Beyond the Bulb and Before the Switch

(Hint: all questions have the same answer)

1. What single action can:
• Increase:
o Employee productivity by a proven 2 – 5%
o Employee memory and attention
o Employee morale
o Perception of corporate value
• Decrease:
o Employee sick time
• Impress and appease clients, customers and partners?

2. What can reduce a buildings heating and cooling expense by 50 – 75 cents per square foot?

3. What can reduce overall office energy demand by 22%?

4. What can reduce office space light pollution and increase business environmental rating?

5. Is FREE to use?

Know the answer?
Give up?


Since the days of the Pantheon until well after the discovery of electricity, buildings had to be designed to optimize the flow of sunlight through the space. Today the same efforts that once went into design efficiency for natural light get poured into the designing of electric light.

Daylighting describes the concept of designing spaces to optimize sunlight to brighten our workspaces. As opposed to the expense of electric light – installing, maintaining and utility fees - sunlight is FREE.
In North America lighting accounts for approximately 40% of a commercial buildings expenses, usually unnecessarily so. Today’s typical office space is over lit by approximately 500 lux per square foot – about 42 extra desk lamps on your desk than necessary - double the amount of electric light than is required by Canadian lighting codes.

Humans spend over 90% of their lives indoor our health is directly correlated to receiving optimal levels of quality natural light. Maximizing the amount of natural light in an office space has been proven to have positive impacts on employee mental health and productivity and the proven 22% total energy savings is a welcome nice benefit.

The Canadian Governments ‘Daylighting Guide for Canadian Commercial Buildings’ states:
“…A typical company spends annually about $20 per square metre for energy in an office building, about $200 per square metre for rent, and about $2,000 per square metre for labour [EBN, 1999]. Thus, a one- percentage-point improvement in worker productivity could save as much money annually as the company’s entire energy budget.”
A study done by the California Energy Commission found that office spaces optimized for daylighting advantage increased worker productivity by 2 – 5%.  Therefore the efforts required to rearrange your office space to harvest daylight can be paid back within the first year through increased productivity and decreased energy demand.

Many office space are already built and will not have the ability to implement light harvesting techniques such as light shelves on windows or clerestory windows until the next major renovation or new building.
Here are a few techniques for increasing daylight in current office spaces with essentially no cost (and all gain!)

1. Release your inner interior designer
a. Arrange furniture for maximum daylight penetration: ensure furniture and cubicle walls do not obstruct sunlight.
2. Cut it down
a. Cubicle or partition walls should be placed perpendicular to the windows and be made of light coloured fabric.  If they must be parallel, decrease the wall height or replace top portions of the walls with windows to transmit more light.
3. Remember the first ‘R’ - REDUCE
a. Remove every second bank light bulbs in hallways and corridors – instantly decreasing lighting demand in those areas by half!
b. Ask employees if they would like to have lights removed from their space.
4. Brighten Up
a. Avoid interior designs with dark colours. Keep wall and flooring colours light and bright and save the dark colours for accent pieces.
5. Reduce glare
a. To reduce glare aim for matte finishes on surfaces. Place computer or TV screens perpendicular to windows.

Ba-da Bing, Ba-da booms! As quick as you can say “Bob’s your Uncle.” You have increased your sunlight penetration, worker satisfaction, productivity and health and reduced your electricity demand.


Redbird offers great behaviour change workshops which helps organizations or companies define and develop sustainability campaigns for their space.

Email or call us at 250 479 3806 to talk about our behaviour change workshops!