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Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society

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Illuminance Selection Based on Visual

Performance—and other Fairy Stories
P.R. Boyce
Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy, NY.
Published online: 19 Sep 2013.

To cite this article: P.R. Boyce (1996) Illuminance Selection Based on Visual Performance—and other Fairy Stories, Journal
of the Illuminating Engineering Society, 25:2, 41-49, DOI: 10.1080/00994480.1996.10748146

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00994480.1996.10748146


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Illuminance Selection Based on Visual Performance—

and Other Fairy Stories

Introduction onyms. Task performance is the performance of the

Once upon a time, there were three illuminating complete task. Visual performance is the performance
engineers who lived in a small house on Wall Street. of the visual component of the task. Task performance
They were poor but they were honest. They made their is what is needed in order to establish cost-benefit ratios
living by providing clear advice on good lighting prac­ comparing the costs of providing a lighting installation
tice. But they did not sleep well. Their nights were with the resulting benefits in terms of better task per­
haunted by the knowledge that much of what they rec­ formance. Visual performance is the only thing that
ommended was based on accumulated experience and changing the lighting conditions can affect directly.
judgment—it was a matter of consensus. In the darkest The underlying reason why a magic formula cannot
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hours of the night they often thought that one day the exist is that no task is purely visual. Most apparently visu­
wolf of litigation would come to their door and would al tasks have three components: visual, cognitive, and
huff and puff and blow their house down. But with each motor. The visual component refers to the process of
dawn came new hope. There was a solution. It was to extracting information relevant to the performance of
find the magic formula, a formula that accurately the task using the sense of sight. The cognitive compo­
described the relationship between lighting conditions nent is the process by which sensory stimuli are inter­
and the performance of any task. With such a formula, preted and the appropriate action determined. The
the illuminating engineers could be objective and motor component is the process by which the stimuli
abjure consensus. They could simply state what the rela­ are manipulated to extract information or the actions
tionship was between lighting conditions and task per­ decided upon are carried out.
formance and leave the users to decide what level of task As an example, consider the task of driving a car
performance they wanted. Alternatively, they could along a road. The driver scans the road ahead and its
make recommendations based on the formula, explicit­ environs to extract information using the sense of sight.
ly stating the conditions they had used. Either way they This is the visual component. The significance of the
would have a defensible basis for their recommenda­ information extracted is evaluated by the brain to deter­
tions, a base strong enough to defy the wolf of litigation. mine the appropriate action, which may range from
Year after year they persisted with their search for the doing nothing, to braking sharply, to changing lanes.
magic formula. After many years and several false This is the cognitive component. Actually moving the
dawns, the magic formula was found and they all lived steering wheel or applying the brake is the motor com­
happily ever after. ponent. Of course, this is a continuous process where
Unfortunately, the above is a fairy story, or rather, the visual, cognitive, and motor components interact and
problem is real but the solution is not. This paper overlap. Nonetheless, the only part of the task perfor­
explains why a magic formula describing the relation­ mance that changing the lighting conditions can influ­
ship between lighting conditions and task performance ence is the visual component. This implies that the
cannot exist in any general form; discusses the differ­ effect of lighting conditions on task performance
ence between visual wants and visual needs; and con­ depends on the role of the visual component in the
cludes that consensus is an inevitable component in all structure of the task.
illuminance recommendations. The role of the visual component in the structure of
a task can vary in at least three ways. First, the magni­
Why a magic formula cannot exist tude of the visual component can vary between tasks.
Before discussing the relationship between lighting For example, the visual component is greater for data
conditions and task performance it is necessary to entry from written material than from an audio source.
define some terms. Specifically, the two terms task per­ Second, the significance of the visual component in the
formance and visual performance need to be clearly dis­ structure of the task can influence the importance of
tinguished because they are sometimes used as syn- the lighting conditions, and this significance is not nec­
essarily related to the magnitude of the visual compo­
Author's affiliation: Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic nent. For example, in the construction of an electronic
Institute Troy, NY. circuit mounted on a printed circuit board, the visual
JOURNAL of the Illuminating Engineering Society Summer 1996

