In a significant step towards energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, the United Kingdom has taken the bold move to ban fluorescent lighting tubes. This landmark decision, aimed at reducing energy consumption and lowering carbon emissions, is a testament to the nation’s commitment to a greener future. In this blog post, we will delve into the details of the UK’s fluorescent lighting tube ban, its implications, and the benefits it brings to both the environment and consumers.

The Ban: What You Need to Know

Effective from September 2023, the UK has prohibited the sale and installation of traditional T8 fluorescent lighting tubes with T5 and other lamps to follow in February 2024. This ban applies to both commercial and residential settings. The government’s rationale behind this decision is rooted in the need to transition towards more energy-efficient lighting options and phase out technologies that contribute to high energy consumption and harmful environmental impact. While it will be possible to buy current stocks of fluorescent lamps they will soon be depleted leaving landlords, property owners and developers little choice but to replace or retrofit their old fluorescent light fittings.

Environmental Benefits

Reduced Energy Consumption: One of the primary advantages of the ban is the considerable reduction in energy consumption. Fluorescent lighting tubes are notorious for being energy-hungry, consuming significantly more electricity compared to modern alternatives like LED lights. By switching to more efficient lighting technologies, the UK aims to decrease its overall energy demand and reliance on fossil fuels.

Lower Carbon Emissions: The ban aligns with the UK’s commitment to combat climate change. Fluorescent lighting tubes emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gases, mainly due to their high energy consumption. By eliminating these tubes from the market, the nation can make significant strides in reducing carbon emissions, thus contributing to a healthier planet.

Benefits to Businesses and Consumers

Long-Term Cost Savings: While the upfront cost of LED lights might be higher, they offer substantial long-term savings. LED lights are known for their extended lifespan and significantly lower energy consumption. Consumers will see a noticeable decrease in their energy bills over time, making the initial investment worthwhile.

Improved Lighting Quality: LED lights provide better quality and more customizable lighting options. They offer a range of colour temperatures and dimming capabilities that allow users to create the desired ambience in their spaces.

Challenges and Solutions

Some consumers and businesses may be accustomed to the old technology and could experience difficulties adapting to the new lighting options.

The responsibility for disposing of old fluorescent tubes, which often contain mercury and are classified as hazardous waste, falls on the generators of these waste materials. This typically includes individuals, businesses, and organisations that produce or use these tubes. The disposal process must adhere to regulations and guidelines established by environmental authorities to ensure proper handling of hazardous waste.

In the United Kingdom, the Environment Agency (or the appropriate regulatory body in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) oversees regulations regarding the disposal of hazardous waste, including fluorescent tubes containing mercury. Here’s how the disposal process generally works:

Segregation and Collection: First, it’s important to separate fluorescent tubes from regular waste to prevent contamination and ensure proper handling. They should be stored in a safe and secure location until disposal.

Waste Carrier: When you’re ready to dispose of the fluorescent tubes, you’ll need to engage a licensed waste carrier to transport the hazardous waste to an authorised waste facility. These waste carriers have the necessary permits to handle and transport hazardous waste.

Authorised Treatment Facility: The waste carrier will transport the fluorescent tubes to an authorised hazardous waste treatment facility. These facilities are equipped to handle and dispose of hazardous waste in an environmentally responsible manner, adhering to regulations and safety protocols.

Disposal Process: The fluorescent tubes will undergo a proper disposal process, which may involve safely removing the mercury and other hazardous materials. The components that can be recycled or reused will be processed accordingly.

Record Keeping: Proper documentation of the disposal process is crucial. Generators of hazardous waste should maintain records of waste transfer notes and other relevant documentation to demonstrate that they have followed the correct procedures for disposal.

It’s essential to work with licensed and reputable waste carriers and authorised treatment facilities to ensure that the hazardous waste, including fluorescent tubes containing mercury, is handled and disposed of in compliance with regulations. Failing to do so can result in environmental harm, health risks, and legal consequences.

If you’re unsure about the regulations and procedures for disposing of fluorescent tubes in your area, it’s recommended to contact the appropriate environmental regulatory agency for guidance. They can provide information on local regulations, authorised waste facilities, and proper disposal practices to ensure that hazardous waste is managed responsibly and safely.

What funding and grants are available?

Transitioning from traditional fluorescent lighting tubes to more energy-efficient LED lighting can bring about numerous benefits, including reduced energy consumption and lower operating costs. To facilitate this transition and encourage businesses and individuals to adopt LED lighting, various funding and support options are available in the UK. These programs aim to alleviate the initial investment costs and make the changeover more financially feasible. Here are some funding options you can explore:

Salix Finance:

Salix Finance offers interest-free loans to the public sector, including schools, hospitals, and local authorities, to support energy efficiency projects, including lighting upgrades. These loans can be used to cover the upfront costs of installing LED lighting and the loan repayment is often structured in a way that the energy savings from the LED lighting cover the repayment over time.

