The arguments in favour of task lighting are becoming harder to refute. Offices are not only overlit, but as much as 70 per cent of office downlighting can be ineffective – illuminating the carpet and the unoccupied desk is unforgivably wasteful and pointless. As well as that, workers’ individual needs and preferences vary, so blanket uniformity is as unhelpful as it is dreary.
And why are we so obsessed with a horizontal surface when our working plane has largely shifted to the vertical? Reducing ambient light levels to 200 lux and letting individuals add their own light according to their needs makes more sense on all counts, but primarily on energy efficiency.
Telling prospective users they need to provide extra task lighting will not be well received. In the speculative office market in the UK, task lighting would be seen as another tenant cost and a 200 lux environment would be considered non-compliant.
The capital cost of task lighting can be high, but fewer ceiling fixtures are needed – most of the time at least. LED versions of portable desk lamps are expensive, but their CFL equivalents are better value and can create less glare.
Many electrical contractors might consider the procurement and installation of 800 lower power ceiling fittings and 400 task lights considerably more onerous – and less profitable – than simply fitting 1,000 recessed plug-in fittings.
Staff might not turn off their task lights when they are not needed, or when they leave at night. They can be trained to turn them off, or the task lights can be linked to a lighting control system that switches based on occupancy in the area.
5 BCO and lighting guides
The British Council for Offices is, according to Andrew Bissell, wedded to its 1,500-grid strategy. That, he says, doesn’t lend itself to putting lights only where they are needed.
Architectsjust aren’t fond of the ‘forest of stalks’ that sprouts up around an office with task lighting – but most fittings sit below the typical height of a computer monitor.
Clients believe that because task lighting is in the public realm it is liable to be damaged or stolen. This is rare, but portable appliance testing will be a significant ongoing maintenance cost for anyone who has such a system.
Although many lighting designers and end users are concerned about glare from fittings such as flat-optic LED portable desk lights, conventional CFL versions are better in this regard and stalk task lights are great for preventing glare.
Building mounts into desks on site can be problem when electricians and furniture suppliers rarely have a need to talk to each other and operate on different programmes.
Arrays of uniform lights hanging from the ceiling may be ghastly, but everyone is used to them now. Why change?