have some role in lighting. The UK Society of Light
and Lighting (SLL) Code for Lighting acknowledges
that ‘while it has been shown that people can identify
better quality lighting, and prefer it, there is no effect
of lighting quality on task performance other than
where there are differences in task visibility.’ If lighting
quality has no positive impact on performance, then
the converse must be true: it can have no detrimental
effect. And furthermore, if users do recognise aesthetic
improvements in their lit environment, there must be
some quantifiable difference in their perception.
In laboratory-based studies this perhaps may not
translate into measured improvements in productivity
but other workplace-based investigation does place
value on the aesthetics of working environments.
‘Perceived environmental attributes, neighbourhood
and workplace design characteristics are associated with
well-being and job satisfaction,’ according to a report
by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. What’s more,
in their study of more than 1900 workers, Elisabet
Schell and her colleagues concluded that ‘health
management may benefit on-the-job productivity if
expanded to target aesthetics’.
If we choose to look beyond the narrow confines
of lighting guidance and orthodoxies, we can find
evidence that begins to explain what designers feel
to be right – that lighting effectiveness and efficiency
are not the same thing and that lighting aesthetics are
important. It may be much harder to quantify lighting
effectiveness or aesthetics, but that does not mean that
it is the wrong approach.
In the research quoted in the SLL Code for Lighting,
‘users can identify and prefer better quality lighting’.
This is all we really need. After all, the role of design is to
deliver a better experience, whether that improvement
is tangible or not. Just because we don’t have a way to
measure effectiveness (yet), does not mean that light
source efficiency is a good indicator of quality.
l Malcolm Innes is senior lecturer and reader in
design at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland,
and author of the book Lighting for Interior Design,
published by Laurence King Publishing
‘What are the shadows created;
the brilliance of shafts of sunlight;
the subtle colour shifts between
sunlight and skylight?’