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Lighting for hospitals and healthcare facilities: ANSI/IES RP-29-16 updates

The ANSI/IES RP-29-16 Lighting for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities (RP-29-16), the industry’s most prominent reference for lighting design guidance in healthcare environments, has been completely overhauled in its most recent iteration.

While not prescriptive in nature, RP-29-16 provides context for lighting trends and opportunities, identifies challenges found in different healthcare spaces, and explains the various recommended lighting design practices contained within the document. The newest version of the guide for hospitals and healthcare facilities replaces the previous version, ANSI/IES RP-29-06, published 10 years earlier.

A decade of change in the lighting and healthcare industries

Much has changed in the lighting and healthcare industries since 2006. The use of LEDs for general ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting and almost every other type of lighting has exploded, creating sweeping change across the lighting industry. New terms and metrics have emerged to create a dialogue about this new lighting source and develop best practices for designing with it.

The last 10 years have also seen a rapid advancement in the level of controllability and automation that can be designed into a lighting system. While LED lighting and lighting controls have become increasingly more efficient, lighting technology now offers benefits quite germane to the healthcare wheelhouse, such as safeguarding occupant comfort and even maintaining circadian rhythms. Beyond technological advancements, there has been an incredible amount of lighting-focused research conducted over the last decade. Today, the research suggests that lighting impacts health in a very real and significant way.

New healthcare trends are also emerging. As the population ages, healthcare spaces must address the different needs of older people, moving toward hospitality-inspired designs and embracing practices focused on sustainability. In addition, energy codes continue to become more rigorous, further requiring the elimination of wasted energy and more efficient system designs.

The IES Healthcare Committee approached the update to the ANSI/IES reference for healthcare lighting design with these things in mind:

  • Dramatic changes that have occurred in the lighting space
  • A growing realization of the important role that lighting plays in the health of people
  • Emerging design trends of the healthcare space

The new RP-29-16 was written with an emphasis on:

  • The patient experience
  • Sharing the new evidence-based findings with the interested design audience
  • The evidence-based design practices those findings support

New illumination recommendations

The Illumination Recommendation for Healthcare Facilities is an important piece of the RP-29-16 update. This table identifies recommended horizontal and vertical illuminance design targets (in lux) for room types and tasks commonly found in healthcare facilities. This latest version of the Illuminance Recommendation tables includes crucial formatting and organizational updates:

  • The format of the table mirrors the format created for the IES Lighting Handbook 10th Edition. The format used in the latest RP-29-16 is materially different from the format found in the previous iteration.
  • The organization of the healthcare room types and terminology has been aligned with that used in the Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities by the Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI), making it easier for project teams of different disciplines to collaborate.

Using the Illumination Recommendation Table: things to remember

Task illuminance vs. area illuminance: The new table format created some confusion, because illuminance values are defined as being either illuminance targets for the area (designated by a yellow box in the column) or a task-specific illuminance value (designated by a green box) for tasks that regularly occur in that area. The application of task illuminance values as general area illuminance targets is a common mistake for professionals using the Illumination Recommendation table.

Consider the visual ages of observers: The Illuminance Recommendation table identifies different illuminance targets based on age. There are three age categories: younger than 25, between 25 and 65, and older than 65. The middle category, for ages 25-65, is shaded. Users often immediately refer to the shaded category. However, RP-29-16 directly cautions against this: “Patient population distribution often skews toward the elderly, who can require several times as much light to perform the same task as younger people. Even in facilities where patients are young, such as children’s hospitals and pediatric wards, medical staff and caregivers may be older, and increasingly so as the workforce ages.”

New illumination recommendations: lobby example

RP-29-16 includes many important changes. These changes represent a patient-focused approach to illumination based on an incredible amount of recent research. The result? Recommendations that consider the comfort, function, safety, health and wellness, and sustainability of a project.

For example, RP-29-16 now recommends two lighting levels for the entrance of a general lobby, instead of one. RP-29-16 recommends one light level for daytime and one for nighttime. If you are designing for people over 65, the recommended illumination levels are 800 lux during the day and 400 lux at night. These two lighting levels are designed to better accommodate the eye’s natural ability to adapt from bright and sunny outdoor conditions to more muted indoor illumination levels.

This version of RP-29-16 is a complete revamp of previous lighting design recommendations for healthcare spaces. Compared to its predecessor, it comes closer to meeting the unique needs of patients in different types of spaces, and it is supported by research that wasn’t available 10 years ago.

Get more information or purchase RP-29-16.