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Lighting right? Study will illuminate productivity, lighting link

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory : 10 May, 2000  (Technical Article)
A consortium of lighting, building and energy organizations is launching a program this spring to determine which comes first - worker productivity or a well-lit workplace?
They may come hand in hand, according to members of The Light Right Consortium, which was established in 1998 to encourage high quality, energy-effective lighting in the workplace. The consortium is sponsoring a four-year analysis of the potential link between lighting quality and employee performance and well-being. Research will help quantify the strength of this relationship then work to translate the results into changes in the workplace.

The Light Right Consortium consists of major building companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations that share an interest in conserving resources, promoting new and better lighting products, and improving workplace environments. The program is managed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy.

Consortium members hope to show that productivity increases with more efficient and worker-friendly lighting. They stress that office lighting may be as important as an ergonomic chair or keyboard if it affects people both physically and psychologically. Aspects of lighting that have been studied and are hypothesized to affect workers include the perception of brightness, glare, personal lighting controls and presence of daylight.

'Lighting does matter,' said Ron Lewis, who is chairperson of the Light Right Consortium and represents the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. 'We have sampled major U.S. corporations and found a strong connection between lighting, productivity and its overall value to businesses. We want to help businesses understand that while it's often a neglected form of workplace enhancement, lighting may impact worker productivity.'

In 2000, the consortium will begin researching the suspected link between the lighted environment and human and business benefits. For example, human benefits could include improved comfort and mood, which may culminate in benefits to business in areas such as staff retention and worker output.

In an earlier study sponsored by the consortium, Ducker Research Company Inc. interviewed facility managers from 104 companies around the United States about the role lighting played in building plans. Results of these interviews showed that demand was high for information about lighting and productivity. About 75 percent of those surveyed indicated that facts about impacts of lighting on workers would influence their decision about which lighting systems to buy. Additionally, occupant satisfaction was considered of primary importance.

'These results supported our goal of determining issues most important to facility managers or building owners and if productivity is a key factor,' Lewis said. 'Now we'll focus on obtaining the incentive these managers need to make the change toward high quality, energy-effective lighting.'

The Phase One consortium members are: the Alliance to Save Energy; Armstrong World Industries; the Electric Power Research Institute; the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America; the International Association of Lighting Designers; the International Facility Managers Association; Johnson Controls; the National Electrical Manufacturers Association; New England Electric Systems; Prescolite Moldcast Lighting Company; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and DOE. Membership for the project's newly started Phase Two is still open and includes representatives from the federal government, the lighting and controls industry, the furniture industry, utilities and states.
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