inspection of the printed circuit board may take only a ing conditions that would ensure it would be performed
short time, but if a fault is not detected, the consequen­ adequately. But there is no guarantee that this would rep­
tial costs in terms of time and money may be substantial. resent an appropriate trade-off of cost-benefits or that
Third, the emphasis of the visual component can be dif­ the lighting required for the worst case would also be
ferent for different tasks. For example, reading low con­ suitable for easier tasks. Therefore, even if a magic for­
trast, small print, of the type found on car rental agree­ mula did exist, the realities of application require a con­
ments, places greater emphasis on the illuminance pro­ sensus about the tasks to which it should be applied, for
vided than the spectral content of that light, while dis­ each application.
criminating between textiles of different colors places
greater emphasis on the spectral content of the light So what use are visual performance models?
than the illuminance above the threshold required for If a magic formula quantifying the relationship
color vision. between lighting conditions and task performance can
All this should not be taken to mean that the lighting never be achieved—and if it could, could only be
conditions provided are unimportant for task perfor­ applied through a consensus process—what is the value
mance. A simple comparison of the difficulty experi­ of the various visual performance models that have been
enced when driving by day, by night, and in dense fog is developed? The answer is that even if they do not predict
sufficient to illustrate the importance of the visual com­ task performance, they do tell us what effects lighting
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ponent to driving. Rather, what it does mean is that every can have on the visual performance of tasks. Such knowl­
task is unique in its balance between visual, cognitive, edge is valuable because it quantifies the maximum
and motor components and hence in the effect of light­ effect a change in lighting conditions can have as well as
ing conditions on task performance. It is this uniqueness the relative importance of changing the task stimulus by
that makes the existence of a magic formula quantifying changing the task materials and changing the lighting
the precise relationship between lighting conditions and conditions. Indeed, it would be possible to make lighting
task performance for a wide range of tasks, impossible. recommendations based on achieving a minimum level
of visual performance. Such recommendations would be
Even if a magic formula was possible, justified by the assertion that the business of lighting is to
could you use it? make things visible, not to maximize task performance.
Let us suppose that all the above is false. A magic for­ Maximizing task performance is the business of manage­
mula could be found that would quantify the relation­ ment. Lighting has a role to play in maximizing task per­
ship between lighting conditions and task performance, formance but it is one role among many, and in many
but could it readily be applied? I suggest the answer is modern.production facilities, it is a minor role. However,
negative. The reality of much lighting practice is that a lighting is a prime mover in making things visible.
single lighting installation serves to light many different Having decided that visual performance models are
tasks. A look around any office or workshop will demon­ valuable, it is necessary to consider which model is most
strate the truth of this statement. Further, most people useful. The development of visual performance models
do a range of visually different tasks throughout each has an interesting and converging history. Some of die
day. A consideration of the various materials you look at earliest attempts to determine the effects of lighting con­
each day from which you extract visual information, ditions on task performance occurred in the 1920s,
which can range from faces to computer screens, will among them being some of the famous Hawthorne
confirm this assertion. Furthermore, the visual charac­ experiments. These attempts took the form of field tri­
ters of tasks can be expected to change over the life of a als seeking a link between the lighting in a factory or part
lighting installation. To appreciate this, it is only neces­ of a factory, and the output achieved. These studies, and
sary to consider how the nature of office work has the others that have occurred intermittently since, did
changed over the last decade. little more than demonstrate that lighting can improve
This inherent variability in the visual demands in task performance but the extent to which an improve­
many workplaces makes the idea of exactly specifying the ment occurs, or if it occurs at all, is different for different
characteristics of the lighting to be provided on the basis tasks.
of optimizing task performance unrealistic. Indeed, it It soon became evident tiiat the chances of develop­
reduces the argument about the exact relationship ing a comprehensive model of visual performance from
between lighting conditions and task performance to field studies was remote. An alternative approach, based
one of the "how many angels can dance on the head of a on modeling the effect of lighting, was proposed by
pin" variety. True, it would be possible to recommend Beutell and implemented by Weston. Beutell's sugges­
lighting conditions on a worst case basis, i.e., identify the tion was that the visual difficulty of each task could be
task that is most visually difficult and recommend light­ characterized by the visual size and luminance contrast
Summer 1996 JOURNAL of the Illuminating Engineering Society

