Alrighty, here goes. This is going to cover a lot of what I learned, and how we got lighting results we’re really happy with.
Again, it’s basically impossible to give direct advice on how YOU should budget without seeing the floorplans and even photos of the space itself.
But here’s what we did:
These numbers are rough, but if I reverse engineer our lighting budget from the overall project fit-out…
We spent ~$7.50 per square foot on all of our electrical work, which was almost entirely brand new (new wiring, power sockets, breaker panels, lighting fixtures, switches…everything with power running through it was basically brand new.
Approx 25% of the electrical budget was lighting fixtures*.* That included tracks + LED track heads as our primary light source, accent lighting, and special fixtures for inside our meeting rooms. So roughly $1.80/square foot on light fixtures alone (this doesn’t include installation, wiring, switches, etc). YMMV, of course, but stacking this number against other lighting upgrade projects I’ve seen and done…it seems about right, plus/minus 10%.
*Keep in mind, that’s with all LED fixtures, which are often appear 2-3x more $$$ up front but save a boatload in energy costs and you basically never need to buy another bulb (which, in our old space, we spent several hundred dollars a year on replacement bulbs for various non LED fixtures). *
Now, I had a really hard time getting useful advice from folks who had lots of experience with lighting for “traditional” offices. It seems like lighting design for workspaces tends to be based around two assumptions:
1 - brighter is always better
2 - desks and workspaces are bolted down and won’t ever change location
As a result, I kept noticing lighting design that was both inflexible, and gave off what I can only describe as “office vibes.” I’d never light my home the way these offices are lit. Our goal is always to create spaces that feel as comfortable as working from home…but are more productive.
The best design advice I got was from someone whose primary experience wasn’t office lighting design…but theater lighting design. He was someone who really thought about how lighting impacts moods, how people move through space, etc. He also had a lot of experience adapting this knowledge to creative lighting installations, etc. He totally understood what I was trying to achieve in terms of a lighting experience and that we still needed lighting that would be good for working under.
On the downside…he ended up being a pretty shitty, unreliable business person, so I can’t confidently recommend him. But his lighting advice was really good.
To maximize flexibility, the bulk of our primary lighting source are a standard (white, in our case) 3 wire “h-style” track system, which we laid out like this. The diagram is a little tough to understand at if you don’t know what you’re looking at, and there’s one important piece that’s missing entirely, so here’s the gist of our strategy:
We wanted to make it easy to turn all of the primary lights on/off without having to walk across the entire space (our old location had lights all over the place, turning them all on/off took a solid 5 mins of walking around the space).
We broke the tracks into “clusters” that would light each of the primary work areas, and allow us to flexibly move the track heads around
EVERYTHING ON DIMMERS. Some people like working in low light. Others like it bright. Give yourself options.
We used clusters of 3-5 white frosted glass pendant lights as “accent” lighting in corners and other areas that were likely to be cozy little lounge or breakout areas, like this.
We found this incredible fixture for inside our meeting rooms, phone rooms, really any room that was going to have a closed door on it. It’s sleek, throws really nice light in all directions, and is easy to mount either nearly flush with a ceiling or, if you have the height to support it, suspended at a comfortable height. We get a ton of compliments on these fixtures. They’re also only ~$120 US a piece. The only downside (and it’s a big one) is you have to order them in minimum of 10 units, and they’re coming directly from a supplier in China so it’s going to take a few weeks minimum AND shipping can get expensive. Thankfully, I was ordering enough (and early enough) to make it worthwhile.
Our original fit out used a direct-from-china track head as well, and I like them just fine, but when we expanded we couldn’t get more of the fixtures so I had to look elsewhere and ended up finding a great dimmable LED track fixture that, even with domestic shipping, cut our per-fixture cost *in half (*from ~$60/head to around $30).
When choosing color temperatures, I tried to get fixtures that were on the cool end of warm, more like residential bulbs. 3000k-3500k tended to give the best color, more feeling like natural sunlight without being too “glowy.” 4k seems to be more “popular” in office settings but in our tests it always felt too cold and sharp. At the same time, I learned that these numbers aren’t super consistent across manufacturers. When possible, try to get sample fixtures and test them in the real setting, mixed with whatever natural light you’re working with.
**The big thing that’s not obvious about the lighting plan is that over half of our tracks are actually turned *upside down, *and point the fixture at the ceiling. **
Originally, we installed all of our track heads the way you’re used to seeing them: pointed down and at an angle. The trouble we hadn’t calculated was how often a light would end up pointed directly in somebody’s face. We tried tweaking track positions, but avoiding one person’s eyes almost always meant pointing them into someone else’s eyes.
*The other problem was that - and this might sound obvious but bear with me - lights work best when they have something to reflect off of. *
The “shadow” problems you mentioned are a symptom of direct lighting, something we generally were trying to avoid because it’s harsh (especially with glossy computer screens). We wanted the space to appear bright, but without work areas (desks, etc) feeling like they were under a spotlight.
We tried filters and gels, too, but the most effective technique was to make sure that our track fixtures were directed at a nearby surface: a wall, a column, a beam, ductwork…any surface that would help distribute the light to the surrounding areas. Like this example, in our gallery space. By pointing fixtures at the walls, the surrounding areas are cast in a very comfortable indirect light. That seems to be the key.
The trouble we ran into with our space was that in so much of our space, the “walls” are just our windows to the outside world. They’re great for letting natural light in, but pointing lights at them was horrible. They’d just shine the direct light back into someone’s eyes, and do very little to actually light the space.
So in the rest of the space, we decided to flip the tracks upside down so we could point the fixtures at our ceiling. Like this.
By treating our ceiling like another wall (we’d already painted it a bright color to reflect the natural light), and now we’re able to get the same general effect of LOTS of bright but soft, indirect lighting covering almost every area of workspace. Nobody has to work under a spotlight. Success.
When we expanded our space in October, we took the same approach of flipping the tracks from the start. The electricians looked at us a little funny when I asked for it, but after it was in even they commented how nice it looked.
Whew. That’s a lot, and kind of all over the place. But hopefully it helps you think through the decisions you need to make, which will include:
1 - how to light for experience, not just function
2 - how to “layer” different fixtures to help indicate zones and uses
3 - making use of your existing tracks (or adding more of them to give you max flexibility)
4 - choosing fixtures, and finding ways to save $$
5 - using your constraints
If I can help more one-on-one, feel free to shoot me an email.
On Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 6:41 PM, Alex Hillman [email protected] wrote:
Jen - it’d also help to get an idea of what you’re working with. Can you post a floorplan? Even better, a plan that shows where existing lights are?
On Feb 28, 2018, 6:29 PM -0500, Jen Luby [email protected], wrote:
Hey all, my landlord is asking for a lighting plan so he can get a sense of budget for the buildout…but this is not my forte. What kind of lights do you guys use in a) open work areas and b) private offices? Currently there are a ton of track lights installed (it’s a former gallery space) but from what I’ve read those can cast unpleasant shadows.
(Alex, I put you in the subject because I think you worked on this for Indy Hall, although I didn’t find any previous posts about. My apologies if I’m wrong.)
Highland Park, IL
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups “Coworking” group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to [email protected].
For more options, visit https://groups.google.com/d/optout.
The #1 mistake in community building is doing it by yourself.
Better Coworkers: http://indyhall.org
Weekly Coworking Tips: http://coworkingweekly.com
My Audiobook: https://theindyhallway.com/ten