A NEW WORLD
The creative and innovative spaces of the new modern office will have a look and feel like nothing we’ve ever seen. As employees leave the comforts of home and reinsert themselves into the workspace, many will naturally have fears and concerns. Architects and designers have been working tirelessly to re-imagine and design environments that are not only modern, functional and beautiful, but address critical short and long-term needs to keep people safe. So let’s take a brief glimpse into what this world will look like.
Your first day back begins by entering the office through a sanitization portal. As you make your way to the space assignment hub, you are greeted by teammates on the large centrally located Zoom Wall. After exchanging a few virtual pleasantries you’re now ready to book your work space for the day. A simple glance at the assignment monitor alerts you to an opening. On your mobile phone, you reserve an available video cubbie and then start making your way to the team lounge. Weaving through modular and ergonomic furniture varied throughout the open concept, you notice the beautiful view and natural light coming through three large windows. As you’re passing the updated conference room, someone from inside calls your name. It’s Diane! The two of you started with the company nearly 10 years ago and you haven’t seen each other (in person) in nearly 8 months. As you enter and begin catching up, you can’t help but notice the spacious and updated look. Video monitors adorn each wall and an innovative furniture layout for team meetings and collaboration are placed carefully to maintain social distancing. Now that you and Diane have reconnected, you continue to the lounge. Once there, you activate the touchless faucet and begin washing your hands. While drying your hands you glance up, take a full scan of the space, and are struck by the changes. A futuristic world now bustling with activity! You begin to realize how much you have missed the work environment and being amongst your team. A calm comes over you and you eagerly head to your cubby to start the day.
Unbeknownst to you, great care and consideration went into making sure that the best suitable lighting, controls, technology, and materials were integrated into the bold design. UV Lighting for sanitization, color tuning to maintain optimal circadian rhythm, daylight harvesting controls, antimicrobial finishes, and space utilization technology are all actively present to provide the healthiest and most productive environment possible. A collaborative effort in design with a shared goal has created an ideal space where occupants feel safe, comfortable, and have a renewed sense of confidence.
While employers are eager to have their teams back at work and resume in-office activities, they realize that the space they return to must be an environment where everyone can achieve maximum productivity while confidently interacting with colleagues and clients. As the psychological and emotional stresses of the pandemic begin to wane, a return to office life appears eminent. However, there are questions and concerns to be addressed.
1. What safety protocols should be in place?
2. What options are available to maximize health and cleanliness?
3. What, if any, changes will there be regarding code compliance?
4. Is there existing technology that monitors occupancy, social distancing, and utilization in real time?
5. Are these technologies affordable and sustainable?
Obvious and important questions indeed! As lighting and controls consultants and providers, we are fortunate to have options that answer and satisfy these questions.
Thankfully, innovative and forward thinking lighting & controls engineers have created solutions that are currently available to make a safe return a reality. Cutting edge technologies such as AVUITY’s suite of space measurement products for example. They not only monitor utilization in real time, but through the end user app you have access to critical analytics to better understand trends and areas of concern. By having this unprecedented instant view, workplace configuration and usage adjustments can be made the moment an issue occurs.
Then you have Healthe’s sanitization and circadian series solutions that prioritize the occupant’s health and wellness. Using light as a platform a comprehensive office solution might include one of their FAR-UVC 222 products to protect against viruses, bacteria and mold. A Blue-enriched light option to help employees reach the peak of melanopsin sensitivity leading to heightened focus and increased productivity. Lastly, a complimentary air sanitizing/UV filtration luminaries are strategically placed to capture airborne pathogens while reducing carbon gases and odors. By thoughtfully combining these groundbreaking technologies, Healthe has created a veil of protection enabling occupants to feel safe.
The next layer of effective lighting might include Waldmann’s LUM CONNECT VTL that provides ergonomic-friendly options with biodynamic controls. Implementing solutions that are balanced, safe, and promote productivity will become increasingly more important. By installing a comprehensive reliable solution that meets these criteria, the employer will reap the benefits of having a reinvigorated team in an ever more clean and healthy environment. Waldmann is able to accomplish this by combining ceiling mounted, suspended, and task lighting luminaires equipped with controls that have the ability to mimic the changes in sunlight that occur throughout the day. Not only do these work together to create a comfortable ambiance, but they also offer a flexibility to accommodate the dynamic and fluid changes certain to be present in the modern office.
Lastly let’s take a look at what is certain to be a game changer in office spaces where people tend to congregate such as lounges, libraries, conference rooms, and collaboration zones. These environments are sure to be areas where the need for healthy and clean surfaces are paramount. GE Current’s disinfection technology solution has shown to combat common pathogens via in-vitro testing using a continuous disinfection kill rate through low-intensity irradiance. Employers and their employees will not only enjoy the benefits the smooth uniform UVA disinfecting light that GE Currents LBU series provides, but will be comforted in knowing that it is in accordance with IEC photobiological safety standard 62471. An amazing solution that is safe for human exposure while minimizing the potential spread of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
With these and many other solutions to consider, it is easy to understand that many will be overwhelmed during the design and implementation process. A key element towards a finished product that all can be proud of, will be a strong focus on engaging, educating, and instilling confidence in the architectural and design community. Having conversations in the early stages of the design process to know the creative vision, intended function, and a clear understanding of what the client/end-user truly wants will be critical. Once that is broadly defined, then the fun can begin!
A closer look at the architectural and design concepts will lead to initial selections of fixtures and controls in keeping with the shared vision. But the fun doesn’t stop there! Understanding that several of these new and innovative solutions will also be a first experience for engineers and contractors, a conscientious effort will have to be placed on informing and educating them along the way. Once again, a shared vision and goal across several disciplines to deliver an extraordinary and unprecedented return to work. Having a small hand in creating a home for a returning workforce that meets the defined budget and schedule requirements, along with meeting the aesthetic intent can be daunting. But it’s just the challenge our industry craves and can deliver. Our world will never be the same but if we can have a small hand in making it comfortable and safe for a confident return, then we will have served an important role. •
Photo by Jack O’Hanlon and the O’Hanlon Group
This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of designing lighting.