of the critical detail of die task, any relative movement
nance contrasts, based on the speed with which people
between the observer and the task, and the degree of
could carry out the task. Clear and Berman later provid­
emphasis to be given to the task in its setting. Weston
ed an alternative, visibility level model to fit both the
took this approach and developed a standard task, the
speed and accuracy data obtained on the numerical ver­
Landolt ring task, in which the observer examines an
ification task.
array of Landolt rings and identifies all those with a
While attempts were made to minimize the motor and
specified gap orientation. The Landolt rings forming
cognitive components of the numerical verification task,
the array can easily be varied in visual size and luminous
there remained a lingering doubt that the resulting RVP
contrast. Then the effect of lighting conditions on
model would not apply to other tasks. To overcome this
other tasks can be predicted by measuring the visual
doubt, other experiments were undertaken using simple
size and luminance contrast of the task of interest and
reaction time to the detection of a stimulus as the depen­
using them to identify the matching Landolt ring task.
dent variable. The advantage of using this method is
The effect of lighting conditions on the performance of
that the cognitive and motor components of the task can
the matching Landolt ring task provides an estimate of
be minimized, the visual component maximized, and the
their effects on the task of interest. Despite its crude
question of the trade-off between speed and accuracy
nature, the model that resulted from this approach
rendered moot. The results of these experiments con­
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demonstrated the nonlinear nature of the effect of illu­

firmed the RVP model as a comprehensive model of visu­
minance and the relative importance of visual size,
al performance. Bailey, Clear, and Berman produced a
luminance contrast, and illuminance.
7 competing model using reading speed data and based
Yet another approach was developed by Blackwell. on visual size rather than luminance contrast. They con­
Blackwell's approach was to quantify the visibility of a firmed the general form of the contrast-based RVP
stimulus in terms of its visibility level. In its simplest form, model but claim their size-based model is more accurate.
the visibility level of a stimulus is the ratio of the lumi­ Despite the inevitable conflict between these more
nance contrast of the stimulus to the threshold lumi­ recent, competing models, their similarities are more
nance contrast of the same stimulus. The larger the visi­
bility level, the more visible the stimulus. This idea is
inherently attractive in that it introduces the human
being into the measurement of lighting's effects.
Luminance contrast can be measured using a luminance
meter but threshold luminance contrast can only be
measured by a human being.
Having developed equipment for measuring the visi­
bility level of any stationary stimulus, Blackwell then
attempted to use this metric as a means of predicting task
performance, the principle being mat visibility level
would act as a unifying variable to combine the effects of
illuminance, visual size, and luminance contrast. His first
attempt appeared to work with some tasks but not with
others. He revised his model but by this time it was col­
lapsing under the exponential growth in the number of
modifying factors that had to be introduced to make the
model fit the experimental results. Such growth is to be
expected if, as discussed earlier, each task has a different
The next significant figure on the scene was Rea.
Fundamentally disagreeing with the threshold basis of
visibility level used by Blackwell, he returned to what is
essentially Weston's approach. Smith and Rea devel­
oped their own standard task, the numerical verification Figure 1—Relative visual performance plotted as a function of reti­
task, in which observers compare two columns of five- nal illumination (trolands) and luminance contrast for a fixed size
digit numbers for discrepancies between the two of target as measured by the solid angle subtended at the eye
columns. Using this task, a model of visual performance, (microsteradians). A solid angle of 4.8 microsteradians represents
the size of the digits used in the numerical verification task (from
the relative visual performance (RVP) model, was devel­
Rea and Ouellette [1991])."
oped for a range of adaptation luminances and lumi-
JOURNAL of the Illuminating Engineering Society Summer 1996

