The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aim to reduce the carbon footprint left by all of their operations. This is being done gradually through a combination of new energy efficient worksites and refurbishments of existing buildings.

According to the EPA, the works form part of the agency’s objective to have all of their buildings Green Star accredited.

An EPA regional office, located in the south-east Queensland town of Toowoomba, is the recent facility to undergo refurbishment.

The refurbishment was managed by Project Services, the Queensland Government’s in-house project management and building design agency.

EPA, based at the Toowoomba office, worked with Project Services to identify the necessary changes to be made. EPA recall that previously staff was split between two levels of the building. There was no disabled access and there was a slightly gloomy atmosphere due to poor lighting.

The lighting conditions were further compounded by the lack of windows in the office. Situated on the top floor of a two level building, restrictions imposed by fire boundaries meant that installing additional windows was not possible. The space, measuring under 1000m2, is, for the most part, a cubicle office layout that extends into the room, making it difficult for windows alone to transmit daylight to all workstations.

The team used the Solamaster Daylighting system from Solatube Home Comfort Products that improved natural lighting conditions and decreased reliance on artificial lighting.

Solatube Home Comfort Products observe that the Solamaster Daylighting system offers better coverage for the cubicle layout of the office, and the dimming capability provided by the Daylight Dimmer gives workers higher control over lighting levels.

Using sophisticated daylighting simulation software, Solatube Home Comfort Products is able to predict what type of daylighting system is needed, how many are needed and what the resulting lighting performance will be.

According to Solatube Home Comfort Products, the client will brief them on the floor plan and tell where partitions and furniture, such as desks, will be located. From that, they ensure the lighting suits the occupant’s needs and the performance meets Australian lighting standards.

Solatube Home Comfort Products determine the appropriate lux level. Lux is a measure of the intensity of light on a given surface. In this instance, and for most office applications, 400 lux is a suitable level. Lighting levels beyond this can cause discomfort once glare from other sources such as computer monitors is taken into account.

In total, 32 Solamaster Daylighting systems, with Optiview Diffusers and Daylight Dimmers were used in office spaces and the boardroom, while three vented Solatube Infinity 400 were installed in bathrooms.

The lighting improvements resulting from the installation of the Solatube daylighting system were clear during the construction phase.

Throughout the process of retrofitting the office, builders such as FK Gardner & Sons in stages, had not used any form of artificial lighting. Instead they relied on the Solamaster Daylighting systems as the sole light source.

The indoor plants that have been brought in as a part of developing a greener working environment also seem to enjoy the natural light.

The benefits of replacing the need for artificial light with natural daylight extend beyond decreased power bills and improved energy efficiency. Introducing daylight into any indoor environment, particularly workplaces, can result in decreased absence rates, stress minimisation and increased worker productivity.

Research undertaken by Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the US state’s development agency for renewable energy, found that by improving indoor air quality, increasing daylight and controlling temperatures productivity can be boosted by over seven percent annually.