Lighting Renovations in Health Care Facilities

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Lighting Renovations Health Care Facilities

Health care retrofits – specifically hospitals – are both a great challenge and a great opportunity. The challenge is finding a time to do lighting work without interfering with patient care. The opportunity is that hospital lights will have long operating hours, so savings from an efficient fixture or lamp will add up more quickly!

  1. Inside
    The variety of spaces in a hospital ranges from soaring atrium lobbies to common spaces and hallways, which lead to more private areas like surgery suites or patient rooms.
  2. Outside
    As 24-hour facilities, the outside lights become even more important. Use the most efficient source possible – likely LED – and don’t be afraid to use occupancy sensors to reduce light levels at off-peak times when no one is present. Parking garages are an especially good application for this.
  3. Lamps
    LED surgical task lights are better than halogen because of the way they fail. Instead of an instant burnout requiring a back-up option during surgery, LED lamps will fade slowly so that replacements can be made between surgeries. If fluorescent lamps are used in a health care facility, be sure to standardize on a single color temperature. This will simplify maintenance, because storage is limited, and campuses can be large. If someone has the wrong color temperature lamp in hand, they aren’t likely to make a mile-long trek back to storage to get the right color. Keep it consistent for best results.
  4. Fixtures
    For the sake of disease control, fixtures in a health care environment must not allow airflow. Select airtight fixtures to prevent the transfer of airborne diseases from one room to the next. Access to all parts of the fixture should be through the fixture itself, so that the ceiling plenum is not compromised during maintenance. Fixture placement is also important in hospitals. In an office hallway, people experience the space while standing or walking, but in a health care corridor, people may be standing, walking, sitting (in a wheelchair) or lying down facing the ceiling. Consider viewing angles before locating fixtures!
  5. Controls
    Controls in a patient room can be overwhelming and confusing for patients and their visitors who have only a short stay. Keep them simple, and keep them accessible. Remember the occupants - patients with limited mobility - when locating controls. Based on personal experience, I’ve found even the lowest lighting levels to be too high for a sick person in a hospital bed. Full range dimming and sources that don’t shine in the patient’s face are imperative.

There are over 5,000 hospitals in the United States today, and lighting comprises 8.2% of their total energy use. Margins are small, so any lighting energy savings is significant. On the other hand, 60% of a hospital’s total cost is wrapped up in personnel. If lighting can contribute to the health and well being of the staff, that is a good investment! Motivation for retrofit in health care lighting may not be as strongly tied to energy savings as it is to ease of maintenance, safety, and wellness. Keep your eyes open for healthcare lighting renovation opportunities.

Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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