Workspace luminance: A Fundamental Need


The office environment has a significant impact on an individual’s performance at work in a variety of ways. One of the most influential factors in the office environment is lighting. From concentration to satisfaction levels, studies have shown that an individual’s health, well-being and performance at work can change at the flick of a switch.

From eye strain to headaches, a worker’s health can be directly affected by poor lighting. However, it can also affect employees in more subtle ways. From wakefulness to contentment, well-designed lighting does much more than address simple health and safety issues. Office worker satisfaction and subsequent productivity can be positively affected by well-designed lighting.

Artificial light is a controllable design element that can enhance even the most basic office spaces. Unlike natural light, they can be depended on constantly with definitive results.

Artificial lighting can be categorized as per function to simplify their positioning by designers. The large variety of lighting options have different energy efficiencies that may impact the environment. This poses a fresh challenge for designers as they look to promote sustainability within each office space.

Figure 1: Lighting layout

Types of Lighting

The following lighting methods require different types of lighting fixtures. Lighting fixtures and their design create interesting compositions that help achieve the required lighting in a room.

Lighting fixtures vary drastically in shape and size as per design. However, they can be categorised as follows.

  • Direct.

  • Direct-indirect.

  • Indirect.

  • Shielded (various types).

No single type of light fixture is appropriate in every situation. The amount and quality of lighting required for a particular workstation or task will determine which light fixture is most suitable.

Direct light fixtures project 90% to 100% of their light downward toward the work area. Direct lighting tends to create shadows.

Figure 2: Direct Lighting

Direct-indirect light fixtures distribute light equally upward and downward. They reflect light off the ceiling and other room surfaces. Little light is emitted horizontally meaning direct glare is often reduced. They are usually used in "clean" manufacturing areas.

Figure 3: Direct IndirectLighting 

Indirect light fixtures distribute 90% to 100%of the light upward. The ceiling and upper walls must be clean and highly reflective to allow the light to reach the work area. They provide the most even illumination of all the types of fixtures and the least direct glare. Indirect light fixtures are usually used in offices.

Figure 4: Indirect Lighting

Shielded light fixtures use diffusers, lenses and louvres to cover bulbs from direct view; therefore, helping to prevent glare and distribute light.

  • Diffusers are translucent or semi-transparent (see-through) covers made usually of glass or plastic. They are used on the bottom or sides of light fixtures to control brightness.

  • Lenses are clear or transparent glass or plastic covers. The lens design incorporates prisms and flutes to distribute light in specific ways.

Figure 5: Shielded Lighting

  • Louvres are baffles that shield the bulb from view and reflect light. The baffles can be contoured to control light and decrease brightness. Parabolic louvres are specially shaped grids that concentrate and distribute light.

Figure 6: Louvre Lighting

Categorizing Lighting for Offices

Different spaces of each office require different lighting fixtures for their basic usability. Lighting fixtures are used in coordinated manners to allow spaces to be properly utilised while providing comfort to the user. On the basis of their functionality, these lighting mechanisms can be categorised as follows:-

  • Ambient or General Lighting

  • Task Lighting

  • Accent Lighting

Figure 7: Lighting Fixtures

Ambient or General Lighting

Ambient (or general ) light is typically seen as the starting point for a space or a room. It makes up the "base" amount of light in a room.  It is the foundation that designers, engineers, and contractors use to start looking at the best way to light a space. Ambient light can come from recessed downlights mounted in the ceiling, ceiling lights mounted to the surface of the ceiling, or table and floor lamps. These types of fixtures characteristically give an even, diffuse light level for the space.

While most of the time ambient light comes from the fixtures listed above; in certain applications, it can be the culmination of all of the accent, decorative, and task lighting that produces the total ambient light.  

Light usually used for this purpose are as follows:- 

  • Chandeliers

  • Pendants

  • Recessed

  • Track

  • Ceiling Lights

Office spaces use ambient lighting across the entire length of all their spaces to set a serious and productive mood. Other lighting types are added to ambient lighting for particular functions.

Figure 8: Ambient Lighting

Task Lighting

Task lighting is lighting that lights a particular area and makes the completion of a task easier as opposed to ambient lighting that illuminates a general area, or mood lighting that illuminates for atmospheric or effect purposes.

Task lighting becomes especially important in software or hi-tech industries,  or any other industry where tasks cause eye strain or employees work in front of a computer for long hours. Focused lighting is a crucial part of an ergonomic workstation as it relieves eye strain.

Lights usually used for this purpose are as follows:- 

  • Pendants

  • Swing Arm Lamps

  • Under Cabinet

  • Vanity

This is a smaller, more concentrated light. You want task lighting around when you’re working. In fact, some people call it office lighting. Task lighting is meant to help you see when you’re doing projects in which you need a finer light, such as, reading, writing and many other things.

Figure 9: Task Lighting

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is directed right at the things that you want illuminated: artwork, pottery, plants, souvenirs and so on. It's important to do accent lighting right, which means doing it subtly. Make people notice the object you're lighting, not the way that it is being lit.

