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Better light for a better workplace

Green advisor

When ÅF recently moved into brand new premises in southern Sweden, ÅFs prize-winning lighting designers saw opportunities to modify the lighting in ways that improved employees’ well-being while also reducing energy usage.

By 2020 Sweden needs to reduce its energy use by 20 percent if it is to meet the EU’s climate target. With lighting currently accounting for almost 30 percent of the nation’s electricity use, the potential for savings is enormous. But investments in smart lighting don’t only bring environmental and economic benefits; they can improve well-being, too. When ÅF recently moved into brand new premises in southern Sweden, ÅFs prize-winning lighting designers saw opportunities to modify the lighting in ways that improved employees’ well-being while also reducing energy usage.

Lighting neglected in new-builds

The importance of good lighting for people’s well-being has attracted increasing attention in recent years. The right lighting makes us more effective and alert and reduces costs for sick leave. Researchers at Lund University have shown that people feel most positive when lighting levels are optimised to their task or location. Surroundings that are too bright evoke negative feelings and make us feel ill at ease. ÅF lighting designer Jim Collin, an expert in creating attractive and visually optimised illuminated environments, says that while recent years have seen a surge of interest in research into lighting, architects and builders have tended to ignore these findings in new-builds. “Today lighting is often regarded as a purely technical issue. But it should be a symbiosis of technology, aesthetics and well-being. Lighting will never receive the priority it deserves as long as we see it exclusively in technical terms,” Jim says.

New, smarter and more efficient light sources are being developed all the time. Thanks to their high rate of energy efficiency, LED lamps – a Japanese invention rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014 – have revolutionised lighting solutions worldwide. As the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated in its motivation for the award, “Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps.” Creating an LED lamp that produces a warm white glow suitable for domestic use was a challenge for researchers for more than 30 years.

 

New ÅF premises in Malmö

When ÅF in Malmö moved into brand new premises in southern Sweden, ÅFs lighting designers saw at once that the lighting was in desperate need of an overhaul. Not only did it leave much to be desired in terms of the work environment and energy-efficiency, but it did not reflect the values that ÅF upholds – taking an all-round approach to creating energy-efficient, user-friendly, attractive environments.

ÅF's lighting designers and electrical engineers set themselves the target of making an 80-percent saving in energy, while also improving the lighting and creating a more functional, more appealing workplace. With the aid of new lighting fittings and a flexible control system, the 350 square metre office space was divided into clearly defined smaller areas. “People are always the number one priority in our projects, so it was important to make sure lighting could be adapted to individual needs. Research shows that being able to determine your own level of light improves well-being, so we installed a variable solution where each light source can be separately adjusted and controlled,” Jim explains.

Energy use plummeted 92 percent

The team made use of the latest LED technology, interspersed with conventional bulbs and fluorescent tubes. The result is a variable lighting solution that provides a good working environment and serves – quite literally – as a shining example of ÅFs expertise in lighting.

Efforts exceeded expectations. Energy use has been slashed by no less than 92 percent, enough for the investment to pay for itself in just seven years. Better still, the office environment has become more attractive and more inviting, resulting in an even greater sense of well-being among employees.


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