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The Future of Lighting

We have written before about the health and wellness benefits that good lighting can bring to occupants. It can reduce eye strain and headaches, and even impact sociability, productivity, and the cycle of waking and sleeping that normally waxes and wanes according to sunlight: for this reason, the term “circadian lighting” is often used to refer to smart lighting aimed at creating a more natural environment for occupants.

But there are other benefits and trends in lighting that we are yet to discuss. For example, during this transitional period between lockdown and the hoped-for return to office-based work, there has been increasing demand in the commercial office space to ensure social distancing requirements are met, that targeted cleaning performance metrics are established and adhered to, and that government guidelines are implemented. Lighting has not been much discussed. We have always known that UV light could in theory be used to clean surfaces. But now the potential health risks have been surmounted using occupancy sensors and data analytics. In their brochure, the company behind this innovation, igor, explain:

Using the disinfecting power of UV light technology, you can program a cycle to sterilize individual rooms or entire offices during nonbusiness hours quickly and efficiently while there is no occupancy.

Essentially, because UVC light is harmful to occupants, the system relies on occupancy data to determine when rooms are vacant (usually at night), and then begins the cleaning process, locking the doors and turning on a red light to warn that the process is underway.  It is an interesting application, a move away from targeted cleaning and towards an entirely different method of cleaning the entire room, walls, ceiling, and exposed surfaces.

Not all developments in lighting have been health related, of course. Luminous panels have become increasingly common over the last decade, since the ubiquity of LEDs has led to something of a trend in retail to hang luminous panels from the ceiling in lieu of traditional light fittings. In the Apple store, for example, LED wall and roof panels help with basic illumination but also with customer experience – what Brad Koerner, CEO of Cima, calls “data driven experiences”.

Cima have gone one step further, using LEDs to mimic candlelight built into walls, adding “visual richness” to the space, something that has potential application across a number of sectors, from care homes, where residents could benefit from a calming sensory experience, to office space, where live feeds could be established to display energy usage or occupancy on the walls themselves, rather than on computer or tablet screens. We have known for a while that LEDs are cheaper to run and more efficient, helping to reduce carbon emissions in buildings as part of a larger energy management strategy. But this wealth of new applications will be interesting to chart as building design progresses over the coming years.

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