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IES vs. UL: Who’s Lighting the (Circadian) Way?


The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) are in a duel over standards that may govern your circadian rhythm for lighting in the workplace. IES is the ANSI-accredited Lighting Standards Developing Organization in North America. IES has prepared a forthcoming publication, Recommended Practice for Supporting the Physiological and Behavioral Effects of Lighting in Daytime Environments. Similarly, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), also respected independent safety science company, just completed public review of its Recommended Practice and Design Guideline for Promoting Circadian Entrainment with Light for Day-Active People, UL RP 24480. Although UL is an ANSI-accredited organization, IES claims UL’s publication was not developed using an ANSI-based subject matter expert consensus process. Why do we care?

The effect of inadequate or inappropriate lighting on human health, particularly for those who work or stay inside buildings for long hours every day (think hospitals, offices, cleanrooms, for example), has been a topic of considerable research in the past 10 years. As “Well Building Certification” and other rating systems, along with standards and – ultimately – responsive codes progress, it will be important for the building community to understand the underpinnings of healthy lighting and lighting control systems. The IES Light and Human Health Committee is composed of prominent researchers, lighting scientists, and lighting practitioners experienced in the subject of light and human health. For their guideline, UL sought input from design professionals, manufacturers, facility owners, and scientists.

The IES “urges the lighting industry to exercise caution when considering a non-consensus document for design, application, product qualification or regulatory purposes.” More importantly for us, it will be useful for the industry to understand the differences and applications as they affect both human and building performance, and which recommendations will end up being included in future codes.

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