striking than their differences. Both show a compressive to justify many of the illuminances recommended in the
relationship between some measure of the stimulus to IESNA Lighting Handbook. The easiest example to
the visual system and the performance of the task. As an demonstrate tiiis point is reading. Table 1 shows the illu­
example of such a compressive relationship, Figure 1 minance required to achieve an RVP of 0.98, for print
shows the form of the RVP surface for four different visu­ sizes ranging from 6 point to 10 point, for print of con­
al size tasks, each surface being for a range of contrasts trast of 0.7 on paper of reflectance 0.7, seen by people of
and retinal illuminances. The overall shape of the RVP 20 or 60 years of age, at a distance of 40.5 cm. Table 1
Table 1—Illuminances required for a relative visual performance
surface has been described as a plateau and an escarp­
of 0.98 for 20 and 60 year olds reading 6, 8 and 10 point print of
ment. In essence what it shows is that the visual system is
luminance contrast = 0.7, compared with the illuminance recom-
capable of a high level of visual performance over a wide mendations of the IESNA.
range of visual sizes, luminance contrasts, and retinal
illuminations (the plateau), but at some point either Print size Print contrast Illuminance (lx) IES Recommended
visual size, luminance contrast, or retinal illumination 20 yrs 60 yrs illuminance (lx)
6 point 0.7 79 302 500-750-1000
will become insufficient and visual performance will 8 point 0.7 38 148 200-300-500
rapidly collapse (the escarpment). 10 point 0.7 27 101 200-300-500
It can be argued that the first duty of all illuminating
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engineers is to provide lighting that ensures that all tasks also shows the illuminances recommended by the IESNA
are being performed at the plateau level and far from Lighting Handbook for reading 6 point, 8, point, and 10
the escarpment. The existence of a plateau of visual per­ point type. Given that most reading materials present in
formance (or rather a near plateau because there is real­ offices today are in 10 point type or larger and are print­
ly a slight improvement in visual performance across the ed in high contrast on white paper, these results suggest
plateau) implies that for a wide range of visual condi­ it would be difficult to justify any illuminance for com­
tions, visual performance changes very little with mercial office buildings above 100 lx if die recommen­
changes in the lighting conditions. To put it bluntly, what dation were to be made on the basis of visual perfor­
this means is that for many visual tasks, lighting is unim­ mance alone.
portant to visual performance, the visual system being
flexible enough to cope equally well with a wide variety The true basis of illuminance recommendations
of visual stimuli. It would be a brave illuminating engineer who speci­
So what use are visual performance models? The fied a lighting installation for a commercial office build­
answer is that they give us a clear understanding of and a ing which only produced 100 lx. Several studies have
method for calculating die impact of specific lighting shown that such an illuminance would be considered too
conditions on the visual performance of many tasks.
dim, uncomfortable, and hence unacceptable. Yet in
Such calculations give us a means of knowing when we
1917, such an illuminance would have been regarded as
are close to the escarpment but, as explained above, this
excessive. Twenty years ago the average illuminance rec­
does not give us an understanding of how the same light­
ommended for offices was 1000 lx. Today it is 500 lx.
ing conditions influence task performance.
How can this be? Why should the illuminance require­
Visual performance models are valuable but they are
ments for office work change so much over the years?
not the magic formulae. The IESNA RQQ committee
The true basis of illuminance recommendations can be
recognized this in 1991 when it published a draft report
found by considering die possible answers to diis ques­
setting out a method for selecting task illuminance.
tion. One possible answer is that peoples' inherent visu­
What this report suggested is a selection procedure in
al performance capabilities have changed over die last
which the level of relative visual performance is selected
century, but this seems unlikely given that the human
by consensus and then the RVP model is used to derive
visual system evolved over a much longer time period.
the illuminance required to achieve the specified level of
It could be argued that the difficulty of visual tasks has
relative visual performance. Unfortunately, this innova­
increased greatly, thereby requiring higher illuminances.
tive approach to making illuminance recommendations
Again, this seems unlikely. The introduction of modern
appears to have disappeared into limbo.
office technology has, if anything, increased the quality
of printed materials. The day of the fifth-carbon copy is
If a magic formula did exist, over. The most likely answer is that illuminance recom­
would you want to use it? mendations are not determined by visual performance
A devotee of the conspiracy theory of history might alone but rather are subject to many other forces. These
suggest that one reason why the recommendations of die forces are both practical and political. The practical
RQQ committee may have disappeared into limbo is mat forces are matters of technology.
it is difficult to believe that the RVP model could be used There is no point in making illuminance recommen-
Summer 1996 JOURNAL of the Illuminating Engineering Society

