Making Open Offices More Energy Efficient
Not only are open-plan offices notorious for blocking productivity but they are also awful in terms of energy efficiency.
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Open-plan offices are renowned as being terrible for our productivity and efficiency at work, but they're also pretty awful in terms of energy efficiency. Lighting is often on for the entire office, regardless of whether it's actually in use, and even lighting equipped with motion detectors can be far from optimum as it results in lights frequently flickering on and off.
Research from the Eindhoven University of Technology proposes a better approach that could potentially reduce energy consumption by over 25 percent whilst maintaining the usability of the space.
The paper highlights how office lighting currently consumes around 15 percent of all energy consumption in a building, and there are new regulations coming on stream in the Netherlands to improve the efficiency of lighting. A major problem of motion sensor-powered devices is that the contrast between lit and unlit parts of the office is unpleasant, with the switching of lights on and off a distraction to workers.
The research attempted to find a better solution and began by asking volunteers to set the lighting in their workspace to a level they felt comfortable with. The most commonly chosen level was then used in a test environment on the second pool of volunteers.
"The test subjects were not able to switch off the light completely in these experiments because earlier research showed that this caused unpleasantly large light contrasts in the area. So employees could only dim the light," the author explains.
The analysis revealed that a three-layered lighting system seems to be the optimal approach. This allows a lone worker operating in an office to have a fully lit workstation, with the surrounding desks then slightly dimmed, and the remainder of the office dimmed even more. This saves over 25 percent of the energy consumption in a medium-sized office without creating awkward working environments.
"If you work in a large room, you will feel like you want to know what is going on in the background, so the backlight has to be set more brightly," the author explains.
Suffice to say, this is not intended to be prescriptive, and the research did uncover variance in our individual lighting preferences, but nonetheless, it highlights how a combination of locally set preferences per desk can be efficiently supplemented by a standard lighting plan for the entire office and deliver significant efficiency savings.
Published at DZone with permission of Adi Gaskell, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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