Accent lights add sophistication and provide real aesthetic value to design elements in a room. Adding emphasis to different parts of a space changes the experience that any individual would otherwise have. This transformation of the space can affect the moods and attitudes of employees who pass by these areas regularly.

Lights usually used for this purpose are as follows:- 

  • Wall Lights

  • Recessed Lights

  • Landscape lights

  • Track Lighting

Accent Lighting is generally used in the reception area of offices to highlight paintings, installations, vases, planters, green walls, and other decorative pieces. Hallway passages and dead spaces are often clubbed with decorative pieces to enhance their value while people pass them. Accent Lighting is usually used in these spaces to highlight the pieces that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Figure 10: Accent Lighting 

Factors to Consider while Designing 

Nowadays, up to 80% of the information is processed visually. This leads to the fact that the choice of illumination has a more and more significant impact on the adequate processing of information. At the workplace, the illumination is mainly a part of ergonomic guidelines. 

Besides the fact that light does influence personal well-being and health, it also has a positive impact on motivation and performance. Lighting at the workplace is based on ergonomic principles and has to meet safety requirements within the meaning of occupational health and safety.

Figure 11: Factors for Optimum Lighting 

Ergonomics and Lighting in the Workplace

Light has different functions that have to be taken into consideration for a comprehensive assessment of a lighting concept in a room. Illumination does not only support the visual perception and therefore, the information brokerage. But it is also signified by psychic-emotional and psychic-biological effects.

The visual perception in a room is initially achieved by illumination. Therefore, ceiling fixtures have to be chosen individually according to the room condition. In addition, table lights and floor lamps can intensify the lighting effect. They are also able to zoom in on information processing and mental stimulation at the same time.

The appropriate use of daylight and artificial light can have a strong impact on the psychic-emotional factors of lighting. Other factors that are influenced by light are health and performance. An ergonomically designed lighting can be very supportive and as studies have proved, a good illumination at the working place also has an impact on motivation.

For the evaluation of the quality of illumination, a variety of parameters are analyzed. The major criteria are lighting level and illuminance, harmonic brightness control, light colour, the direction of light and restriction of glare and shadiness. Those parameters, influencing the visual environment, comfort, and performance, are frequently noted in scientific and practical approaches.

Lighting Level & Illuminance - Light Color & Direction of Light

The right light level at the workplace avoids tiredness and lack of concentration. This can be regulated by the illuminance which is measured in Lux.

The more complex the visual task is, the higher the illuminance requested. Additionally, person variables like age are crucial for a final and overall evaluation of the chosen lighting concept. 

To achieve a balance between natural and artificial light and to avoid shadows and glares, it is recommended to place lights parallel to the window and the working place. 

This coherence was already pointed out by one of the first studies of the Ergonomic Institute (1997). If the visual comfort is directly compromised by light sources with a very high illuminance in the visual field, lighting experts refer to glare as a parameter of illumination. 

Reflection is the second phenomenon that negatively influences the lighting quality.

Figure 12: Job and Lighting correlation graph

Daylight and Artificial Light - Direct and Indirect Lighting

The combination of different light sources contributes to a lighting concept that can be adapted to different light requirements. The use of direct and indirect lighting in addition to a balanced day and artificial light is very important.

On the one hand, in offices, and at computer workstations, a very high level of indirect lighting is recommended to support non-glaring. On the other hand, direct lighting provides essential shadiness for good illumination. For this mere reason combining both illuminations techniques are vital.

Also, it is necessary to use appropriate bulbs for right illumination (general lighting), as they support the task lighting in the room. Lights with a movable luminaire head are highly recommended for suitable lighting at the workplace. When both computer-assisted and other tasks have to be managed from one workplace, individually placed table lamps serve as additional light sources. 

In some working places, dimmable lights can also be advantageous.

Lighting belongs to the major criteria of ergonomics in the workplace. 

The following lighting factors have a negative impact on the lighting at a working place and should be avoided. These factors are reflection, glare, and shadows. 

Figure 13: Ergonomic Lighting View

Case Study



Ama - Crai Est Societa' Cooperativa owns and operates supermarkets. The Company retails frozen food, fresh fruits, vegetables, beverages, baked products, meat products, and general groceries. Ama - Crai Est serves customers in Italy.

The HQ is a four-storey building, with a total surface of about 1300 square meters with single offices, open space offices, and meeting rooms. 

The HQ follows a “Green” & “Sustainable” approach to design. This modern-day office has used technology for the sole purpose of energy efficiency. The design has been sustainable from the ground-up ensuring that three sides of the structure have glass facades for light ventilation.

Figure 14: AMA CRAI-EST HQ Lighting View

 Lighting Design

Figure 15: Reception Area

AMA CRAI-EST building is made by three facades completely glazed, so the interior spaces are pleasantly illuminated by natural light. The correct balance between natural light and artificial light is then guaranteed by a light level adjustment system which, depending on the natural light, increases or decreases the artificial lights. Moreover, to ensure the maximum user comfort, the lights are all automated, even if their brightness levels can be adjusted according to different needs.

