July 09, 2021 Tony Su

2021 Guide to Light Up Your Workspace

The modern workspace is no longer limited to a mere workstation. Instead, it transcends the boundaries of the standard workstation and assumes a significantly larger role to accommodate the many functions that a modern workplace comes with. 

Even a decade back, only traditional administrative buildings qualified as ‘offices.’ However, with modern design and technology at the forefront, a vast majority of non-residential buildings today have a dedicated segment functioning as the workstation.

Because of the all-pervading nature of modern offices, run-of-the-mill lighting solutions are no longer sufficient. These solutions are not just simplistic, but they also underline conventional patterns that do not complement the modern workplace environment.

The ideal lighting solution for modern offices should seamlessly harmonize with the other artifacts of the office space, establishing a perfect spirit of sophistication and comfort. So, what should be the ideal lighting solution for a workspace?

Observe Your Workspace

Even before finalizing a lighting solution for your workspace, it is crucial to observe it carefully. This way, it is easier to pinpoint the deficiencies and address them.  

Of late, multi-user offices or co-working spaces have been in vogue. Since the tenants of these offices are non-permanent and may potentially move, they prefer an all-encompassing, one-size-for-all approach that caters to the needs of everyone. Hence, these offices have also played a major role in the ever-increasing reliance on conventional, non-specific, lighting solutions. 

The defining factor of most co-working spaces lies in their architecture and lighting solutions, both of which are tailored to serve individuals who may or may not frequently transition to new office spaces. Even if you do not work in a co-working space, most shared buildings of moderate and large corporations tend to follow a generic and simplistic approach to workspace lighting. If this is indeed the situation, observe and identify it to address it further. 

Identify the Problem 

The biggest problem of most workspace architecture is their conventional lighting designs. The design of multi-user office buildings may be practical, but they are also highly formulaic. These lighting architectures are characterized by fixed and unimaginative lights that are suitable for the frequent reconfiguration required in these areas. 

However, because of this factor alone, these spaces also demand maximum customizability. Unfortunately, most traditional workstations are far from customizable, the only flexible segments being smaller areas like the conference rooms, game rooms, or reception desks. 

While a non-customizable office may not be problematic for smaller companies that benefit from the multi-tenant system, large corporations may not reap similar benefits. These corporations should adopt a differential outlook on lighting architecture. Even smaller and mid-sized corporations should transition from a permanent approach to a more flexible one. 

Understand Your Goal

The end goal of most organizations is high efficiency and consistent productivity. And an optimal, elegant, and soothing lighting design is geared to help meet this goal. The lighting solution should be such that it permits all visual tasks to be performed conveniently. Since many big and moderate-sized corporations are aligned with the common aim of enhancing employee contentment, lighting designs like these will only assist in supporting that goal. 

Incorporating formulaic lighting solutions only hinders productivity and poses a major roadblock to employee satisfaction. These solutions should be appropriately replaced by creative lighting designs that truly accentuate the beauty and functionality of the modern workplace. Since these solutions can also be incorporated economically, even small-sized corporations can adopt them. 

Designing Your Workspace Lighting Architecture

After realizing your goal, it is important to explore the various lighting solutions that can be incorporated into your workspace. Let’s dive deeper into these solutions.

1. Establish a Hierarchy

An excellent way to address the lighting architecture of your workplace is by establishing a hierarchy. A sophisticated orientation will enhance the depth of the workstation. Specific and differentiated lighting solutions have a crucial role in establishing perception-based hierarchies. 

For instance, linear lighting solutions beautifully complement open-plan spaces. Similarly, wall-washed lighting solutions accentuate the borders of the workstation. Corporations may also adopt vertical lighting architecture to enhance the resplendence and vivacity of the rooms. In general, setting a hierarchical lighting solution will render a spatial appeal to the respective workstations. A workstation with optimal lighting continually ensures access while also promoting the general wellbeing of colleagues. 

2. Customize Your Existing Workspace Lighting

Many office spaces reek of plainness and lack customizability. This problem can be addressed by customizing your existing lighting architecture. For instance, acoustical ceilings can be replaced by drywall soffits. Additionally, offices can also skip fixed lighting and go for more dynamic, energy-conserving options instead. 

3. Ceiling and Lighting 

When designing the lighting architecture of office space, it is imperative to understand the relationship between the ceiling and the lighting systems. A vast majority of office buildings do not expose their lighting equipment (electrical and/or mechanical) to support the architecture of a suspended ceiling. The ceiling height in a modern office doesn’t leave any room for exposed electrical/mechanical lines. That is why, regardless of the size of your office, ensure that the lighting equipment is configured appropriately and discreetly. 

4. Focus on the Plenums

Bearing a strong resemblance with the ceiling design approach, average plenum heights tend to vary according to the foundation of the building. In most high-rise office spaces, the average height of plenums is two and a half inches. That is because many corporates deem a spacious plenum to be functional and efficient. However, small and mid-sized corporations cannot leverage this facility due to the lack of space. They, therefore, use artificial ceilings and drywalls to compensate for the fairly smaller plenum. 

5. Suspended Panels, Slats, and More

If your workspace architecture features acoustical tiles, you might want to complement it with aluminum-powered slat systems. Available in a wide range of shades and varieties, this tiny change can leave a lasting impact on most office spaces. You can also set the acoustic tiles vertically, and because they exhibit immense variance in terms of color, you won't have any dearth of options while selecting the design. 

