Lux levels in buildings

Written by tim brugger
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Lux levels in buildings
Lux levels that are too high will do more harm than good. (Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Light intensity is measured in two ways. In the United States and other non-metric countries, a unit of light intensity is called a foot candle. In countries that use the metric system, the unit of light intensity is a lux. It's important for building managers and ergonomic engineers to know the lux level in a building so workers can avoid potential health issues, such as eye strain, that come with too little light.

Corridors and Other Low Lux Areas

Different areas of a building will have different lux levels. The use of any given space will determine the level it needs. Corridors, loading bays and large warehouse stores have little need for bright lighting, and lux levels ranging from 50 to 200 are appropriate. A typical sunny day has a lux level of 10,000.

General Workspaces

Retail stores and assembly lines require adequate lighting for safety and comfort, but do not need lighting to throw small details into relief. Lux levels from 400 to 500 are generally considered the norm for these general work areas. Too much lighting in a little-used area is wasteful.

More Detailed Workspaces

For work spaces that require more intricate work than a general office atmosphere, the ideal lux levels range from 750 to 1,000. Architects, structural engineers and other professions that require developing and reading schematics fall into this category. Supermarkets also often have lighting at these lux levels.

Highly Intricate Workspaces

For buildings that house people who are doing precise, detailed work, lux levels are often in the 2,000 range. Jobs that require inspection of fabric or locating defects before packaging may need lux levels in this range. Also, areas where detailed assembly work is done will need lux levels many times those of a corridor or general office space.

Extreme Lux Levels

Areas of a building that house long, extremely detailed tasks on tiny objects need the highest lux levels of the building. For these jobs, appropriate lux levels can be as high as 5,000 to 20,000. A laboratory with scientists working on small organisms is an example of an area that requires extremely high lux levels. These are speciality areas, however, and not necessarily the norm for most buildings and workplaces.

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