Office Lighting: How to Properly Light an Office

Office Lighting: What You Need to Know to Properly Light Your Office(s) 


Kelvin and lumens and footcandles, oh my. There’s a lot to know about office lighting. For now, let’s keep it simple. 

This Office Lighting is Too Bright, Too Dim, or Just Right? 


What are the lumens I need for office lighting? Lumens vs. Footcandles. 

People investigating office lighting frequently asked how many lumens they need for office lighting. Lumens is a measurement of the amount of light emitted by a light source. Luminous does not determine how much light actually is emitted onto a work surface. That measurement is footcandles (fc). For example an office light fixture may emit 4000 lumens (lm). If the light fixture is 12 inches from the work surface the footcandles will be higher than if the light fixture is 12 ft from the work surface. The lumens emitted by the light fixture did not change, but the fc did. What matters is fcs. How many footcandles are on the work surface.


What are office lighting standards / office lighting requirements?

Over the years, office lighting standards, also known as office lighting requirements, have changed. From the 1915 to the ‘30s, electric supplies were limited and expensive, light bulbs were primarily incandescent. Light bulbs only emitted about 10 lumens per watt, so a 200 watt light bulb emitted 2000 lumens (lm). As it took a lot of electricity to produce some light and the lightbulbs had to be replaced frequently, recommended footcandles (fc) were rather low.

During that time recommended fc for detailed work, such as auditing, accounting and business machine operation started at 1.25 foot candles and eventually were raised to 10fc.  With the advent of fluorescent lighting fc requirements went up significantly. To reduce eye strain in the ‘40s the recommendation was 50fc and in the ‘80s the recommendation was as much as 100 fc. 

As computers with higher powered visual displays became commonplace, fc requirements fell. To reduce glare and eye strain now, less office light is frequently preferred. Office lighting recommendations today are 3fc for data processing tasks, 30fc for printed tasks, 30fc for meeting rooms, and 50fc for video conferencing. Private offices may have as much as 50 ft candles but frequently a private office will have a dimming system, or, the office occupant is able to select which lights turn on and which to leave off. 


This Office Lighting is Too Blue, Too White, Too Warm, or Just Right? 


What is the difference between 3000K, 4000K and 5000K?

Color temperature indicates whether the lamp or LEDs have a warm, neutral, or cool color appearance.Color temperatures are measured in Kelvin (K). Warmer Kelvin such as 3000K is similar to the color of light emitted by a halogen light. 4000K is the Kelvin emitted by most fluorescent lights. 5000K is even whiter. The chart below provides a good example of the difference between 3000K, 4000K and 5000K.



What office lighting color temperature should I select?

Office lighting color temperature is a preference. At Access Fixtures, we selected 3000K for our office lighting. 3000K is warm and comfortable. We are located in a mill building built around 1908. We have high ceilings. Tall windows flood the office with natural light. The light fixtures are antique style pendant lights. The light bulbs are filamented LED. Art and signage is highlighted with 3000K light bulbs in track heads. It is old school cool. Whiter light 4000K and 5000K can work well for other locations. If you were trying to create a more modern open office, Access Fixtures’ choice of 3000K would probably not work for you. 4000K would work and 5000K might work too. 


Can I Adjust the Amount of Lumens Emitted by the Office Lights?

What are 0-10v Dimming Controls for office lighting?

Most LED light bulbs can be dimmed by using the same dimmers used for incandescent and halogen light bulbs. Office light fixtures have integrated drivers. Most of the drivers have 0-10v dimming. 0-10v dimming requires a 5 wire system and a special dimmer. If you already have the wiring in place, 0-10v dimming is easy to install. If rewiring is easy, you can add two love voltage wires for 0-10v controls. For more information about 0-10v dimming check out this web page.

What is selectable wattage for office lighting?

Another way to adjust the lumen output of your office lighting and thus the footcandles on the work surface is to use office lighting with selectable wattage. Office light fixtures with selectable wattage typically have 4 different settings for wattage. By switching the toggles, you can either increase or decrease the light emitted by the light fixture. Of course to change the amount of light emitted, you have to change the switches on the back of the fixture, so unlike 0-10v dimming this is not something that you would be adjusting throughout the day.

What are my office lighting options? 

There are a lot of options for office lighting. For now, let’s keep it simple. Suspended ceilings are the most common type of ceiling found in class A and Class B office space. Suspended ceilings use either 2’ x 2’ and/or 2’ x 4’ LED lights. There are two primary types of LED lights for suspended ceilings, flat panel or basket which might be considered more stylish. 

Access Fixtures flat panel lights are GAYA, while the basket style is BASC. Both BASC and GAYA help simplify selecting the correct office lighting for your office. BASC and GAYA have selectable Kelvin, selectable wattage, and 0-10v dimming. You can easily select the Kelvin and wattage in your office and determine what your preferences are on site. Additionally, if you have 0-10v dimming wiring and controls, you can change the amount of light emitted whenever you like. 

How Do I Find My Office Lighting Solution?

Need advice? Speak with an Access Fixtures lighting specialist. Access Fixture lighting specialists fixate on lighting all day long and will be glad to help you find your office’s high performance lighting solution. 

How can I get an office lighting plan or office lighting layout?

Need to take it further? Access Fixtures lighting specialists and lighting engineers can run a photometric study. For more information click on this link or call an Access Fixtures lighting specialist at 800.468.9925.