Table 2—Illuminance recommendations for reading in every edi­ Mean detection

tion of the IESNA Lighting Handbook, the dominant lamp technolo­ speed (s"')
gy used in office lighting, and the economic-political state of the
0.06 "

IES Visual task; Illuminance Lamp type Economic / 0.05 "

Handbook Reading <lx) Political

0.03 "
1947 Regular 300 Incandescent Moderate
Difficult 500 growth
0.02 "
1954 Regular 300 Incandescent Strong
Difficult 500 /Fluorescent growth 0.01 -

1959 Regular 1000 Fluorescent Strong

Difficult 2000 growth u.uu
30 100 300 1000 3000 10,000
1966 Regular 1000 Fluorescent Strong Illuminance (Ix)
Difficult 1500 growth
% lighting
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1972 Regular 1000 Fluorescent Growth 'good'

Difficult 1500
100 '
1981 Regular 200-300-500 Fluorescent Post energy
Difficult 500-750-1000 crisis 80 - S "\

60 " / \
1987 Regular 200-300-500 Fluorescent Post energy
Difficult 500-750-1000 crisis

1993 Regular 200-300-500 Fluorescent Environment

Difficult 500-750-1000 concerns
20 " ^ /

Ql •--"HIT 1 i i I
30 100 300 1000 3000 10,000
dations that cannot be readily achieved in existing build­
ings with existing technology. The political forces are Illuminance (lx)
Figure 2—The mean speed taken to detect a given two-digit num­
both financial and emotional. The financial force is the ber from 99 two-digit numbers arranged randomly on a table, plot­
cost of providing a given illuminance relative to the ben­ ted against the illuminance on the table. Also shown is the percent­
efits obtained. The emotional force is the extent to age of subjects who considered the lighting of the task "good",
which the lighting is designed to make people comfort­ plotted against the illuminance on the table (after Muck and
able and to meet their expectations. The illuminance Bodmann [1961])."
recommendations made at any specific time and in any
specific country will vary with the balance between these centage of subjects considering the lighting comfortable
forces. Table 2 shows the illuminance recommended by shows a clear optimum. What Figure 2 demonstrates is
the IESNA for general offices in each edition of the that visual comfort and visual performance are not syn­
Lighting Handbook, the dominant lighting technology onymous. It is possible to have an illuminance that allows
used in offices at the time, and the economic-political a high level of visual performance but that is uncomfort­
state of the US. Obviously this is a crude picture, espe­ able. This, in turn, suggests that visual performance and
cially because the IESNA has frequently changed its visual comfort represent two successive constraints on
descriptions of office tasks, but the pattern of change in illuminance recommendations.
illuminance recommendations with the technical-eco­ The successive constraints imposed by visual perfor­
nomic-political balance of forces is suggestive of their mance and visual comfort arise from the differences in
importance. what they measure. Visual performance measures what
The influence of technology and economics is widely can be done. Visual comfort measures what is easy to do.
recognized in many fields, but the difference between In modern society, providing lighting is considered to be
the visual performance and visual comfort is less familiar. technically easy, so only lighting that makes tasks easy to
Figure 2 shows some results taken from a study that mea­ do is acceptable. Peoples' expectations form another
sured the performance of a task requiring the subjects to constraint. Expectations are simply what we expect from
find a two-digit number among 99 such numbers ran­ life. Shifting expectations are a part of life. Expectations
domly distributed over a table, for different illuminances as to what constitutes good quality cars, office furniture,
on the table. The speed of performance increases computers, etc., have all changed in recent years. There
monotonically as the illuminance increases, but the per- is no reason why lighting should be exempt from this
JOURNAL of the Illuminating Engineering Society Summer 1996

