Helvar Celebrating WELL: the right amount of light enhances wellbeing

Henri Juslén
Henri Juslén, Helvar’s Chief Future Illuminator, focuses together with his team on lighting, research, university co-operation, IPR, standards and AI-solutions. With over 40 years of life experience and over 20 years of lighting experience, Henri is a true veteran of the lighting industry. Henri holds a number of qualifications including a D.Sc in tech and the WELL AP credential.

We all know that light helps us to see. We also know that for different tasks we need different amounts of light. And, to go even further on this road of obvious things; we know that people are different, for example, some are older and some are younger. Lighting that is designed for a 25-year-old student to perform at a satisfactory level will not be suitable for an older person as eyesight deteriorates with age and sensitivity to glare increases. With this in mind, it is quite surprising that the majority of lighting design is done simply by following minimum values in the lighting norm. Even for experts participating in norm generation, this has been a disappointment. Present norm tries to guide us to create better lighting, but where pragmatic people avoid reading the norms and stick to minimum value tables, this has resulted in things going wrong.

The WELL organization has been focusing on the WELL building standard™ to increase the use of light, which can lead to improved wellbeing for people. The WELL standard does not only focus on artificial lighting, but it also focuses on daylight. To adopt this at the Helvar HQ, we have located all workstations close to windows. Together with more than 1000 lux, general lighting provides the opportunity to adjust lighting levels according to individual needs. Illuminance is not the only important feature in the WELL standard. WELL highlights:

  • EML (Equivalent melanopic lux) – light to enhance circadian rhythms
  • Brightness – select suitable surfaces & good lighting control
  • Occupant control of lighting environment – possibility to influence the lighting
  • Daylight access & daylight glare control – blind control
  • Supplemental lighting – users should have the possibility to “get” more light
  • Flicker avoidance – you need to use only good quality drivers in luminaires
  • Colour rendering – particularly R9 (red) is something to focus on

The WELL organization is not alone in underlining the need for better lighting. The coming EN-norm highlights the need for using enough light for different users. prEN 12464-1- lighting of work places; part 1: Indoor work places actually might improve design practises significantly. The coming EN-norm is expected to be accepted by autumn 2020. Possibly the most important improvement from a wellbeing point of view is the new upper illuminance value. It encourages designers to strongly think and use enough light for different users and for different tasks. Good lighting control helps buildings to use the right amount of light at the right time.  Another important change is increased illuminance values for ceilings, walls, and people´s faces, which is measured as a semi-cylindrical illuminance. These values might be, from a wellbeing point of view, even more important than task lighting. In addition, it would be useful to use not just the minimum amount of light, but to allow for a flexible solution that enables adjustment when needed for users that have different needs or if a space is changing. In the future, designing indoor lighting by using just minimum values might be difficult. Naturally, it will still be possible, but wellbeing and performance will be sacrificed.