Special | the office after the office
initiated by Evoline
Light – to each according to their needs
Adeline Seidel talks to
Stefan von Terzi, Marketing Director at Zumtobel
Nov 5, 2013

Adeline Seidel: How are current trends for the flexible use of offices and individually adjustable workstations impacting on the lighting industry?

Stefan von Terzi: ISometimes I’m not quite sure the trend has really spread and reached everyone. If you leaf through any office brochures brought out by lighting companies you’ll find most concentrate mainly on the individual work station. We have a more differentiated take on work settings and the place of work: Different fields of activity and sub-activities have evolved within the office world. Which is why standard lighting across all the various areas of activity is no longer up to supporting the tasks. Areas for informal meetings, private zones and recreation areas each require their own kind of lighting, lighting that is unlike that used in individual workstations as otherwise office workers would simply not frequent such spaces, or would only do so randomly.

In conversation: Stefan von Terzi, Marketing Director at Zumtobel. Photo © Adam Drobiec

Could you give a bit more detail on individual work zones and the respective impact this has on the quality of light?

Stefan von Terzi: Areas designated for focused work, for people wanting to concentrate hard, should be located close to window fronts, where there is a mix of daylight and artificial light. Whereby the challenge is to provide light in an even quality that does not dazzle and has the right color temperature. In the case of project workstations, you tend to find small groups of 4 to 6 people working together very actively – at lecterns or using vertical writing surfaces such as whiteboards or smartboards. Horizontal illumination would obviously be completely unsuitable here, and what you need is indirect lighting with cooler color temperatures.

In Zumtobels Light Forum in Dornbirn light can be experienced in all facets. Photo © Adam Drobiec
Sophie Moser, PR Manager at Zumtobel, guides through the light forum. Photo © Adam Drobiec

Do “lighting needs” actually differ radically from one member of staff to the next?

Stefan von Terzi: Often three or sometimes even four generations of people work in one and the same company. If you take a slightly closer look at what these different generations understand by “conditions at work” and “lighting” you’ll soon notice that their notions can differ greatly. For example, for older staff members a standard value of 500 Lux certainly no longer suffices in an office as that generation of staff expects a far more distinct structuring of workstation areas and tends to strongly prefer cell offices. By contrast, their younger colleagues go for open, interactive spaces, want far greater integration of technology in the place of work, and make flexible use of the various spatial offerings for differing activities. Meaning you need to design multifunctional spaces for this younger generation. In a nutshell, our clients require lighting systems that enable each individual staff member to calibrate the light to his or her personal preferences and needs.

Measurement of the water resistance. Photo © Zumtobel
Magnetic field measurement of the products. Photo © Zumtobel

How does “Zumtobel” generate and evaluate its knowledge? And how do the studies’ findings then affect the products you design?

Stefan von Terzi: We actively engage in research, both inside the company and with external partners and research institutes. For example, we’re at present busy partnering with Fraunhofer IAO on a worldwide user study on perceived light quality in the office. We actually get very down-to-earth feedback (albeit depending on the kind of survey involved), on for example the light color temperature that particular groups of persons prefer. Or how they rate the importance of adjustability of lighting at their own place of work. We can then say which age groups prefer which lighting situation for a specific activity. In fact, we can even identify regional differences. This knowledge on user needs lays the foundations for the development of the right innovative lighting solutions.

You have deployed the “sensControl” and “swarmControl” systems in Credit Suisse’s Zurich head office at Uetlihof 2. Are these systems the result of your research initiatives and analyses of user needs?

Stefan von Terzi: Both developments are a very good example of two partners joining forces: First, the client and user, with the related expectations as regards the quality workstations should have, and second our R&D department, which has already done work on related themes. I am convinced that it is such alliances that spawn the innovations necessary to solve current problems. Here, the architect plays the role of conductor, as it is he who holds the strings for the overall concept in his hands, and it is he who creates the technical challenges we then face.

At the Light forum various products are shown. Photo © Adam Drobiec

So what exactly is “sensControl” and “swarmControl” – and what do I need it for?

Stefan von Terzi: Essentially “swarmControl” is a highly flexible standard lamp concept. Take an example: Do you feel at home late at night in an open-plan office if you’re working long hours and your light is the only one illuminating the room? Most probably not. But if you ask the facility manager, he’ll probably say: “What? Turn on all the lights just because one person is working late?” This is what prompted us to develop “swarmControl”: Each standard lamp at a workstation has a sensor, and these sensors communicate with one another and the dimming level can be adjusted between them. The sensor responds to the presence of the user and interacts with the other lamps in a certain radius. Whenever the user moves around the room, he or she is then followed by a kind of “light cloud”. In the case of “swarmControl” the light follows the user. While with “sensControl” an individual light is controlled by sensors. The motion detector activates the luminaire automatically if a person is at their workstation and at the same time the light sensor measures the available daylight and dims the lamp accordingly. If the staffer then vacates the place of work, the luminaire switches itself off. In addition, the luminaire can be set individually. In future, for example, you’ll be able to control or regulate the lighting using your Smartphone and Bluetooth.

The Zumtobel production halls in Dornbirn. Photo © Adam Drobiec

Have the new lighting applications led to changes in building wiring? What challenges are there that the planners need to bear in mind?

Stefan von Terzi: We tend to consult the architects a lot. One of the things that takes most time is getting the electrification interfaces right: software interfaces, norms and technology standards have to dovetail if the overall building as a unit delivers as regards the expected technological performance. The earlier we are involved as a partner in the planning, the better we are able to support the project managers by bringing our knowledge of norms, light and interfaces to bear. And that will save the managers a lot of time.

To what extent is the electrification of the lighting systems planned along with that of the workstations themselves?

Stefan von Terzi: The way I see it, in reality the two still get treated as separate systems. For the user, data links, power cables and charging facilities are of course the key items the workstation must provide. I’m repeatedly amazed that electrification is so rarely solved in an uncomplicated way. When you handle wiring you simply have to know exactly which activities will take place where and when. I constantly find relaxation or waiting zones have been designed without providing a single wall socket. Today, everyone involved in planning really must adopt the vantage point of the user if the working environment is to be well designed. And that in turn means we must all grasp at an earlier point in the process how we can optimize and support activities. There’s a mass of potential to be tapped here still for a holistic approach to electrification systems, lighting systems and office furniture.

Photo © Adam Drobiec

How do you rate the development of adaptive lighting systems?

Stefan von Terzi: There are companies already talking about “empathetic spaces”, meaning spaces that know what quality of light is needed and adapt to how they are being used, who is in them and what is happening there. This no doubt relies on lighting concepts that revolve more strongly around sensors and software solutions that learn from users’ behavior – as the latter will in future, for example, be able to adjust the brightness and color temperature of the light in a specific work space using smartphone apps or an onscreen menu.

Today, home offices are an important part of our working world, and involve more than just a workstation. Can I expect to see a Zumtobel solution for my workspace at home?

Stefan von Terzi: This aspect is becoming increasingly relevant in our concepts. But our focus today is still most definitely on B2B. That said, we will increasingly be addressing situations that aren’t office situations in the “classic” sense but relate, for example, to informal areas in various different settings in modern life.

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