Lighting Design Goals

Hospitals are complex, task intensive facilities. Many of the spaces in a typical healthcare facility such as corridors, offices, restaurants, conference rooms, and lobbies, are also found in other public facilities. The lighting requirements for these spaces are fairly straightforward and similar. Others space are entirely unique to the healthcare segment: patient rooms, examination rooms, emergency rooms, operating rooms, nursing stations, monitoring and observation rooms, intensive and acute care units, etc..

Lighting requirements for patients will usually be subdued and unobtrusive, while medical staff and maintenance personnel require a variety of illuminance levels. Lighting must, therefore, be flexible and adaptable. Light sources and luminaires in healthcare facilities must often meet specific requirements for user safety and protection, specific locations and functions. Since hospitals typically contain vast numbers of somewhat identical rooms, corridors and waiting areas, the lighting must help create a means of finding one’s way around. And, a large percentage of the hospital population, both patients and staff, may be seniors, so lighting design must accommodate the “aging eye”. All these factors present challenges to the lighting designer.

Good hospital lighting design is a balance between the following three areas:

  • Human Needs
    • Visibility
    • Task performance
    • Visual comfort
    • Safety
  • Environmental and Economic Issues
    • Cost of lighting system ownership
    • Energy costs
    • Sustainability
  • Architectural
    • Lighting systems complement building design

Regardless of the space or area being illuminated, the design scheme usually employs a “layered” approach, combining the three basic categories of lighting:

  • General (also called ambient lighting),
  • Local (also called accent or task lighting)
  • Decorative

Here are some of the key design considerations for healthcare lighting:

  • Lighting should be varied along one’s journey through the healthcare facility, offering visual interest and visual relief.
  • Spaces should be glare-free and free of extreme contrasts of brightness, with attractive, layered and hidden-source lighting that establishes a comforting ambience.
  • Lamps from parabolic luminaires or brightly lensed troffers in corridors and patient rooms are distracting and visually discomforting.
  • Indirect lighting is often preferable in these instances.
  • Where possible, daylighting and daylight harvesting should be incorporated, both for therapeutic effect and for energy savings.
  • Where medical staff is working 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 luminaires.

Lighting in a healthcare facility should compensate for the fact that many of the patients may have limitations in mobility and vision. Any improvements in illumination will aid in navigating the facility and reduce the possibility of accidents. Some of the visual factors to consider are: direct glare, reflected glare, harsh shadows and poorly lit visual cues to hazards. Even visual fatigue can be a factor; the delay in adapting one’s eyes from dark to brightly lit areas and vice versa.