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Avoiding Problems With Office Lighting Design

By Maryellen Lo Bosco - February 2013 - Lighting


To ensure better lighting quality, facility managers should be aware of mistakes to avoid. One problem is selecting fixtures too early in the process. "You should first decide which patterns of light you want in the space, and the type of color and brightness," says Graf. "You pick the lamps first, and then you pick the fixture." When people carry out this process in reverse, the lighting in the space looks like an accident, he says.

Another issue is equipment sales people making changes in specifications to bring down project costs, and in the process taking out lighting quality features, Graf says. That problem is significant. In fact, it's one element of a four-step process Graf outlines for improving lighting quality: working with a specialist who is aware of new standards; designing a high performance system; not allowing substitutions that adversely affect design; and training employees and management staff.

The final step is easily overlooked. But it's essential that employees and facility managers be trained to understand a lighting design how it functions and how it should be maintained, Graf says. For example, they need to be made aware of why the lights near the window are turned off in bright sunlight, and how photocells are saving energy.

One tool that can help facility managers prevent lighting quality problems is a mockup. Mockups can be done when converting an existing lighting system or creating a new one. In a new environment, says Hasan, a mockup may be done of a full office or a section of an office, and will include the ceiling system, partitions, and workstations. It is also possible to mock up a private office or one corner of an open office. Mockups add cost and time to construction, but they are preceded by a lot of design work, so changes in a mockup design are usually minimal.

"Facility managers want to see easy maintenance and a decrease in energy use," Hasan says. "They may want to see how to re-lamp a fixture." It is fairly common for project or facility managers to look at samples that will be used on a regular basis. "They may look at 4-foot samples of linear fluorescents, direct or indirect pendants, or recessed, 2-by-2, 1-by-2, or 2-by-4 fixtures," Hasan notes. "These are bread-and-butter fixtures that a manufacture is happy to provide to the design team."

Like many other types of technology, lighting is changing at lightning speed, and new options are regularly coming down the pike. "Lighting changed really slowly in the past, and evolution took decades, but (now) lighting is changing by the month, the week, and the day," says Benya. "If you grew up in the industry, and you think you know everything, you don't. The world is changing faster than you are, and you have to stay up-to-date."

Maryellen Lo Bosco is an Asheville, N.C.-based freelance writer who covers facility management and technology. She is a contributing editor for Building Operating Management.





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