process. Put succinctly, illuminances based on visual per­ sensus based on data from the field, and publish lighting
formance represent visual needs. Illuminances based on recommendations based on that consensus
expectations represent visual wants.
The effect of the constraints posed by visual perfor­ The first option is a recipe for decline. Any organiza­
mance, visual comfort, and expectations can be illustrat­ tion that is uncertain about the basis of its most widely
ed by the following list of assertions, given in order of used recommendations is in trouble. Further, for the rea­
increasing stringency: sons given earlier, I do not believe there is a magic for­
• Lighting that limits visual performance will not be mula that can be used to quantify the relationship
comfortable or meet peoples' expectations. between illuminance and task performance, therefore,
• Lighting that does not limit visual performance will to continue to search for one is a waste of resources. The
not necessarily be considered comfortable or meet peo­ second option is the safe option but it seems to be an
ples' expectations. abandonment of responsibility. The third option is intel­
• Lighting that does not limit visual performance and lectually defensible but again is a withdrawal from the
does not cause visual discomfort will not necessarily meet lighting decision process, a process in which the voices of
peoples' expectations. the IESNA membership should be heard. The fourth is
• Only lighting that does not limit visual performance, the most difficult option but recognizes the IESNA's
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does not cause visual discomfort, and meets peoples' leadership in knowledge and understanding of lighting.
expectations will be acceptable to users. My vote would be for the fourth option, recognizing
that it would not be easy. Whereas the effect of lighting
What all this means is that lighting practices, and conditions on visual performance is, in principle, deter­
hence lighting recommendations, are not isolated from mined by the capabilities of the visual system, which are
the dynamic flux common to most human activities. unlikely to change in the near future, the effect of expec­
Hence, the desire to base lighting recommendations on tations is much more volatile and is governed by a much
a model of visual performance alone is doomed to fail­ wider range of interests. For example, it is arguable that
ure. Understanding the effect of lighting conditions on anyone wishing to save the planet could be most effective
visual performance is useful because it allows us to byworking to change expectations about illuminances. If
ensure that a recommendation will not fail to meet one this work led to a marked reduction in illuminance rec­
of the constraints, but anyone writing lighting recom­ ommendations, both resource depletion and air pollu­
mendations also has to consider the other forces acting tion would also be reduced.
to determine the acceptability of the recommendations. It is equally arguable that moving expectations to
As many of these forces are psychological rather than higher illuminances would result in sales of more lamps
biophysical, lighting recommendations are inevitably and luminaires. It is the possibility of such attempts to
matters of judgment and hence, in a democratic society, change illuminance recommendations that necessitates
governed by consensus. the setting up of an open process for determining con­
sensus. The process to be used should itself be the sub­
What should the IESNA do? ject of debate.
Given that illuminance recommendations are subject There are a number of models for determining con­
to many forces—technical, biophysical and psychologi­ sensus ranging from a "Supreme Court" approach, in
cal—the IESNA has a choice to make about how it deter­ which a limited number of knowledgeable individuals
mines its illuminance recommendations. I believe the hear evidence about the costs and benefits of different
IESNA has four options: illuminances for each application and then issue their
• Maintain the status quo recommendations, to the simple application of a time-
• Restrict its role to that of a technical engineering weighted average of installed illuminances. Whatever the
society, publish information on how lighting conditions process chosen, there are three aspects that I believe are
affect visual performance and visual comfort and leave essential requirements: the collection and analysis of
the determination of the lighting actually installed in data on current lighting practice and users' opinions of
buildings to market and political forces that practice, the evaluation of the data by informed and
• Accept that the role of lighting is to make things vis­ knowledgable mediators, and the process itself to be
ible and base its lighting recommendations on visibility open to external scrutiny.
• Accept the reality of the many forces acting on light­ Are we alone?
ing recommendations, work to develop an understanding In case you are thinking that the IESNA is alone in
of how lighting conditions affect visual performance and having a consensus basis for its primary recommenda­
visual comfort, set up an open system for obtaining con­ tions, it is worth pointing out that other professional
Summer 1996 JOURNAL of the Illuminating Engineering Society

