LETTERS
Light for every age

Dear Editor,
One of the few good things to emerge from the new Con-Dem government in recent weeks is the announcement that it intends to ban compulsory retirement at 60 or 65. As an ‘oldie’ already in this category, I welcome this – even though I can’t sack myself. But has anyone really come to terms with the implications for office lighting design of this move, which will inevitably push up the average age of our already ageing workforce?

One of the few good things to emerge from the new Con-Dem government in recent weeks is the announcement that it intends to ban compulsory retirement at 60 or 65. As an ‘oldie’ already in this category, I welcome this – even though I can’t sack myself. But has anyone really come to terms with the implications for office lighting design of this move, which will inevitably push up the average age of our already ageing workforce?
Older workers, and their vast experience, could be a vital resource for business – but to unlock their potential they need to be made more welcome in the workplace by the provision of much better lighting. For a start, older workers require considerably higher light levels for the same visual task as younger people.

The figures are significant – one report estimates that a worker aged 60 requires six to eight times the amount of light as a 20-year-old for the same visual task. Neither is it merely a question of lighting quantity – older workers also tend to be more susceptible to glare, more affected by ‘flicker’ and have poorer colour discrimination, particularly at the shorter wavelengths (blue) .

How are employers, and the people who specify workplace lighting, going to cater for this huge discrepancy in visual ability? Have most of them even recognised it as an issue?

Office lighting design must become much more sophisticated if it is to meet this growing challenge, through the provision of lighting that can offer light levels well in excess of 300-400 lux in specific task areas, with local controls to allow staff to satisfy their specific requirements.

Designing for visual comfort – for all ages – should be made a much higher priority than the imbecilic, number-crunching (and ineffectual) pursuit of Part L ‘energy savings’, which threatens to pitch workplace lighting back into the ‘dark ages’.

Yours faithfully,
Carl Gardner
Director
CSG Lighting Consultancy
London W1

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