Green Dental Office Design – Improving the Lighting

One of the biggest areas of concern in dental office design is making sure that there is proper lighting, especially in the operatories. Traditionally, fluorescent ceiling lighting has been used to provide general purpose lighting. One of the challenges, however, is to do so with color correcting lamps (bulbs) so that the lighting does not affect the color of the patient’s teeth and the best possible color matches can be obtained.

If the dental office was not built with a dental office designer involved that watched for this, often times low-cost general purpose fluorescent fixtures and standard lamps were installed and the dentist and hygienist have had to deal with the poor illumination and quality that they produce.

Today, as we move toward higher efficiency and green dental office design, there are better options. Moving to T5 lamp fluorescent fixtures can improve the energy by as much as 28%. For example, a 35W T5 lamp puts out 3650 lumens with an efficacy of 104 lumens per watt. This compares to a 40W T12 lamp at only 3,050 lumens and an efficacy of 81 lumens per watt, or a 32W T8 at only 2,700 lumens and an efficacy of 89 lumens per watt. (source: 1)

If your dental office design makes use of can lighting rather than tube, replacing the lamps with compact fluorescents (CFL) or LED’s is a great way to reduce your energy usage and “green” your office. LED’s generally score 92 on the Color Rendering Index as compared to 80 to 85 for other light sources, giving a “truer” white light. The sun is measured at 100 CRI. As far as efficacy goes LED’s can generate as many lumens at 15W as a fluorescent produces at 35W. That’s over a 50% reduction in energy usage.

Another green design advantage LED’s have over incandescent and fluorescent lighting is that they contain no hazardous chemicals. Most fluorescent and CFL’s contain mercury, lead, sodium, or other hazardous materials that can end up in land-fills and leach into the water supply.

Lastly, in addition to reduced energy usage LED’s last a long time. Since they don’t really burn out, their life is measured in lumen depreciation, and most LED’s can last 50,000 hours or more before their lumen output depreciates to 70% of its original output. This is the point at which the Illuminating Engineering Society says they should be replaced.

So, if you are planning a dental office remodel or a design for your new dental office, be sure to ask your dental office designer to make use of higher efficiency, greener lighting in the design. If your not currently doing a remodel but are looking for ways to green your office and reduce your energy usage, converting your lamps or fixture to T5 fluorescents or LED’s is a great place to start!

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