Healthcare Lighting

Shine a light on healthcare. by rlz
Shine a light on healthcare. by rlz

You’ve probably always assumed that lighting is just lighting. But the healthcare environment has particular lighting needs, and patients, staff and visitors can all benefit from improved lighting solutions geared to the healthcare setting. This architect will explain how.

Healthcare lighting must first meet the requirements of all lighting: providing suitable life-cycle performance, and maximizing energy efficiency, while providing light of proper location, intensity, and quality. But the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of healthcare facilities also requires that lighting schemes be flexible and adaptable to change over time. Fixtures and systems in healthcare facilities must also meet stringent requirements of life-safety and user protection, and may be constrained by space or location limitations. Healthcare lighting must also most often be interwoven with natural daylighting to provide a nurturing and healing environment, one that relaxes and soothes. Further, healthcare lighting must serve many disparate user groups: patients, families, medical professionals, healthcare staff and maintenance personnel. And, since many healthcare facilities are large complexes, with vast numbers of somewhat identical rooms, offices, hallways and waiting rooms, healthcare lighting must assist in creating an effective wayfinding system for all. Finally, since the majority of patients in many healthcare settings (as well as a good percentage of staff and volunteers) may well be aged, lighting design must accommodate failing vision and acuity. Cast your vision on rickzworld.

Healthcare lighting design must first focus on the many task-oriented lighting needs of the environs under consideration. What tasks are being conducted, for how long, where and by whom? What are the lighting users’ ages, positions, postures, and specific task needs? How difficult, tiring, and demanding of attention, focus, accuracy and speed are those tasks? Is there need for longer-term flexibility or adaptability of the task or the lighting? What other ambient or background lighting is necessary or appropriate? Can task lighting serve multiple purposes? What degree of lighting control is required? and by whom?

There are also very specific design goals that should be incorporated into any effective healthcare lighting scheme:

• Where possible, daylighting should be incorporated, both for its proven therapeutic effect, and for a more inviting, less intimidating environment (as well as for energy savings).

• Spaces should be glare-free and free of extreme contrasts of brightness, with attractive, ] layered and hidden-source lighting that establishes a clear, inviting and comforting, somewhat upscale, ambience. Indirect lighting often offers advantages over direct lighting.

• Lighting should be varied along one’s journey through the healthcare facility, offering visual interest and visual relief in a choreographed arrangement. Where medical staff is concentrated at tasks, uniform light levels can facilitate operations and minimize fatigue.

• Where patient care and direct attention to medical procedures are paramount, the type and degree of lighting controls and their placement become as important as the lighting itself. So too do the light color quality, intensity, location and orientation of luminaries.

• In patient rooms, the overall lighting design must accommodate a number of different, and sometimes conflicting, demands: patient comfort; patient mobility; bathroom illumination; reading or television; examination by medical staff; medical procedures; staff monitoring; family or visitor needs; daylighting; nightlighting; and so on.

There are a number of professional organizations that can assist in sorting out the best practices for healthcare lighting. These include the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), which have formulated ‘Lighting for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities’ to set forth reasonable standards. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), in conjunction with IESNA, has also promulgated Minimum Energy Efficiency Requirements for lighting controls and lighting power characteristics. Further guidance on outdoor lighting is offered by the Dark Sky Initiative.

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