At AMA CRAI-EST everything is managed by light detectors and by presence detectors: in this way the lamps light up only when needed, that is when someone is in the office. The false ceiling was entirely filled with lighting fixtures and radiant panels, so the detectors were placed in the frame near the windows. They allow the gradual switching off, which happens 5 minutes after someone leaves the room. Forgetting to turn off lights is a long standing issue in our society. With the given technology at our disposal this human error can be completely eliminated.

AMA CRAI-EST office interiors are aesthetically pleasing, with a modern but discreet design: no frills or unnecessary decoration, but the lamps themselves become an element to make the offices and common areas aesthetically appealing.

In this office project, all lighting fixtures are by Panzeri, an Italian lighting design company founded in 1947.

Figure 16: Lighting View (Aesthetic Value)

Ring di Panzeri

Ring is a suspended lamp with a simple and minimal design, but with a high visual impact. Therefore, it has been installed in this project in the double-height reception, in order to give value to the entrance. The lamp is in folded aluminium with an upper and lower screen in opal polycarbonate with high transmittance. It gives direct and indirect light and it is available in the Silver and in the Gold versions.

Figure 17: Ring di Panzeri

Flat, Panzeri

For the offices and the hallway’s light, there are recessed Flat lamps, custom made to fit into the small space of the false ceiling. Flat is a metal lamp available in suspension, wall, wall /ceiling versions (this one only in the 60x60cm size). The piece is in a white finish but is also available in gold and silver on request.

Figure 18: Flat, Panzeri

Manhattan, Panzeri

Finally, to enhance the existing stairs the designer chose a cove-light effect. This was achieved with some Manhattan lamps installed in the plasterboard ceiling. Manhattan is the perfect lamp to create light cuts in the plasterboard. Therefore, it is a simple extruded aluminium profile painted white, perfect for those looking for a very minimal light.

Figure 19: Manhattan, Panzeri


The use of natural light and artificial light together is an innovative functional design that talks to the future of office designs across the world. 

Utilisation of “Smart” technology as the way forward is another hallmark in this office design. Namely, the light adjustment technology and the light detectors are instrumental in redefining the office design. 

Lights with varying intensity create a consistent atmosphere which exposes employees to healthy amounts of light at all times. These lights play a vital role in shaping the mindset of all the people using the offices’ spaces daily. Besides the atmosphere, these lights help save electricity making them eco-friendly and feasible.

AMA CRAI-EST HQ uses lighting fixtures as design elements themselves. The minimalistic lighting fixtures become spectacles for others to enjoy. Unlike the usual trend, of using accent lighting to highlight design features these light highlight themselves. This unique use of light creates a clean & elegant office design that has a significant aesthetic appeal to all.

AUDI Office & Showroom Bhopal (D.B MALL)


Office designs often seek to emphasise their company brand at every step of the way. The Audi office and showroom and office is a clear example of brand-centric design.

The feeling of the showroom, the structure, interior and lighting should reflect the statement of the brand. When the customers enter a showroom they should recognize and be able to identify the car's brand.

The artificial light is used strategically to emphasise the cars in the showroom. Accent lighting is the most important part of this design since it highlights the product itself. 

Figure 20: Showroom Views

Lighting Design

Car showrooms tend to be very large and only use general lighting. This often ends up in a solution that feels monotone and rather unexciting. Our eyes need some contrast in both intensity and type of light to comfortably be able to see and orientate in the surroundings. They divided the showroom into four different areas according to the usage of lightning. 

  • External lighting (at the entrance) 

  • On cars(Accent).                         

  •  new model attractions


The entrance should be pleasant and welcoming. From the outside, the showroom looked natural and exciting. At the entrance of the showroom, they tried to avoid glare as much as they can. Here they used accessories that help to cut off the direct sight of the light source. They used different light in the different areas of the showroom. The height of the installation in this showroom was a challenge. The lights used at the entrance had luminaries of about 110 lumen.

Figure 21: Showroom and office space


 The here are divided into some hierarchy depending on the cars rate and latest ones. In the primary displayed area, they used more spotlights together with general light to create an interesting and dynamic environment. In the secondary displayed area there is not the same need for exclusive luminaires but just as important to use luminaires that give sufficient light. The lux level is of 240 lumens


Due to the nature of car sales, the cash desk tends to look a bit different than normal shops. To create a pleasant place where you sign the contract and buy your car, you can imitate the light as if it were in a home or another comfortable environment. Try combining many different types of light experiences. From a high performing downlight to a nice looking pendant. Elaborate with light intensity and notice that a lower general light level with strong contrasts can create a more enjoyable experience. The lux level is 170 lumens.

Figure 22: Standards for optimum lighting


The German automobile company follows a strict templatized design which exudes the company's mentality and image.

Lighting plays a vital role in the design of any such design. Exposing potential buyers to the right amount of light at all times is an essential part of the design.

The showrooms use more lumens in order to grasp the attention of the buyer. Engaging the buyers’ senses is the first step to making a product sale. 

Accent lighting is ideal as it bounces off the metallic finish of each car resounding in a glamorous output seen in most car showrooms. This effect while being pleasurable can cause glares and unwanted visual noise. The reflectivity of surfaces is an important parameter while designing lighting. These surfaces can amplify and even distort the light in a room.