Carbon Trust Green Business Fund:

The Carbon Trust provides financial support and expert guidance to small and medium-sized businesses in the UK. The Green Business Fund offers capital contributions towards the cost of energy-saving projects, including LED lighting installations. This can significantly reduce the financial burden of upgrading lighting systems.

Energy Performance Contracting (EPC):

Energy Performance Contracting involves outsourcing the financing, design, implementation, and maintenance of energy efficiency projects, including lighting upgrades, to a third-party provider. The provider guarantees certain energy savings, and the payments are made from the energy savings achieved over time.

Local Authority Grants:

Some local councils offer grants or funding opportunities to businesses, schools, and community organisations looking to improve energy efficiency within their facilities. These grants may cover a portion of the costs associated with LED lighting installations.

Energy Supplier Initiatives:

Some energy suppliers offer incentives and grants to their customers for adopting energy-efficient measures. These incentives might include discounts on LED lighting products or financial support for energy-efficient upgrades.

Regional Development Programs:

Depending on the region you are in, there might be specific development programs that provide funding for energy efficiency projects. These programs are often aimed at boosting local economies while promoting sustainable practices.

Revolving Green Fund:

Some universities and educational institutions have established revolving green funds that allocate a portion of their energy savings towards funding future energy efficiency projects, such as LED lighting upgrades, on campus.

Government Schemes:

While the UK government itself might not provide direct funding for LED lighting transitions, its policies, and initiatives, such as the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF) or the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme, can indirectly support energy efficiency projects.

It’s essential to research and inquire about specific funding opportunities in your area, as the availability and terms of these programs may vary. Whether you are a business owner, a facility manager, or a homeowner, taking advantage of these funding options can make the transition to LED lighting more accessible and financially viable, while contributing to a more energy-efficient and sustainable future for the UK.

The UK’s decision to ban fluorescent lighting tubes is a significant stride towards a more sustainable and energy-efficient future. By embracing modern lighting technologies like LEDs, the nation can achieve substantial energy savings, reduce carbon emissions, and enhance the quality of lighting for consumers. While challenges may arise during the transition, the long-term benefits for both the environment and consumers make this ban a shining example of progressive environmental policy. As the UK takes this bright step forward, it paves the way for other nations to follow suit in the pursuit of a greener world.

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The lighting in an office can have a significant impact on employee productivity and wellbeing. Poor lighting can cause eye strain, headaches, and fatigue, while good lighting can improve mood, reduce stress, and boost productivity. In this blog post, we will explore the best office lighting for employee productivity and provide tips for creating a comfortable and productive work environment.

Natural Light

Natural daylight or a light that mimics natural daylight, such as a cool white LED light, is generally considered the best lighting for employee productivity. This type of lighting provides a bright, crisp light that helps employees feel more alert and energised. Additionally, exposure to natural daylight has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, and increase productivity.

However, it’s not always possible to have natural daylight in an office. In these cases, a cool white LED light can be a desirable alternative. Cool white LED lights have a colour temperature between 5000K and 6500K, which is like natural daylight. This type of lighting is often used in offices, as it provides a bright, neutral light that is easy on the eyes and helps improve concentration.

Adjustable Lighting

Adjustable lighting options are also important for employee productivity. Supplying dimming controls or other adjustable lighting options allows employees to customise their lighting preferences and create a comfortable work environment. For example, employees may prefer dimmer lighting later in the day when they are feeling more tired and need to relax their eyes. This is where circadian lighting can be a powerful tool for employee wellbeing and productivity.

Circadian lighting is a type of lighting design that aims to mimic the natural light and dark cycles that regulate our body’s internal clock. There are several ways in which circadian lighting can improve employee productivity:

Firstly, circadian lighting can help to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle, which can have a significant impact on energy levels and productivity. Exposure to blue-enriched light in the morning can help to reset the body’s internal clock, promoting wakefulness and alertness during working hours. Conversely, exposure to warmer, reddish light in the evening can help to promote relaxation and prepare the body for sleep, leading to better quality sleep and improved productivity during the day.

Secondly, circadian lighting can help to reduce fatigue and increase alertness, particularly during the afternoon slump. By providing the right kind of light at the right time of day, circadian lighting can help employees maintain their energy levels and focus throughout the day, leading to higher productivity and better job performance.

Task Lighting

The placement of lighting in the office is also crucial. Lighting should be evenly distributed throughout the space to reduce shadows and glare. Overhead lighting should be used in combination with task lighting, such as desk lamps or under-cabinet lighting, to supply adequate illumination for specific tasks.

