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In the late ‘90s Shoreditch, a previously run down area in London’s East End, set the bar for successfully repurposing old industrial buildings into uber-stylish, design-conscious work spaces and subsequently raised the profile (and property prices) of the area. Cities across the UK have since followed suit, bringing about the regeneration of Nottingham’s Lace Market, Manchester’s cotton mills, Sheffield’s steelworks and Liverpool’s dockyards.
Aside from the potential return on investing in an up-and-coming area, there are many aesthetic benefits to this type of renovation, not least the amazing original features that hint towards the buildings’ past life. However, repurposing an old industrial building into an office fit for modern-day working practicalities doesn’t come without its challenges, especially when original features can sometimes restrict the installation of essential elements, such as lighting and wiring.
Here we look at how wireless lighting can be the perfect solution for integrating lighting whilst leaving the original features of the building undisturbed.
One of the most attractive features of an industrial building is the amount of available space. However, on a practical level, larger spaces require more lighting, and as lighting accounts for an average of 40% of building operations costs, it goes without saying that this is an area that can be a huge financial drain.
The beauty of wireless lighting is that you have custom control of your environment and can remotely manage the lighting levels and timings throughout the entire facility. By configuring lighting so that it is only on when it is needed — and at a brightness necessary for the task and/or time of day — you can save up to 50% on energy wasted due to lighting. Here’s how:
When faced with a striking, exposed brick wall, the last thing you want to do is cover it with visible wiring; likewise, if the walls are plastered, the distressed original plaster can also serve as a feature in itself. In a modern office, wires would simply be concealed behind the wall surface; however, this can prove to be problematic in an old building, as time-worn walls are unlikely to stand up to significant drilling, and may result in excessive cracking or crumbling due to the age of the original plaster. Aesthetically, this is obviously not great, and there is also the potential risk of causing costly structural damage.
Wireless lighting presents the ideal solution for avoiding these problems, as the entire set up requires minimal installation and disruption of walls — with some models you can even use existing fixtures to install controllers. Once the basic set up is in place the entire system is controlled wirelessly, via tablets or smart phones, allowing switches and sensors to be installed almost anywhere within the workspace.
When breaking down a large open-plan space into smaller offices or work stations, you may find that the individual spaces are dictated by the positioning of windows, beams, pipes and supporting walls. As a result, office spaces are likely to be inconsistently sized, with some benefitting from more natural light than others.
Again, a controllable wireless lighting system can help balance the lighting levels across work stations, providing different intensities of light according to available natural light. By remotely managing the lighting of a building ‘light by light’, it is also possible to create mood lighting bespoke to particular spaces. For example, an area that receives little or no natural light could be made into a creative work space, enhancing the mood of the area with considered low lighting.
In some cases, industrial buildings may be listed, or the set up may make it physically impossible to carry out the level of refurbishment that you may wish. Either way, it is highly likely that you will need to be flexible and find alternative solutions to some of the traditional refurbishment methods to help you achieve the end result that you require.
The main thing to keep reminding yourself is that the building was formally used for a totally different purpose, and designed purely with that end use in mind; never in their wildest dreams did the original architects consider that one day the building would house a media company or such like!
With that thought in mind, embrace the quirks and imperfections, highlight the original features, and where possible, find innovative technology to unite the modern day with the past.