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Seeing the light

Paul Jones, Country Director UK and Ireland for BEG Lighting Controls, explains how today’s sophisticated lighting technology can meet the needs of any building

The spaces where we live, work, study and play have a significant impact on our mood, energy levels and wellbeing – and lighting plays a significant part. Lighting has the power to influence the way we feel and behave, affecting our comfort and ability to concentrate. Thanks to recent advances in lighting control technology, ‘human-centric’ lighting techniques can be used to improve people’s experience of any space.

Lighting control solutions are available to suit pretty much every application, however challenging or creative. Facilities managers are typically most concerned with energy efficiency and cost savings, which is where sensors come into their own. Occupancy sensors provide information about which rooms and spaces are in use, allowing the system to adjust the light levels accordingly.

It’s not just a question of a simple on-off. Sensors can evaluate the level of natural light and adjust the output of the luminaires accordingly. Sensors can be time-activated, linked together to work as a set, or installed independently as needed. Sensors are available that work at very high ceiling heights across a wide area, or can be shielded to work for a relatively small space. Some sensors can change the warmth of the light and dim or brighten as required.

Switching can be equally flexible. Lighting can be controlled by a simple wall switch, adjusted from an app on a mobile phone, or operated remotely from a central unit. This allows FMs to achieve their ideal lighting design, whatever the nature of their building.

Commercial and public buildings all have the same basic needs. They are likely to have offices requiring good lighting levels for computer work, corridors where lighting can be dimmed when not in use, and reception areas which need to be welcoming throughout the day.

In offices the main need is to create spaces where people feel comfortable, alert and motivated. Communal working areas will need task lighting enabling employees to focus on their work, but also good levels of ambient lighting.

BEG Lighting Controls recently designed bespoke lighting systems for two refurbished call centres for a large UK broadcasting company. The key priorities were energy efficiency, flexibility, and the need to keep workers energised and productive. We implemented a lighting strategy which substantially reduced energy consumption and introduced a high level of flexibility and control. We recommended occupancy sensors that would keep the new LED lighting on in the event of a mains power failure – ensuring call centre operators could continue to answer customer calls and deal with enquiries. The whole system can be manually operated by a single push button, or remotely controlled.

Lighting controls can help schools to make the most of their space by enabling multipurpose rooms – particularly useful where space is at a premium and budgets are tight. We designed the lighting for the brand-new John Keats Primary Free School in London, which aims to provide an enhanced learning environment for its pupils. The lighting had to be designed and controlled in a way that would maximise the pupils’ comfort, concentration and alertness.

We set up the classrooms to operate in semi-automatic mode (sometimes referred to as absence detection). This means that once the lights and detector have been turned on via a wall switch, brightness levels are set automatically and the lighting will stay on until there is enough natural daylight or the room is empty.

Lighting is key to creating atmosphere in hotels and restaurants. Some might require a calm, restful environment, designed to put guests and customers at ease and encourage them to stay longer. If the vibe is more upbeat, a brighter, more vibrant lighting scheme can be used to reflect the brand and make customers feel energised.

Lighting can also promote more flexible use of space, switching between different moods where a room is used for multiple activities, or adjusting to suit the differing needs of the occupants. For example, a hotel room primarily requires pleasant ambient lighting for a guest to feel comfortable and relaxed, but brighter light is needed while the room is being cleaned to allow the staff to do a thorough job.

In hospitals and health centres, the focus is on safety, hygiene, and energy savings. Corridors and communal areas need to be well lit to ensure that medical staff can do their jobs around the clock. On wards, the lighting must be conducive to patient comfort, allowing them to rest and sleep, while ensuring there is enough light for staff to carry out their tasks.

Many hospitals are large old buildings which have been extended, meaning that many areas are enclosed with limited natural light. The challenge is to make these areas feel as natural as possible, for those that work there as well as patients and visitors. Lighting controls provide the necessary flexibility to enable all these lighting modes.

About Sarah OBeirne

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