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    Commit to health and well-being with connected lighting

    Part 2 of a 2-part article on sensor-based space analysis

    Although no building classification exists for the workplace aboard the International Space Station, its age and layout fits the definition of an outdated class-C building. Launched in 1998, the ISS welcomed its first residents 25 ago. The half-dozen or so residents of the ISS live and conduct research in an area about the size of a six-bedroom house—a house that was built without any consideration for human comfort or any sense of style or design. Not only is there barely any room for the residents to stretch their legs, the station’s environmental management systems continually struggle to refresh the air in the habitat and research areas.


    The cramped living conditions and the lack of fresh air can contribute to low morale and may even prompt depression. To preserve the health and well-being of the humans on board, NASA upgraded the station in the late 2010s with new features—including dynamic LED lighting designed to support the crew’s circadian rhythms.

    Moving from outdated buildings to healthy and green

    The lessons learned by NASA about the health and well-being of space travelers translate into valuable knowledge that property owners can use to maintain and increase tenant satisfaction. Today, successful property management occurs through transforming class-B and -C buildings into class-A buildings. But providing high-quality amenities is only one part of the equation. Commercial real estate strategies must also focus on creating human-centric workplaces and healthier building environments.


    Adding green spaces and natural lighting soften the environment and encourage productivity and cognitive function. Several other factors spelled out in the WELL Building Standard also contribute to making a building healthy and green. Among other measures detailed in the standard, building owners who want to obtain WELL Building certifications must:

    • Use building materials that cut volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions
    • Improve the quality of indoor air and ventilation
    • Implement methods to achieve thermal comfort
    • Mitigate noise
    • Design pleasing and efficient indoor architecture
    • Improve access to daylight and controllable lighting


    Connected technologies play a key role in making outdated buildings healthy and green. Circadian lighting systems, for example, support the human circadian rhythm—the “internal clock” responsible for a proper sleep/wake cycle and a range of other endogenous processes—by varying office lighting to mimic the changes in solar daylight throughout the day. Sensors distributed throughout an office space can monitor many aspects of the environment, including temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide levels, levels of volatile organic compounds, and atmospheric pressure. Office managers can use the data collected from these sensors to achieve optimal thermal comfort and the best air quality for employees.


    Other sensors can track occupancy and desk utilization at either the room or floor plan level to avoid overcrowding, maintain safe distancing, and improve productivity. Connecting those systems to IoT analytics allows property managers to track metrics and gather insights that help optimize the workplace.

    Go healthy and green with connected lighting systems


    Developing a healthy and green workplace depends on gathering and analyzing large sets of data. Sensor networks establish anytime/anywhere access to data and services. With no need for a wired network infrastructure, wireless sensor networks provide a ready-made solution for upgrading Class B and C facilities. Wireless sensors can be installed in any location and integrate with other connected systems and enterprise software.


    Connected systems and analytics have rapidly matured and continue to improve. A Juniper Research study found that, as of 2022, 45 million buildings were equipped with technologies and analytics for monitoring and automating functions related to improving the workplace environment. During the same time period, vendors shipped 360 million sensors for use in intelligent building applications. Projections indicate that the number of sensors shipped will exceed 1 billion by 2026.


    According to Juniper, the high growth rate in sensor shipments indicates that property owners understand the value of improving workplace environments and meeting sustainability goals.


    As a result, technology providers are now scrambling to offer pilots for space management and environmental monitoring. Solutions range from space management software that uses real-time data to optimize workplaces to systems built around environmental sensors that monitor air quality and equipment.


    The most effective solutions are fully integrated and connected systems that take a whole-building approach to employee comfort. Full-featured connected lighting systems are uniquely positioned to play a central role in deploying data-driven capabilities throughout a building. Lighting is already everywhere that people go, it’s already powered, and it’s usually overhead, which is the ideal location for environmental, occupancy, and other kinds of sensors that collect intelligence from the lit environment.


    With two-way data communications and an IoT platform running in the cloud, building and business owners can collect granular data over time, then analyze, visualize, and utilize that data for insights and automation that support a green and healthy work environment.


    Benefits of sensor-enabled connected lighting systems include:

    • Insight into the activities and usage of office spaces
    • Central management of lighting system behaviors
    • Enhanced employee comfort and well-being via environmental monitoring, air quality management, and workplace personalization
    • Circadian lighting and other human-centric lighting capabilities
    • Support for healthy building certifications like WELL
    • Lower lighting-related energy consumption
    • Reduced operating costs and faster resolution of maintenance issues

    Human-centric workplaces lead to increased productivity and longer leases


    NASA’s focus on human-centric design has progressed since the 1960s when astronauts had to forcefully request the addition of a window on the Mercury spacecraft. A 2014 NASA white paper defines human-centric design as “making systems usable by ensuring that the needs, abilities, and limitations of the human user are met” through a greater understanding of the user and the environment.


    For property owners, meeting the needs and abilities of tenants and their employees occurs through the technological innovation seen with connected systems. Owners can respond to the needs of employees in real-time through the data analysis and connectivity seen with those systems. Bio-adaptive lighting systems encourage productivity through the capability to carefully adjust the temperature of light as daylight changes. Upgrading older buildings with connected systems also addresses limitations—such as fatigue, low morale, and irritability—that stem from limited lighting or poor air quality.


    Upgrades that lead to a Well Building certification also benefit property owners. A recent survey conducted by Stok showed that high-performance workplaces result in increases in productivity and retention as well as significant reductions in absenteeism across all business sectors. Because job seekers want to work for employers who value employee health and wellness, building upgrades that establish a class-A work environment help businesses attract and retain the best talent. In addition, deploying fully integrated, connected systems that emphasize sustainability reduces energy and maintenance costs. Each benefit that businesses gain through employee health and well-being leads to longer lease agreements and increased profitability for property owners.


    About the author

    Peter Duine is Global Subsegment Director for Offices at Signify. He joined Philips 28 years ago as an engineer in the Research Laboratories. Peter moved to the lighting division 16 years ago as an optical engineer, and was a pioneer in developing light engines and drivers as systems for general lighting applications.

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