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‘Hot desk’ lighting

23 June 2008

Flexible working practices require a flexible lighting system that suits the needs of different users and doesn’t take up limited desk space. Rodger Henderson explains how FMs can create a system for hot desking locations

WHILE THE UK HAS BEEN QUICK to embrace flexible working practices such as hot desking and touch down areas we’ve been a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to flexible lighting systems. In particular, we don’t make full use of the benefits of freestanding lighting – either as a complete, stand alone lighting system or as a complement to ceiling mounted lighting.

Nor is it just in areas where flexible working is used that flexible lighting can deliver significant benefits. Used in the right way it can also improve visual comfort for staff by giving them more personal control of the lighting in their workspace.

Desk-mounted task lighting is a common option, of course, but as workstations get smaller in line with the use of flat screen monitors, there is less space to accommodate additional items on the desk. Also, this does not address the limitations imposed by conventional ceiling mounted lighting.

Another option is to use of freestanding lighting, in the form of either freestanding fittings adjacent to the furniture, or fittings attached to the furniture. This can be configured to provide just uplighting, or a combination of uplighting and directional downlighting – the latter making use of microprism louvres to provide precise control of light distribution.

This approach uses the ceiling as an extensive reflector to create a bright and spacious feel in the space, and can therefore be an effective alternative to fixed ceiling lighting. It also corresponds to the greater emphasis placed on uplighting in best practice lighting designs, as determined by the CIBSE’s Lighting Guide 7.

The directional component can be controlled to adjust the level and direction of light incident on the work surface. In this way, the users can adjust the lighting to suit their tasks and personal preferences.

Alternatively, freestanding uplighting can be used in conjunction with separate task lighting, so the benefits of the uplighting are retained while the user has control of their individual lighting from the task lighting. In this case, complementary styles of the different fittings help to retain a consistent ‘family’ feel to the lighting throughout the space.

Inevitably, freestanding lighting takes up some floor space and changes the view across an office space so it’s also important to choose a compact design with a small footprint. It should also be aesthetically pleasing in its own right and in a style that that will blend with other furniture in the space. So freestanding lighting can not only improve the flexibility of the lighting installation, it can also enhance the aesthetics of the space through both its light distribution and its visual appearance.

With flexible working on the increase, this creates a greater need for control as far fewer workstations are the sole preserve of one individual – and each user will have different lighting preferences. In addition, the growing popularity of project workgroups means that the layout of the space is in a state of constant flux, as workstations are moved around to accommodate changing project teams. Recent research shows that more than a third of workspaces are changed around at least once a year, and as the workstations move the lighting needs to be adapted to the new configuration.

Clearly, freestanding lighting is much easier to move around with the furniture – simply by picking it up and moving it. Similarly, furniture mounted lighting can be removed quickly and easily with just an Allen key and a screwdriver and, most importantly, no need for electrical skills. While this adds more items to be included in any office relocation, the ability to include the lighting as part of the overall furniture move.

Also, it is very easy to add freestanding lighting to an existing workspace, to enhance or complement the existing lighting. So, for example, the existing ceiling lighting could be dimmed or switched off when not required and then switched on to provide lower ambient light levels for cleaning.

● Rodger Henderson is Operations Director at Waldmann Lighting


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