The considerations that apply when you’re aiming to achieve best practice in indoor lighting

The revised European standard on indoor workplace lighting not only reflects technological product developments but a philosophical shift that makes the standard more inclusive. This blog post explains what’s in the standard and how it’s changed.

Being able to see what you’re doing is such a fundamental requirement that it’s almost easy to overlook. Yet clearly, lighting at work is hugely important. Adequate and appropriate lighting is what enables people to perform visual tasks efficiently and accurately. This is especially true when required tasks are performed over a long time period and/or are of a repetitive nature. The type and duration of activity directly influence how much illumination and comfort are needed. Lighting also has an impact on people’s circadian rhythms and their mood. Get it right, and it positively impacts not only productivity, performance, and work quality; but also people’s morale and sense of well-being. All these considerations were in play when we revised BS EN 12464-1:2021 Light and lighting - Lighting of workplaces - Part 1: Indoor work places.

Visual comfort and performance

BS EN 12464-1:2021 is the third incarnation of this popular European standard, which was first published in 2002, and then revised in 2011. The document gives lighting requirements for humans in indoor workplaces to meet their needs for visual comfort and performance. All usual visual tasks are considered, including Display Screen Equipment (DSE).

The standard specifies requirements for lighting solutions for most indoor work places and their associated areas in terms of quantity and quality of illumination. It also gives recommendations for good lighting practice, including visual and non-visual lighting needs. Strong scientific evidence shows that light is not only essential for vision, but also has important, non-image-forming emotional and biological effects on human performance and well-being that must be taken into account.

It should also be noted this is not a health and safety standard per se, although the requirements given do satisfy safety needs. Nor does the standard provide specific solutions that would restrict a designer’s freedom to explore new techniques or the use of innovative equipment. And illumination can be provided by daylight, electric lighting, or a combination of both.

The evolution of best practice

For 2021 the standard’s been modernized, reflecting both updated product technologies and the evolution of best practice in how products are used. The most significant changes address the need to provide lit spaces that are more inclusive on two fronts. So the standard now takes into consideration people with a wider range of visual capabilities than average; and also that people and objects within a space need to be visible in addition to the defined task.

There’s been a complete overhaul of the tables of lighting requirements with some new activities added, along with new columns that expand the aspects to be considered for lighting within the space. To help use the tables, a methodology for applying them is given and a new annex gives some examples of using the new table format for different spaces.

Other main changes from the 2011 standard include that the recommendations on specific lighting requirements take user needs more into account than in the past. The impact of visual and non-visual effects of light on people's performance and well-being are covered at greater length in a new annex.

To increase visibility and usability, requirements for walls, ceilings, and cylindrical illuminances are moved from the main text to tables. A new chapter on design considerations gives advice on how to apply the requirements when designing lighting for visual tasks and activities within a space. More detail is given on the relation between task area and its immediate surround and background area. Glare requirements have been clarified for improved usability, and the content on flicker and stroboscopic effects is updated. Finally, two new informative annexes give examples of lighting design requirements in different spaces.

The end result is a standard that will help you design and implement lighting systems that meet user needs for comfort and that also strongly contribute to higher efficiency, well-being, and performance.