Office workers all over the world will be able to attest to the impact that glare and sitting under a blaring fluorescent tube of light for eight hours a day has on their productivity and wellbeing. For a large or even medium-sized office, this can equate to the loss of many hours a week due to sick days or headaches.
However, workplace technology and design are moving at a swift pace to make our office spaces healthier and more pleasant places to be, and the world of modern lighting design is no different.
The Unified Glare Rating (UGR) is an index to measure glare and to design your lighting so it minimises the effects of glare in the workplace as well as in domestic spaces, says Rowan Jackman, design leader at Lightplan.
UGR can be measured once you know all the details of a space, including materials, furniture layout, colours and dimensions, and can then be mapped three-dimensionally using Lightplan’s top-of-the-range software.
With levels ranging from approximately 10 to 30, a UGR of 19 is the recommended level for office spaces, dropping down to 16 for architectural workplaces, where fine-detailed tasks such as sketching and model making are common.
Today, luminaires (lights) can be designed in ways that contribute to low-UGR ratings through appropriate and considered lighting design.
LEDs are the predominant new technology and while they are extremely efficient, they can project an intensely bright light. “The diffuser or the light source is very small, so you have a huge amount of light coming out of a tiny area, which makes the actual fitting uncomfortable to look at in terms of glare,” says Rowan.
While this may be bad news for those sitting under LEDs at desks for long periods of time, lights can easily be swapped out for lower glare fittings or retrofitted.
“One great low-glare fitting we have is called the SL1.25. It’s a linear extrusion but instead of an LED strip inside the diffuser, it has several, mini LED modules that are set well back into the fitting with black baffles. We have one in our showroom that lights the table below incredibly well – often our clients don’t even realise it’s turned on until they look directly underneath it.”
Clients often ask for a linear extrusion over the island bench in the kitchen, and here Lightplan again recommends the SL12.5, which works well in task-related spaces where the fitting isn’t far above eye height and the need for comfort is paramount. “A low glare fitting that is suited to that space is certainly money well spent,” explains Rowan.
For track spotlights, which can be glary by nature, Lightplan often specifies ‘honeycomb’ diffusers with black baffles, which come in different sizes and can also be retrofitted. These diffusers cut down the viewing angle to the actual fitting, so you have to stand directly under the track spot to see it.
The company also offers spotlights that are black on the inside of the fitting, which appear less glary than a white inner surface but still give out a very similar light output.
Retrofitting your space to reduce glare will have a huge impact in terms of employee health, productivity and wellbeing.
Rowan says, “If you’re an office of 50 and two employees are going home each day with migraines then there’s a tangible negative impact which may be directly related to the lighting, and in particular, from glare.”
Finally, the design of the whole space needs to be considered, because materials in a space contribute to the UGR rating. When designing lighting to reduce glare, you’ll not only look at retrofitting or replacing light fittings, you’ll also look to avoid direct lighting on highly reflective materials, furniture and surfaces.
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