Additionally, it’s essential to consider the type of work being done in the office when selecting lighting. For example, employees who spend most of their time working on computers may benefit from a light with a lower colour temperature to reduce eye strain. On the other hand, employees who need to focus on meticulous tasks may benefit from a brighter light.

Acoustic Lighting

Acoustic lighting is a type of lighting that combines sound-absorbing materials with LED lights to create a comfortable and efficient working environment. Acoustic Lighting reduces noise levels in a workspace which can lower levels of stress, fatigue and improve communication.

Overall, acoustic lighting can help to create a more comfortable and efficient working environment, which can lead to increased employee productivity.

Biophilic Lighting

Biophilic lighting is a type of lighting design that uses natural elements, such as plants, wood and stone to create a more nature-inspired workspace. There are several ways in which biophilic lighting can improve employee productivity:

Firstly, biophilic lighting can improve mood and reduce stress levels among employees. Exposure to nature has been shown to increase positive emotions and reduce negative ones, such as anxiety and depression. By bringing elements of nature indoors, biophilic lighting can create a more calming and relaxing environment, promoting better mental health and higher levels of productivity.

Secondly, biophilic lighting can regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, which can help to improve sleep patterns and energy levels throughout the day. Exposure to natural light, especially in the morning, can help to reset the body’s internal clock and improve alertness and productivity during working hours. Biophilic lighting can mimic natural lighting conditions, providing the right kind of light at the right time of day, to help employees feel more energised and focused.

Finally, it’s crucial to gather feedback from employees and adjust the lighting accordingly. Different people have different preferences when it comes to lighting, so it’s important to consider their feedback and make changes as necessary. Encouraging employees to take breaks and step outside for some natural daylight exposure can also be beneficial.

The best office lighting for employee productivity is natural daylight or a light that mimics natural daylight, such as a cool white LED light. Supplying adjustable lighting options, evenly distributing lighting throughout the space, and considering the type of work being done in the office are also important factors to consider. By creating a comfortable and productive work environment, employers can help their employees stay focused, energised, and productive throughout the day.

In the ever-evolving world of business, one factor stays constant: the importance of the human element. As companies strive to create a conducive and inspiring work environment, the concept of human centric office design has gained traction. Emphasising the well-being and productivity of employees, this approach redefines traditional office spaces and fosters a harmonious balance between aesthetics and functionality.

A Holistic Approach to Office Design

The essence of human centric office design lies in acknowledging the unique needs and preferences of employees. Gone are the days of cookie-cutter cubicles and sterile settings. Today, successful businesses prioritise a holistic approach that revolves around employee comfort and happiness.

This design philosophy considers several factors, such as natural lighting, ergonomic furniture, temperature control, noise reduction, and air quality. By thoughtfully integrating these elements, employers create a nurturing environment that allows employees to flourish.

office designed with natural light, acoustics and ergonomic furniture.

The Power of Natural Light

Incorporating ample natural light is at the core of human centric office design. Sunlight not only supplies essential vitamin D but also significantly affects mood and productivity. Designing offices with large windows and open spaces not only reduces reliance on artificial lighting but also connects employees with the external environment, fostering a sense of unity with nature.

However, the quest for the perfect balance between natural and artificial lighting doesn’t end with the sun’s rays. Human centric office design also embraces the concept of circadian lighting. Inspired by the natural progression of daylight throughout the day, circadian lighting systems simulate these changes to mimic the body’s internal clock.

Ergonomics: Putting Comfort First

Long hours spent at desks can lead to various health issues. However, ergonomic office furniture can help mitigate these problems. From adjustable chairs and sit-stand desks to wrist-supporting keyboards, investing in ergonomic solutions ensures the well-being of employees and minimises discomfort or strain caused by extended periods of sitting.

Striking the Right Balance: Noise and Privacy

Office chatter and constant distractions can hamper concentration and creativity. Human centric office design incorporates acoustic solutions that reduce noise levels and provide employees with a sense of privacy. This can range from acoustic panels on walls and ceilings to appointed quiet spaces for focused work or rejuvenating breaks.

acoustic baffles and acoustic lighting in an office

Air Quality and Indoor Plants

Clean and fresh air is essential for cognitive function and overall health. Installing efficient ventilation systems and incorporating indoor plants can significantly improve air quality. Plants not only enhance aesthetics but also function as natural air purifiers, absorbing harmful pollutants and emitting oxygen, contributing to a healthier work environment.

living plants for a human centric office

Flexibility and Collaboration

Human centric office design also emphasises the importance of flexible workspaces that cater to different work styles. Incorporating collaborative areas, cosy corners, and open meeting spaces encourages teamwork, creativity, and idea sharing. Employees feel empowered to choose the setting that best suits their tasks, promoting a sense of autonomy and efficiency.

