Shedding Light: The New Normal Lighting – monthly column featured in Sparks Electrical News (Crown Publications)

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While considering the topic I would write about this month, I reflected on the current situation and could hardly believe that it has been six months since the first reported case of COVID-19 in South Africa. In that time, we lived through a total lockdown from 26 March until 1 May 2020. I am sure we all remember the eery silence of that time. The most noticeable was the lack of any traffic noise. No one was walking around except for the occasional person on their way to the supermarket. The lack of air pollution was mind-blowing. That made a lasting impression on me and it gave me a better understanding and realisation of what the human impact on the planet. Since then, the traffic noise and air pollution have returned.

Of course, every one of us has been impacted by the pandemic, some more than others. I am a member of The Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP) and an Educator Member of the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD). Both institutions meet regularly online. The ILP meets every Monday afternoon. These meetings have been useful, inspirational and, without any doubt, they have been enabling.

BHA School of Lighting has offered lighting courses through its e-learning platform since 2013. It was therefore normal for us to work online. In addition, we had used Microsoft Teams for several years as part of Office 365 Professional. We presented weekly CPD webinars for architects, consulting engineers and our students almost a year before COVID-19 intruded into our lives.

During lockdown, we humans had the need to interact socially with others and Zoom meetings. Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and others became a regular feature in our lives.

As the lockdown eased, many found themselves working from home (WFH). Companies had to reorganise offices to make provision for social distancing and other measures. Many businesses realised that they functioned perfectly with staff working from home and decided this would be the normal modus operandi. This new normal way of working made it possible to reduce their office place requirements.

Some companies have given financial assistance to WFH staff to purchase a desk and ergonomically suitable office chair. Some WFH staff have received a subsidy for a secure appropriate bandwidth fibre line with appropriate internet security software from their employers.

Overseas in Europe and the United Kingdom, it is predicted that 30% of all staff will continue working from home. The new normal has also led to a glut of vacant office space. Property companies have felt the impact. Google took the decision that its employees would continue WFH through to the end of 2021.

In Cape Town, Growthpoint has reported that rentals in the famous V&A Waterfront are at about 50%. Many tenants have been so badly affected by the downturn in business that they have not been able to pay the rent.

One only has to visit shopping malls to see how many windows are papered up. Similarly, in industrial areas, there is a glut of vacant buildings. ‘To Let’ signboards abound on the gates and fences.

But wait! Opportunity abounds. It is said that if one sits on one’s hands, it is impossible to do anything.

It is time to stand up, take a deep breath and revise your business plans and identify where your business can fulfil niche needs in this new normal situation.

The new normal includes new normal lighting. I have studied the needs of the new normal in terms of lighting requirements. I have researched how my associates in the institutions that I belong to in the UK and USA are approaching lighting design in the new normal. We have focused our attention on how to include the new normal in our lighting designs, including how to include sneeze screens or panels, and more. This includes establishing the impact on light levels in our lighting designs. These measures can negatively impact on delivered light levels by between 25% and even as much as 50%. Failure to accurately determine this will result in non-compliance with standards and regulations.

Our students learn about lighting for the new normal. They learn how to account for the new normal in the lighting design software. We are the leaders in this space. We decided not to sit on our hands but rather to be innovative and lead the way to light the new normal successfully.

Philip Hammond


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