The office culture of generation Y, the digital natives who grew up with smartphones and tablets, is adapting to the latest trends to create the best possible conditions for work. The most influential of the five mega-trends that will essentially determine the future of offices is the open office landscape, that in its complexity also makes completely new demands on lighting concepts. In addition to technical analysis, an empathetic, holistic and individual approach is indispensable if light is to effectively support architecture and work processes.

Progressive digitalisation has not only changed the communication behaviour and social interaction of generation Y, but has also completely upturned their work structures in offices. The classic office layout with territorial work areas is being increasingly replaced by flexible structures that are optimised for working with mobile end devices. Informal methods of communication are simultaneously given more flexibility, as unusual ideas demand surroundings that are more relaxing than traditional work spaces.

In modern, future-fit office layouts, this recognition is reflected by equipping open office landscapes with diverse functional zones. Lounge areas are given a key role in this respect, where relaxed atmospheres enable employees to retreat with their laptop or tablet for the purpose of developing creative concepts. Just as beneficial in terms of creativity are similar areas for informal discussions among colleagues. Team zones, that in open offices are only protected by privacy walls, have replaced the former cell-based office areas.

Those who want to solve a task with high levels of concentration, or perhaps make a telephone call without disturbances, temporarily use the calmness of a so-called silent room.

Four further mega-trends relate to the:

Mobility and flexibility at workstations themselves:

Seating furniture that moves around the space with the workers provides increased flexibility and also motivates towards greater cooperation. Spontaneous meetings or discussions while standing take place at height-adjustable work tables. 

Green areas in office environments:

Plants and walls with vertical gardens fetch nature into interiors, to give these more appeal and to create a productivity-promoting atmosphere.

Social communication:

The level of communication is generally high with a group lunch and drinks. As a result, future offices place more value on providing kitchenettes, coffee points and bistros.

Colour design:

The results of research verify that certain colours such as blue, green and red promote productivity, whereas other colours lead to premature fatigue with workers. Hence designing with colours will be increasingly focused on in future offices.

Lighting concepts for open office landscapes

The highly complex structure of future offices requires new lighting solutions that far exceed a mere differentiation between workplace lighting and general lighting. The reason for this is that a professional, holistic design with light in open spaces significantly contributes to an adequate and atmospheric design of the various functional zones.

With each planning, three basics are essential for the illumination of buildings:

  1. The aesthetic aspirations of the architecture:
    Which emotions should lighting arouse?
  2. The ergonomic aspect:
    Which effect does daylight have? How does artificial light function with regard glare, light colour and colour irritation?
  3. Energy efficiency:
    Which illuminance levels are actually needed for the various requirements and for aesthetic lighting, and which luminaires and light sources are best suited for these tasks?

Ambitious lighting concepts for complex structures are able to unite the requirements of these basic factors with the desires of the construction authorities and the needs of workers. This in turn can only be achieved with individual, holistic planning, that in addition to a technical analysis also postulates an empathetic analysis. Applying this approach, a lighting solution that is pioneering for the future of offices was implemented in the Centre for Visual Engineering ZVE, a new building on the campus of the Fraunhofer Association in Stuttgart, Germany.

Complex structures demand individual lighting concepts

The office building complex planned by UNStudio as part of a 3-D process is described by office owner Ben van Berkel as being a reflection of the very latest concepts for integrative and sustainable planning. The lighting concept reflects these parameters to respond directly to the architecture.

The lighting has a genuinely pioneering function and serves to identify the various zones in the open, technically innovative structure. General lighting and accent lighting of the building structures also create a balance between internal areas (such as offices and laboratories) and public areas. The stairway located in the central atrium, the core of the company, connects the five storeys in a curved, flowing design, and is illuminated

by safe step lighting and given a central focus with a light installation. Although fixed light outlets and sprinkler systems, concrete as a material for the walls and ceilings, and installation points for acoustic absorbing baffles proved to be limiting for the planning process, various alternative solutions were drawn up.

A precondition for this was an understanding of the building in its entire complexity, as shown for example with the floor plan, and only with a detailed analysis of the interior building structure did the inherent challenge for lighting design become clear, that in turn was to clarify and emphasise this innovative structure.

Indoor lighting: an identification of architectural and functional structures

Among several suggestions for radial or linear lighting for the organically flowing office areas in the head building structure, the UNStudio and Fraunhofer project team specified a radial lighting installation with filigree suspended task luminaires featuring a striking design. These ensure a sufficiently illuminated working environment with direct and indirect distribution high-powered LEDs. Energy consumption protects resources due to daylight-dependent control and presence detection.

General lighting for the entrance area and the office areas located in the core of the building was implemented via attractive ceiling surface-mounted LED luminaires with a harmonious appearance. The corona-formed indirect light emission creates a decorative element, and luminaires also assume a guidance function with their arrangement in series. Coloured light with RGB luminaires can be individually set to the emotional desires of the employees in the lounge areas.

The fenestrated atrium in the roof area was a particular challenge that reflected the complex construction of the arabesque staircase, as this placed multiple demands on the lighting solution – light for seeing, light for viewing and safe step lighting were all needed. At the same time the architects specified a 'swarm' lighting installation that should symbolise the intelligence and accumulated knowledge of the group as an eye-catcher.

The lighting concept responded to these requirements with a custom-developed LED construction containing two photometric components. Cylindrical, suspended, frosted glass luminaires in two construction sizes are grouped above the steps in the form of striking light sculptures, emitting diffuse light that attracts attention and simultaneously provides general lighting. Vertical light emission from the lower section of the luminaire provides safe illumination of the stairway steps.


The Centre for Visual Engineering ZVE of the Fraunhofer Association is an outstanding example of how future offices may appear if the expectations of the younger generation in terms of smart, interactive, empathetic and useful solutions are implemented in favour of higher output. The project was also pioneering with regard to its innovative lighting solutions that support the architectural ambience, promote positive emotions in employees, contribute to greater motivation,concentration and performance capability,

and feature high levels of efficiency. To solve such complex tasks with optimum quality of light was only possible with innovative, highly developed LED technology based on many years of experience, and the installation also proved to be extremely economic due to intelligent light management systems that incorporated daylight and presence-dependent control functions. This made it possible to implement specific functions without the need for dispensing with others.