Colour Psychology and Mood Enhancement

The careful choice of colours can influence mood and productivity. Warm colours like yellow and orange can evoke feelings of energy and enthusiasm, while cool colours like blue and green promote calmness and focus. Human-centric office design takes advantage of colour psychology to create an emotionally balanced workplace that motivates employees throughout the day.

In the United Kingdom, as elsewhere in the world, human centric office design is transforming the traditional workplace into an inspiring and supportive environment. By considering the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of employees, businesses are realising that investing in their workforce pays off manifold. A happy and motivated workforce leads to increased productivity, reduced turnover, and a positive company culture. Embrace human-centric office design and see the transformative impact it can have on your organisation’s success.

Glare can cause eye strain, leading to headaches and fatigue in employees, so it is essential to consider it when undertaking a lighting design. The specification for office lighting in the UK is to have a UGR (Unified Glare Rating) of less than 19, as per EN12464.

But what is glare?

The CIE defines glare as:

Visual conditions in which there is excessive contrast or an inappropriate distribution of light sources that disturbs the observer or limits the ability to distinguish details and objects”.

What does this mean in real life? An excellent practical example of glare can be given by considering a car coming towards you on a country lane, with its headlights on full beam. If this was in the middle of a sunny summer day, you probably wouldn’t think anything of it.

However, consider the same set of circumstances on a dark winters evening. As the car passes you, for a split second you can’t see anything. This is disability glare. You cannot see the target (the road ahead) due to an “inappropriate distribution of light source that limits the ability to distinguish details and objects”. The reason this causes an issue is because our eyes are unable to dilate the pupils enough to allow enough light in to be able to see the darkness of the roadway, while at the same time being contracted enough to accommodate the brightness of the headlight. So we can see that glare is caused by the contrast between the brightness of the light source and the background lighting level.

How can we mitigate this in an office environment? Well, background luminance levels are affected by the reflectance of surfaces within the room – not just the walls, floor and ceiling, but desks and other furniture too.

The distribution of the luminaires can also have an effect. Luminaires that put light onto the ceiling (suspended direct/indirect, floor standing or wall mounted up lighters) will increase the luminance of the ceiling, which in turn will reduce the contrast between the ceiling and the light-emitting surface of the luminaire.

Continuing on with our example, if the car was waiting to pull out of a side road with its full beams on, there may be no glare issues at all – in either day or nighttime examples.

If we take this thought process into an office setting, the position of the fitting would relate to its mounting height and spacing in between luminaires. It’s quite possible that at the design stage, the desk layout may not have been finalised, and so the position of the luminaires in relation to where people will be working may be unknown so this can be trickier to allow for.

As we can see, it is not the light source itself that can comply with any glare rating, because other factors have an effect as well. So, although a luminaire may be designed for its distribution to be low glare, on its own it cannot claim to be UGR<19.

Diffuser options

Opal diffusers will not control the direction of light output in any way. They will do exactly as their name suggests – diffuse the light in all directions. Diffusers with a prism, potentially either embossed. or screen printed on, will control the light, and will direct more of the light downwards, and less out at higher angles:

The left-hand side of this image shows the polar curve of our Polaris 52 luminaire with opal diffuser. The right-hand side shows the polar curve of our Polaris 52 with low glare option. As you can see, the low glare version as almost zero output in the region 45 – 90 degrees from the normal. This light has been re-directed downwards. The opal version is just a blob of light that comes out of the diffuser, with no control and no directionality to the distribution. I have highlighted the angle higher than 30 degrees in blue, to help show this.

As you can see from this image, if you have less light coming out at higher angles, the observer will have less light in their eye line from the fittings further away. In addition, older computer monitors with curved glass screens would have reflected light in this zone from fittings behind the observer. Although most offices are equipped with flat panel, matt computer screens which do not give unwanted reflections, it could still be an issue for laptops and tablets – however, the user will have much more flexibility in changing their screen position and angle to remove the reflections as required.

Luminance above 65 degrees

In addition to UGR < 19 in offices, EN12464 also states that luminaires should have a luminance of <3000 candelas / m2 at angles of above 65 degrees from the normal, for areas with positive polarity screens. Unlike UGR, luminance is a function of the luminaire itself, and is not affected in anyway by the properties of the environment that it is installed in. Lighting design programs such as Relux display this data for luminaires:

The highest luminance value is highlighted with square brackets and is 2935 cd/m2 for the Visual Comfort version of our Polaris 52.

Glare and luminance are very involved topics. How glare is calculated, or estimated if using the tabular method, and the limitations of both, need a standalone article.

The takeaways from this overview are:

  • A luminaire on its own cannot comply with any UGR rating
  • To reduce glare, increase the background lighting level
    • Incorporate uplighting
    • Have light-coloured room surfaces & furniture to increase reflectance
  • UGR cannot be measured – there is no such thing as a glare meter.
  • A luminaire can comply with the luminance limits, regardless of the environment it is put in.