Max Fordham's London Office Lighting Scheme

By Nick Cramp

28 August 2018

When we design lighting systems for our clients, we give a lot of importance to creating a healthy environment. Recently, we were able to apply this approach to ourselves by designing our new lighting installation at the Rotunda (Max Fordham’s London office).

We designed our new lighting scheme to offer a number of benefits, including:

  • Greater Energy Efficiency
  • Flexibility and User Control
  • A healthier environment and improved well-being

Within the office space, we have functional working lights that are controlled both through PIR sensors to save energy, and mode settings on the desks to allow us to choose the light level. To complement this conventional installation, we developed a system for biodynamic lighting in conjunction with our in-house environmental psychologist, Henry Pelly, and with our office well-being strategy.

We know that as a species we are hard-wired into the physical facts of our environment, and specifically the changing nature of daylight. It drives many of our body processes from hormone secretion to blood pressure. Therefore, lighting that can replicate the variations in tone, brightness and distribution of natural light can help us to be more efficient, healthier and to sleep better too.

There’s a lot of evidence to support this premise, although the detail – especially as concerning why our brain sends particular signals to the body – is not so well understood.  We have therefore taken the opportunity not only to provide a biodynamic system that works to the best of our understanding, but one that can also be programmed to let us investigate new ways of improving physiological and psychological health. Once this summer ends and the nights start to draw in, we will be able to try out these schemes and see how they work, creating a better environment in the office for ourselves and learning lessons we can apply on our future projects.

Basic Mode – Tonal variation

This is the basic model that we currently have running. The colour temperature of the ring of lights on each floor changes according to what we can expect to find outside. Lighting like this is proven to help people feel more alert during the day, and sleep better at night too.


Enhanced mode – solar tracker

This involves using the lights as a solar clock that tracks the movement of the sun around the Rotunda, illuminating the ring of lights accordingly. We know that the colour temperature of light is not all that helps us function well, but also that direct sunlight and its variations are important too. So we strive to keep some inside our buildings when we can - hence why we have added an advanced mode, which moves the position of sun and distribution of light in the sky.

We will try this out later in the year, and our engineers should be able to look up and come to understand where the sun is even without any view of the sky outside.

There are lots of ways of doing this – lighting one ring at a time, colouring each ring to match the sun and sky at that time, or using a changing palette of white tones. We also need to decide what to do at night (we could have a moon tracker, keep watching the movement of the sun though we can’t see it out of the window, or just keep the lighting static).


We are going to try some programmes in the coming months to see if they offer even greater improvements in our well-being than just tonal variation alone.

We hope to report back some successful results.

Nick Cramp is a Senior Partner and Head of the Light+Air Team. He is based at our London office and can be contacted on 020 7267 5161 and by email at


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