‘The Weather Project’ by Olafur Eliasson brought daylight and its emotional associations into the gallery space in 2003.

Workstations near large windows maximize daylight.

Artificial light can be manipulated to mimic daylight.

Combining natural and artificial light in a retail space.

Appropriate light fixtures increase office productivity.

Workspace 30 Apr 2013

A new daylight for workplaces

Productivity can be improved by a well-lit workplace, which is at least partially illuminated by daylight. CQ takes a look at the different means of achieving the perfectly balanced lighting for workplaces.

Art and fiction have always pushed the boundaries of our reality. In 2003, artist Olafur Eliasson created an installation titled ‘The Weather Project’ in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. A representation of the sun and the sky, the installation involves a semi-circular disc made up of hundreds of mono-frequency lamps emitting yellow light, a mist of sugar water created with dehumidifiers, and a huge mirror which covered the ceiling and reflected visitors back at themselves. Today corporates are attempting to recreate this illusion in offices and commercial spaces.

‘The Weather Project’ by Olafur Eliasson brought daylight and its emotional associations into the gallery space in 2003.

Extensive research is being conducted on office environments and the physiological and psychological impact of extended interactions with these spaces. Although the evidence is not always conclusive, it is now strongly believed that improvement in productivity can be correlated to a well-lit workplace, which is illuminated at least in part by daylight. In fact, research shows a direct link between an employee’s distance from the window and frequency and symptoms of illness.

Workstations near large windows maximize daylight.

Artificial light can be manipulated to mimic daylight.

However it is not possible for lighting needs of a building to be fulfilled solely by daylight. Artificial light is needed to produce the right levels of light. This has led to a new challenge for the lighting industry; that of simulating daylight using available technology. 

Designers and manufacturers are working on developing lighting solutions that mimic the rhythms and patterns of daylight. These products attempt to bring the dynamics of daylight indoors by offering flexible solutions that adapt to different needs and moods.

This effect is achieved by: 

  • Creating products that reproduce the daylight spectrum 
  • Factoring colour temperatures ranging from warm white to cool white into products 
  • Developing solutions using ambient light and task lights which can be managed by an individual depending on their needs, thus giving them a sense of control 
  • Having lighting solutions that brighten  and dim based on the available level  of natural light thus ensuring that light  levels in the office are synced with the surrounding environment

Research conducted by Lumiversal in 2010 has proved that humans function better mentally and physically under lighting sources that mimic daylight. They found that businesses that upgrade their workplace lighting may see a reduction in the occurrence of headaches, eyestrain, low morale, and other problems often caused by low quality lighting. In one case study, West Bend Mutual Insurance upgraded their lighting and saw a 16% increase in productivity in their claims processing department. This, plus a 40% decrease in energy costs, resulted in significant savings for the company.

In their paper ‘Mimicking daylight with artificial light’ Lumiversal sites ten factors to consider when choosing a lighting technology that simulates daylight:

Colour Rendering Index (CRI)

The CRI measures the ability of a light source to reveal variations in shades of colours. The closer a light source is to 100, the closer its rendering ability is to matching the rendering ability of sunlight. It is best to choose an artificial light with a CRI as close to 100 as possible to produce the most aesthetically pleasing effect. When comparing the CRI of two lights, the lamps’ correlated colour temperatures must be the same.

Correlated Colour Temperature (CT) 

Colour Temperature, measured in Kelvins,  is a method of describing the colour appearance of a lamp and the light that is produced by that lamp. A CT of 3500K or less usually emits a warm glow and brings out reds and oranges in an indoor environment. A CT of 4100K or higher emits a cooler blue-white light. A lamp with a CT between 3500K and 4100K seems neutral, and brings out colours in the surrounding environment more evenly.  Ideally, to emit a light with a colour appearance closest to that of strong daylight, a lamp will have a CT of around 5500K and a CRI as close to 100 as possible.  


Brightness, or luminance, is the amount of  light per unit area that a lamp produces or that is reflected off surfaces as the result of a light source. Generally, the more luminance a lighting technology produces, the easier it is to perform detailed tasks under that light. However, too much luminance can cause glare. 


It is necessary to ensure that the light source is bright enough for building inhabitants to successfully complete tasks, but not so bright that the light source causes glare. If a lighting technology with greater luminance is required, glare can be avoided by choosing the proper fixtures, or by adjusting the angle or visual size of the light source.

Lumen depreciation 

Lumen depreciation is the measure of the reduction in light output over a lamp’s lifespan. Many factors can cause a drop in lumen production, including dust, surrounding temperature, and a technology’s inability to handle lighting controls. The best lighting technology will have the least amount of lumen depreciation over the longest lifespan.


The sun’s rays give out steady light, without the patterned variation and flicker that artificial lights sometimes generate. A low flicker frequency is visible and leads to headaches and eyestrain. A higher frequency is harder to detect. The best lighting products will mimic daylight in appearance and have an undetectable flicker.


In addition to the absence of flicker, sunlight also lacks the electronic buzz that artificial lighting often produces. If flicker frequency is too low, fluorescent light can emit a buzz or hum. If flicker frequency is too high, fluorescent light can produce a whining sound. Studies suggest that flicker frequency of a lighting source should range from 20 kHz – 60 kHz to eliminate unwanted noise.

Energy Efficiency

Although energy efficiency does not directly influence light quality, it is an important factor to consider when choosing a lighting technology. If you are considering two different lighting technologies that replicate daylight closely, choose the technology that will use the least energy to produce the most light. This will result in greater energy savings and is yet another way to demonstrate environmental responsibility to consumers.

Lighting Control Compatibility

Experts suggest that employees who can control their lighting may be able to avert many of the disadvantages associated with both daylight and artificial light. Workers  who can adjust lighting levels are more productive than workers who have no  control over their lighting.  

Rated Life

The rated life of a lighting technology, measured in life hours, is an estimate of the average lifespan of a lighting technology. Installing quality lighting for workers is more feasible if the lighting upgrade is a good long term investment.

Shopping centers and theme parks are mastering the manipulation of time by accelerating and contracting our experiences according to the length and duration of the ticket you purchase.

Combining natural and artificial light in a retail space.

In her paper ‘Timer Design: Light and Color in the Interaction with Time,’ Anna Barbara talks about pseudo environments created to replicate holiday experiences such as snow slopes for skiing in the mountains or wavy beaches complete with water currents. These experiences, Barbara remarks are made real by the manipulation of time, meant more as a ‘timer’ than as ‘time’. The scan of time in these places has nothing to do with chronological time marked on our clocks or with time outside. Artificial light is used to give rhythm, accelerated and decelerated time to these places. If a solar day lasts 24 hours in one of these buildings it is equivalent to 3 days of 8 hours, simply activate a timer and cash is tripling. In this case 3 times the sun rises and sets and the lighting of the slope is always perfect.

• Damien du Toit »
• David Wal »
• David Wal »
• Aleksej Leonov »
• Billy Voon »

Popular on CQ