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Last edited 07 Feb 2018
Smart office lighting
It has been known or suspected for a long time that changes in the strength and quality of light are likely to affect people’s moods and their productivity at work. The famous Hawthorne studies, which started in the 1920s began to confirm this, though they also coined the famous 'Hawthorne effect', where the mere fact of studying people changes their behaviour.
It is therefore all the more surprising that it has taken so long for lighting and its impact on comfort to be fully recognised as a key factor when designing and managing building systems. Much of the focus has been to drastically reduce the energy consumed by lighting from the conversion to low energy lighting such as LEDs, or in switching lights off in unoccupied areas.
BSRIA studies have confirmed the rapid growth in lighting controls. For example, a recent study of the French Lighting Market in Non-Residential Buildings projected growth of almost 15% per annum in 2013-2017. This is almost double the projected growth rate in the market for lamps and almost 10 times the growth rate for luminaires. These, as mature markets, tend to follow the cycles in construction. BSRIA research in North America has shown a similar rate of growth for light controls.
As in other areas, it looks as if the small but rapidly growing market for smart homes solutions is having an impact on non-residential buildings. BSRIA’s earlier studies which looked at the market in 2010 and 2012 showed that lighting was the most valuable sector in most of the countries studied, often by a wide margin.
Our current researches to update these studies suggest that, while other concerns, such as security, are catching up, lighting remains important and is increasingly integrated with blinds, energy management and security.
In commercial buildings, there is increasing emphasis on employee comfort, and its tangible effects on performance. Studies have suggested that lighting, like temperature and air freshness all have an impact on people’s satisfaction and productivity. A study conducted by 360 Magazine earlier this year suggested that in the UK 32% of office workers are unhappy with the light intensity and only 21% have any control over it.
It is also increasingly recognised that a 'one size fits all' approach will not be enough. There’s little point in changing the lighting to suit the 32% if that simply causes problems for the remaining 68%. And the same person may prefer different light levels for different tasks.
Smart technology offers potentially limitless potential for individuals to ‘customise' their own preferred levels of light and temperature. Solutions already exist where an app on a user’s smartphone can connect via Bluetooth to lighting controls and automatically adjust the lighting to that user’s preference. This has the added advantage that even if they have to work in a 'hot desking' environment, they can, to some extent, carry their own personal environment around with them, especially as there are similar smart-phone connected solutions that allow you to set your own temperature.
And of course, the simple perception of having more personal control will generally have a positive effect on morale. A further benefit is that, as many individuals will want to reduce light levels, there is quite likely to be a net saving in energy.
This leads to the anticipation of certain clear trends for the future. The first is that the market for lighting controls in the non-residential market will continue to grow significantly faster than that for Building Automation Controls (BACS) in general, which is a fairly mature market, tending to grow in low single digits, heavily influenced by overall trends in construction and refurbishment.
The second is that the advanced lighting control solutions that have spearheaded much of the early growth in smart homes will make further in-roads into the non-residential markets, offering big opportunities both for the market leaders in smart lighting and for more niche suppliers.
To keep up with this trend, BACS manufacturers will need to make sure that their solutions offer the opportunity for individual users to create their own ecosystem.
This article was originally published by BSRIA in Delta T magazine, December 2016. It was written by Henry Lawson.
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