Working Under an Energy Efficient LED Sky Ceiling at the Office

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Innovations in energy efficient LED lighting are even affecting the way we regard ceilings at the workplace.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) in Stuttgart, Germany have created a moving luminous ceiling that lets office workers gaze at clouds and feel the freedom of the outdoors without ever leaving their desks.

The IAO researchers teamed up with LEiDs GmbH, an LED technology company, to make sure their ceiling simulates natural light conditions on a partially-cloudy day as accurately as possible.

The ceiling consists of square tiles – each 50 by 50 centimeter tile holding 288 light emitting diodes. A diffuser film in matte white is attached beneath the LEDs. The diffuser film creates homogenous lighting that illuminates the room throughout, states Dr. Matthias Bues, who led the project at the IAO.

A combination of red, blue, green and white diodes is used in order to produce the full light spectrum. The set-up is able to simulate dynamic changes in lighting conditions that are not immediately obvious to the naked eye, even when they can impact workplace effectiveness.

For the artificial environment to be as close to real as possible, the researchers measured how light fluctuates throughout the day, including how fast changes in the light spectrum take place and how intensive they are. The goal was to make the lighting dynamic enough to improve concentration and heighten alertness, but not any more dynamic than that – otherwise, the whole thing would end up being just an unnecessary distraction.

A preliminary study has show this dynamic lighting is pleasantly perceived. A group of volunteers conducted office duties for four days subjected to light from a 30 by 60 cm ceiling display. On the first day the light was static, on the second it fluctuated gently, and on the third the changes in lighting conditions were more rapid. On the final day, the majority of volunteers (80 percent) said they wished to continue working with the rapidly fluctuating light.

The prototype sky takes up 34 square meters of space and uses some 32,560 LEDs to provide light with the intensity of over 3,000 lux (500 to 1000 lux is already enough to create comfortable lighting conditions). A small section of this virtual sky is going to be exhibited at the beginning of March in Hanover, Germany, during the CeBIT tradeshow. At present, the sky costs 1000 euros (US$1,290) per square meter (10.76 square feet), but the price is likely to come down with the solution growing in popularity.

Certainly much more fun those old-fashioned drop ceiling panels.


Photo: IAO

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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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