Other alternatives would be suspended panels and translucent ceilings. These unique architectural accents work best in settings that require dramatic impact. Translucent ceilings, in particular, are quite impressive because they are crafted from both plastics as well as textile-based materials. They are also a successful addition in settings that require ambient lighting to be diffused or balanced. 

Ceiling manufacturing companies are producing a host of exquisite options like wooden slats and plants, metallic and translucent tiles, and other ornamental offerings. Even though non-conventional ceiling designs may not complement all types of buildings, they should be considered with the highest priority, especially in workspaces that are struggling with space shortage. 

Workspace Lighting Approaches  

While there is no all-encompassing approach for creating lighting architecture that complements offices, some approaches seem to address the majority of the lighting architecture errors. 

1. Ambient and Task Lights

Ambient lighting is a concept where typically low-intensity ambient light is incorporated in the larger part of the workspace. The ambient light is further complemented with task lights that are geared to amplify concentration by illuminating some specific areas. These are the areas where crucial tasks happen.

The blend of task and ambient lighting works exceptionally well for all office spaces because it offers optimal illumination throughout the workspace while also conserving energy that can be later used to illuminate critical spots that demand proper lighting. Due to the growing success of this lighting approach, it has also been employed in other areas like kitchens, restaurants, healthcare institutions, and shopping malls to name a few. 

With that said, it is imperative to note that task lighting is not necessarily the best approach for lobby areas and lunchrooms. Similarly, in some spaces like gyms, certain visual tasks may be performed. However, the combination of ambient and task lighting still isn’t the best approach here. That is why it is crucial for the designer to first understand the workspace. This will enable them to adopt an elegant and workable lighting approach that illuminates and inspires at the same time. 

2. Visual Task-Focused Lighting

Since most of the office areas employ a range of visual tasks, they also encounter varied problems pertaining to setting the lighting design. The straightforward and undemanding approach to address this problem is by identifying the core of the visual issue, which is often the work desk. Both open and low-partitioned work desks have their respective lighting problems. Private offices, in general, present a multitude of visual tasks that transitions beyond the work desks. Reception desks present one such task where different intensities of illumination may be required for the individual at the desk, and the visitors at the lounge. Likewise, conference rooms require different lighting solutions in proximity to the table, as well as the other areas of the room where conversations happen, decisions are made, and tasks are performed. 

Notwithstanding the degree of architectural lighting problems in the workplace, the designer must understand that the process of design commences by first determining the various visual tasks associated with every accent and architectural element in the workstation.

3. Integrate Electric Light With Natural Daylight

While designing an effective lighting architecture for the office space, one must often strike an agreement between the best practices and the logical budgetary limitations. For the majority of the workspaces, some general guidelines are entailed as the key design standards. Users/tenants, architects, designers, and creative professionals are dissuaded from incorporating unconventional design elements. Customization is equally dissuaded, especially when it concerns the cost. Even large corporations use standard lighting solutions that are often obsolete when reviewed in modern times.

Therefore, in addition to identifying the key visual elements, designers also need to leverage the appropriate methodologies of design to subtly complement the lighting setup of the office area. A novel approach to addressing the factor is by integrating electric lights with natural daylight. This helps achieve a productive space for the user while also conserving the cost of illuminating a large space.

4. Lighting Solutions for Visitors and Clients

Most lighting solutions in workplaces are geared towards people working in that respective building. However, certain businesses and private offices also demand equal attention to visiting faculties, clients, et al. Typically, the access of visitors is restricted to the conference room, lounge, or reception area. Designers need to bring these aspects into consideration while planning the lighting of a workstation. This can include adding new definitions or textures to walls or featuring beautiful company-related (or unrelated) art and/or merchandise. The key is to intensify and add drama to even the most seemingly plain accents, and a proficient lighting design specialist will skillfully achieve this goal. 

5. Employ Indirect Ambient Light

While designing a beautiful office space, designers should also focus on organizing desktops and computers. Today, with flat-screen monitors being the vogue, the age-old problem of unwanted reflection has been successfully eliminated. However, this can be further improvised by adding indirect sources of ambient light. This will not just avoid undesirable reflections but will also support your primary goal of blending ambient and task lighting. 

6. Avoid Low-Level Ambient Light

Designers should not compromise on the quality of the ambient lighting either. They should specifically ensure that the illumination serves the purpose of easy navigation, comfortable collaboration, and seamless performance.

Any low-level ambient lighting with uniform characteristics should be avoided because it renders an unpleasant visual structure. The key is to add variety and maximize existing space. This can be achieved by combining different intensities of ambient light that highlight the wall surfaces of the entire workstation. 

7. Energy-Efficient Lighting Solutions

Finally, while incorporating the best practices in designing the lighting architecture in workstations, designers should also employ energy-efficient lighting systems like LEDs. These energy-efficient solutions are sustainable, and they also address the varying requirements of workplace lighting systems without compromising on the budget. 

Bottom Line

The lighting solutions discussed above collectively ensures efficient and clear illumination in all types of workstations, adding to their stylistic appeal and functionality. So, explore your options and select the best fit for your workspace environment.  

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