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Office worlds in transition

Knowledge work and office lighting

Knowledge work and office lighting

Technological and social developments determine our work methods – and therefore the appearance of offices. Knowledge work in the digital information society with its complex, frequently self-organised and constantly changing work sequences demands high levels of flexibility. For this reason the requirements made on floor layouts, furniture and lighting in offices are completely different from the world of work fifty years ago that functioned mainly with paper rather than digital devices. The increasingly dynamic scheduling and complexity of digital processes makes highly concentrated dialogue and project-orientated work necessary, with people and their needs at the centre. Not only office users but also building engineers must respond to this, and light is an essential component in offering people productive and pleasant work surroundings.

Office worlds in transition

The 1970s: horizontal visual tasks

Processes and communication based on printed documents characterised work in offices over a long period, with employees processing information manually and storing it in filing systems. Visual tasks focused on horizontal planes. Small details such as hand-written notes needed to be highly legible. The use of high quantities of fluorescent lamps achieved the requisite illuminance levels throughout the office. The quality of the room was neglected to give priority to efficient room utilisation in the lighting design. Large, planar-lit office rooms were standard.

Office worlds in transition

The 1990s: horizontal and vertical visual tasks

Computers with increasingly rapid functionality revolutionised not just the method and speed of data processing but communication in offices as well. Even though a large part of documentation was still paper-based in the early era of digitalisation, the appearance of offices fundamentally changed. In addition to horizontal visual tasks for the processing of printed documents, vertically aligned, highly reflective screens now placed demands on the glare control of luminaires and the required storage space for paper documents decreased. Economic pressure also increased due to globalisation, and with this the demands made on productivity and innovational spirit. Simultaneously, a consciousness for the responsible handling of natural resources and the importance of a high quality of wellbeing for efficient working increased.

Office worlds in transition

Today: differentiated visual tasks

Office work in the 21st century is hardly bound anymore to specific locations and times due to the digital networking of data and communication. Because of the increasing pressure of innovation, analogue work on drawing boards and with whiteboards as well as the availability of places for creative discussions remain relevant. Interior design responds to this transition by conceiving of modern offices as hybrid spaces, and a combination of traditional office structures and a comfortable atmosphere promotes collaborative work. Processes, documents and knowledge management are organised digitally. Self-illuminating digital devices along with horizontal and vertical presentation surfaces abound. Office light is moving away from pure workplace lighting towards differentiated architectural lighting with high visual comfort that also adopts various functions.

Office worlds in transition

Corporate lighting: creating brands with light

In the race for qualified employees, offices are not only rooms complying with the functional demands of productive work – the architecture itself represents the company as a brand by reflecting its attitude to employees and customers. Workstations, relaxation areas and prestigious zones have a higher quality of stay and increasingly blend together. Area design is implemented accordingly, i.e. interior design and lighting within individual zones according to the specifically desired function. This perception-orientated method of design demands high quality of light in all areas, and thanks to specific lighting levels is precisely matched to the utilisation. This represents a more cost-efficient alternative compared to planar lighting across complete storeys

Office worlds in transition

Visual comfort at work

Work requirements in our specialised knowledge society are increasing, and work processes are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and networked. As a consequence, office work is developing away from continuous work at specific workstations to a more spatially flexible sequence of different activities – meetings, presentations, work within teams and individual mental work require differentiated spatial structures and individual lighting. The sense of wellbeing is not only achieved by comfortable and ergonomic interiors – light is less obvious but just as relevant. High visual comfort and distribution of brightness according to the activity in the space provides high visual quality and good spatial orientation which in turn leads to concentrated, productive work.

Office worlds in transition

Reliable lighting solutions

With the aim of keeping maintenance and energy costs low in office construction projects, qualitative parameters are often neglected in planning decisions. The demand for energy efficiency is closely linked to the lighting concept itself, and cannot be randomly derived from specifications on product data sheets but requires individual lighting calculations. Perception-orientated lighting design for example saves energy by ensuring that light is emitted precisely onto the required area instead of simply floodlighting the room. Also important are manufacturer specifications regarding lumen maintenance and operating time, as these influence well-founded statements concerning long-term maintenance costs and required future investments.

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