CHALLENGES LAGOS

Lighting the Global Workspace has taught us to be careful with comparisons, as contextual particularities and perception can make them relative.

In Lagos most office environments fall below international standards for lighting levels, temperature and acoustics, as well as density. Nevertheless, employees reported overall satisfaction with their workplace, which suggests there may be other criteria that influence their well-being. Our research in Lagos raised a central question: Is the intense sunshine a friend or a foe? As an inescapable source of excessive light, the sun creates extreme contrast and glare that make working conditions difficult. On the other hand, the potential for indoor lighting, energy efficiency and environmental sustainability is
largely untapped.

Hermetically Sealed Environments

An architecture consultancy firm in the government district keeps the blinds closed most of the time to avoid excess sunlight and uses white ceramic floor tiles to brighten up the interior of the office. Due to the noise and dust downstairs, they cannot open the windows. Instead, they employ air conditioners to regulate the temperature. Despite the abundance of light and energy outside, many offices in Lagos still rely on artificial lighting and cooling. What creative inventions may arise from this challenging paradox to address the environmental context in Lagos?

Improvised Adaptations
Clever, low-tech solutions in some offices enhance the reach of lighting, improve comfort levels and reduce environmental impact. An architecture office located in bustling mainland Lagos maximizes luminosity with light-coloured walls, ceiling panelling and reflective floor finishes. These surfaces allow for an overall brighter environment, even when the blinds are drawn to shield the office from the sun. During the day, employees open the windows and rely on ceiling fans to help regulate the temperature. The glass paneling between individual desks improve individual acoustics and reduce noise, while simultaneously promoting sociability and the distribution of light.  

Access and Control of the View
Afirm of financial and management consultants occupy the eighth floor of a 20-storey commercial building in the central business district of Lagos. All employees sit in an open office layout, but only half get sufficient natural light. Windows look out onto relaxing views of the Marina and the seaport across the lagoon. However, the blinds are drawn most of the time due to excess sunlight and glare. The staff wishes theycould all enjoy more natural light and waterfront views, while avoidingthe inescapable glare. Perhaps this could be done if employees could control shades with gradients or transparencies that selectively let light in, but kept the excess brightness out.

Openness and Privacy with Transparencies and Partitions
Onthe 8th floor of a 10-storey building, another architecture firm’s open plan offers an unobstructed view of the entire office and facilitates communication. They employ translucent blinds along the large windows that flank the north and south elevations. All employees have access to the view and can even draw the blinds by section, several of them still feel a need for more partitions and privacy. Although the desire for bright, open spaces sometimes conflicts with a need for divisions and privacy, this tension may lead us towards new materials that can selectively manage the passage of sound and light.

Conversions Challenge Flexibility and Circulation
In a lower-middle income neighbourhood of Lagos, a structural and civil engineering consultancy firm occupies a former residential building. The conversion of bedrooms and living room into an office raises numerous challenges associated to the size of the spaces, the height of the ceilings and the high concentration of workers. Finding opportunities for flexibility circulation seem impossible without serious architectural interventions. In this case the challenge is for lighting to adapt to existing infrastructure and enhance users' comfort in small, segmented spaces. From Lagos we learned that sometimes lighting in office environments has nothing to do with lighting design and can actually be traced back to business practices. We found that most offices in our survey pay a flat fee for electricity as part of their contract, regardless of their usage.  Perhaps the irrelevance of their energy bill makes them less interested in natural light and energy efficiency all together.  How could a small adjustment in rental schemes affect awareness of daylight, renewable energy and workplace lighting design?

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