Shedding Light: Lighting in a Post Pandemic World – monthly column featured in Sparks Electrical News (Crown Publications)

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I have recently launched a new webinar series, the third series this year. The principle aim of the series is to take a fresh look at the way that we have done lighting design over the years leading up to the pandemic that has impacted the world, and then to look at how we will approach the post-pandemic lighting design process.
We have all read at least once that business will not be the same again. I am not entirely so negative but acknowledge that it will take some time, possibly as much as eighteen months, before business gets back towards normal as we knew it.

Pre-pandemic lighting design

Over the years before the pandemic, lighting design in South Africa was generally very poor, unimaginative, and not entirely compliant with the standards and regulations. However, it takes little skill to simply criticise. What was the reason for this? The answer was simple. There was no higher educational institution that provided a full course in light and lighting. Most of my friends and contemporaries in the field of lighting or electrical engineering, never had the opportunity to learn the subject at university. Most, or all of them, learnt along the way whilst working. They did their best to design to meet the illuminance levels in the schedule in SANS or OHS.

Nevertheless, as the workplace advanced into an era when every workplace or desk would have a computer, the need for professional lighting design became even more important. Handheld devices such as tablets and smartphones exacerbated the need for good lighting design.

I am pleased to include many architects and consulting electrical engineers in the ranks of my students. I am confident that lighting design in southern Africa is now moving into a new era thanks to a group of professionals who are emerging after graduating from our course, who will produce great lighting designs with the full
knowledge and ability to embrace all of the new 4IR technologies and control systems.

Post-pandemic lighting design

How will this differ from the pre-pandemic era? The workplace space utilisation will be considerably different in this new time. The rules to limit the spread of the virus will apply. Social distancing will be required which implies that the distance between workstations will need to be 2 m. In addition, cluster type workstations or back-to-back workstations will require ‘sneeze screens’ to a height of 1 m above the desktop level and between workstations.

We have modelled these in several workplaces where we have completed the fully compliant lighting designs. We were astounded to learn that the required illuminance on the working plane can be negatively impacted from between 25% and as much as 50% with the addition of the ‘sneeze screens’.

Of course, professionals need training in the use of the lighting design software to be able to model this new requirement accurately and realistically. Our students will all be taught how to do this as part of their two-year course.

Other issues include the need to apply social distancing in lifts or elevators. This discussion has been discussed at length during the online meetings that I attend as a member of the overseas institutions such as IES (Illumination Engineering Society of North America), IALD (The International Association of Lighting Designers, Chicago, Illinois,USA) and The ILP (The Institution of lighting Professionals, London, UK). Most offices and hotels, depending on the size and normal capacity of the lift, are limiting numbers from only one to four at a time. That has a considerable negative impact on people movement in a building at peak times, particularly in high rise buildings.

It is also anticipated that businesses will reduce the space required because as many workers as possible will continue to work from home. Many companies have already started providing their employees with a secure access connection to the company servers. Some have even started providing employees with ‘dumb’ terminals to work from home on the company servers.

Property companies have already reported that tenants reduce office and business space as and when their leases are due for renewal. Foot traffic through shopping malls has fallen dramatically. Smaller businesses have been forced to close and even some of the big brand stores are taking a new strategic look at the future. Despite the negative impact in this post-pandemic era, the opportunity to provide top quality lighting designs which embrace all or most of the new technologies will separate the top lighting designers from the average professionals.

I am a firm believer that from adversity there are always opportunities. If any of the readers need any further information, they are welcome to contact me.


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