Building Design and Construction

Quality of Light

A good lighting system not only provides adequate quantities of light for safe, efficient visual performance but also good quality of light. Quality determines the visual comfort of building occupants and contributes to good visibility. In accordance with the relationships between light and sight described in Art. 15.10, quality and quantity therefore should be considered together in lighting design. For ease of presentation, however, the factors affecting these characteristics of light are discussed separately. Color rendering is treated in Art. 15.12 and quantity of light, in Art. 15.13.
The characteristics of a luminous environment that determine quality are contrast, diffusion, and color rendering. Contrast, created by shadows or by relatively bright areas in a field of vision, affects visibility, mood, comfort, and eyestrain (Art. 15.10). Diffusion, the dispersion of light in all directions, may be produced by transmission or reflection. Diffuse transmission occurs when light from a bright source passes through a material that disperses the incident light, with consequent reduction in brightness. Translucent materials or specially constructed lenses are often employed for this purpose in lighting fixtures. Diffuse reflection occurs when incident light on a surface is reflected almost uniformly in all directions by tiny projections or hollows. Such surfaces appear nearly equally bright from all viewing angles. Diffusion tends to reduce contrast and promote uniformity of lighting.
Brightness Ratios. For good quality of lighting, the degree of contrast of light and dark areas in the field of vision should be limited to provide for viewing angle changes. The reason for this is that the eye adapts to the luminance of a task after a period of time. When the eye leaves the task and encounters a field of different brightness, the eye requires an appreciable time to adapt to the new condition, during which eyestrain or visual discomfort may be experienced. To promote quick, comfortable adaptation, brightness ratios in the visual environment should be kept small.
For example, in offices, the ratio of brightness of task to that of darker immediate surroundings should not exceed 3:1, and to that of darker, more remote surroundings, 5:1. Similarly, the ratio of brightness of lighter, more remote surroundings to that of the task should be less than 5:1. (See ‘‘Office Lighting,’’ RP 1, Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, 345 E. 47th St., New York, NY 10017- 2377.)
Direct Glare. When background luminance is much greater than that of the task, glare results. It may take the form of direct glare or reflected glare. Direct glare is produced when bright light sources are included in the field of vision and cause discomfort or reduced visibility of the task. The intensity of glare depends on the brightness, size, and relative position of the light sources in the field of vision, and on the general luminance of the field of vision.
The brighter the light source, the greater will be the glare, other factors remaining substantially constant. Similarly, the larger the light source, the greater will be the glare. A small bright lamp may not be objectionable; in fact, in some cases, it may be desirable to provide sparkle and relieve the monotony of a uniformly lit space, whereas a large, bright luminaire in the field of vision would cause discomfort.

In contrast, glare decreases as the distance of the light source from the line of sight increases. Also, glare decreases with increase in general luminance of the visual environment, or level of eye adaptation.
The Illuminating Engineering Society has established standard conditions for determining a criterion, called visual comfort probability (VCP), for rating discomfort glare. VCP indicates the percentage of observers with normal vision who will be visually comfortable in a specific environment. Tables of VCP values for various luminaires are available from their manufacturers. VCP values should be applied with caution, because they may not be applicable under conditions that depart significantly from the IES standard.
In general, direct glare should not be troublesome if all of the following conditions are satisfied for an overhead electric lighting system:
1. VCP is about 70 or more.
2. The ratio of maximum luminance of each luminaire to its average luminance is 5:1 (preferably 3:1) or less, at 45, 55, 65, 75, and 85 with respect to the vertical, when viewed lengthwise and crosswise.
3. The maximum luminance of each luminaire, when viewed lengthwise and crosswise, does not exceed the values given in Table 15.4 for the specified angles.
Reflected Glare. Also called veiling reflection because of the effect on visibility, reflected glare results when incident light from a bright light source is reflected by the task into the eyes of the observer and causes discomfort or loss of contrast.
Occurrence of glare depends on the brightness of the light source, overall luminance of the task, reflectance of the task surface, and relative positions of light source, task, and observer. When a bright light source is reflected into an observer’s eyes, it casts an apparent veil over the image of the task. The result is a loss of contrast that would otherwise be useful in perception of task size and silhouette details; for example, print that would be readily legible without reflected glare would become difficult to read in the presence of a veiling reflection.
Several techniques have been found useful in maintaining an adequate quantity of light while limiting loss of contrast. These include the following:
Observers, tasks, and light sources should be positioned to reduce reflected glare.
If there is only a single light source, positional change should remove it from the field of vision. When daylighting is used, occupants should be faced parallel to or away from windows, rather than toward them. When overhead luminaires are used, they should be positioned on either side of and behind the occupants, instead of in the general area above and forward of them. When continuous rows of linear luminaires are used, the occupants should be positioned between the rows with the line of sight parallel to the longitudinal axes of the luminaires.

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