Natural light in the working environment

It will not have escaped the attention of many that the structure of the first building at the Jersey International Finance Centre (JIFC) is starting to emerge from behind the hoardings. With all of the ‘noise’ surrounding this development, some of the positive benefits of the scheme have been slightly lost.

There are many factors that can affect workplace productivity; however one important factor sometimes overlooked is lighting. Being built on a clear site as opposed to a terrace, the buildings at the JIFC will have four clear façades and will provide an unrivalled level of natural light to the occupants.

A recent study undertaken by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois reported that office workers with more light exposure at the office had longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and a better quality of life compared to those with less natural light exposure in the workplace. One of the conclusions of this report was for businesses to try and ensure that as far as possible, workstations were within 7.5 meters from a window. This is also recognised by Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM). BREEAM award a credit for ‘Views Out’ which requires 80 per cent of occupants of an office building to be within seven meters of a window. Buildings 4 and 5 – the first JIFC buildings – will provide 100 per cent of its occupiers’ desk space within seven meters of a window.

The impact of natural light on occupants’ wellbeing should not be underestimated. There is a raft of research to support this and shows that access to natural light can reduce absenteeism by up to 15 per cent and can boost productivity by a similar amount

A comprehensive study in 2008 conducted measurements of the physical environment and occupant satisfaction for almost 800 workstations in nine different buildings and demonstrated that lack of access to a window was the biggest risk factor for dissatisfaction with lighting. A more recent study undertaken in Britain and published in ‘The responsible Workplace’ showed that proximity to windows was the number one determinant of an occupant’s level of satisfaction with a building.

Another key benefit of optimising natural light conditions is to reduce energy consumption. Artificial lighting can be responsible for up to 40 per cent of an office’s energy use, maximising daylight provision can play a significant role in reducing energy levels, and more importantly, cost. Clearly designers must also balance a number of other factors such as glare and solar gain, however the design of the facades can mitigate this and reduce the need for additional cooling.

At a time where businesses are increasingly aware of their commitment to corporate social responsibility and the local employment market is somewhat restricted, the benefits of occupying the highest quality office accommodation are substantial. Businesses are not only competing to attract the highest calibre staff, there’s also a need for the retention and wellbeing of their existing staff. Providing the best natural light results in:- happier staff with fewer illnesses, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and a reduction in energy consumption. This is not some nebulous, woolly concept; the significant research proves numerous commercial benefits and will figure highly on the wish list of businesses seeking relocation.