glance out the window, often looking for inspiration. Wooden blinds keep out the glare, but unfortunately block the landscape as well. And I must manually adjust them to maintain the right balance.

There's no discounting that we humans feel a deep connection with the outdoors. It's engrained in our nature.

Of course, window blinds and shades help keep the glare of the sun from our workspaces. But they also block out our connection to the outdoors.

However, using semitransparent fabrics, we maintain that link. And with automated shades, linked to the lighting, the correct balance between natural and artificial light is maintained.

So we've looked at lighting quality, the role of natural light, and the "outdoor connection." That leaves us with the fourth and final piece of the HCL puzzle: modification and individual control.

Adaptive and Personalized Lighting Control
We touched briefly on adaptivity when we looked at the balancing of natural and artificial light. Of course, that's done with sensors and software programming.

Using that same software, you can set up scenarios—sometimes called moods—that can be accessed at the touch of a button, either digital or physical. So lighting schemas can be designed for various occasions—board meetings, lectures, brainstorming sessions, etc.—to be accessed at any time.

Even medical offices benefit from adaptive, controllable lighting, putting the patient at ease and ensuring the correct lighting levels are available for each task performed.

However, personalization is also possible. Using apps on devices, individuals have the potential to custom design their setting, based on their personal preferences.

Studies have shown that when workers can adjust their lighting to fit their personal requirements, productivity is greatly increased.

HCL—human centric lighting—is definitely something to look into for your next or current office lighting project. Lighting efficiency … going beyond the utility bill into the realm of business productivity.
Photo courtesy of Lutron Electronics
Lutron Residential & Commercial Sensors
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