organizations face the same dilemma. The American 23(no.2):86-107.

Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning 6. Clear, R. and Berman, S. 1990. Speed, accuracy and
Engineers (ASHRAE) is in a similar position. For many VL. / of the IES 19 (no. 2):124-131.
years ASHRAE has published recommendations for a 7. Commission Internationale de l'Eclairage. 1972. A
comfort envelope based on a measure of temperature unified framework for evaluating the visual performance aspects
and a measure of relative humidity. These recommenda­ of lighting. CIE Publication No. 19. Paris: CIE.
tions are clearly based on human thermal comfort and 8. Commission Internationale de l'Eclairage. 1980. An
carry with them considerable economic impact. The rec­ analyatical model for describing the influence of lighting para­
ommended conditions are much more limited than meters on visual performance. CIE Publication 19/2. Paris:
needed simply to ensure that task performance is unlim­ CIE.
ited. The recommended conditions have changed over 9. Elton, P.M. 1920. A study of output in silk weaving dur­
time as expectations have changed. There is even an ing winter months. Industrial Fatigue Research Board
argument about the thermal comfort envelope, namely, Report no. 9. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.
should it be based on the thermal comfort of people 10. Illuminating Engineering Society of North
wearing clothes with the same level of thermal insulation America. 1991. RQQ Report #7. Recommended method for
or should it be relaxed to allow for the possibility that selection of task illuminance. New York: IESNA.
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people can be expected to change their dress according 11. Illuminating Engineering Society of North
to the thermal conditions? This may seem an arcane America. 1993. Lighting Handbook, eighth edition. New
argument, but in practice, considerable sums of money York: IESNA.
are riding on the answer. Any professional society mak­ 12. Mclntyre, D.A. 1981. Indoor climate. London:
ing recommendations where people are die consumers Applied Science Publishers.
of diose recommendations is operating in a field subject 13. Muck, E. and Bodmann, H.W. 1961. Die bedeu-
to psychology as much as biophysics. It is time for the tung de beleuchtungsniveaus bei praktische sehtatigkeit.
IESNA to recognize this fact and organize an appropri­ Lichttechnik 13:502.
ate process to regularly monitor the consensus on illu­ 14. Rea, M.S. 1986. Toward a model of visual perfor­
minance recommendations. mance: foundations and data. J of the IES 15 (no.
Postscript 15. Rea, M.S.; Boyce, PR.; and Ouellette, M.J. 1987.
This paper is not the usual conference paper. It does On time to see. Lighting Research and Technology 19:101.
not describe research or application. Some of the state­ 16. Rea, M.S. and Ouellette, M.J. 1988. Visual perfor­
ments made are opinion rather than fact. Few are origi­ mance using reaction times. Lighting Research and
nal. My basis for making them rests on nearly 30 years Technology 20:139.
spent in and around lighting research and application. 17. Rea, M.S. and Ouellette, M.J. 1991. Relative visual
What I have put forward is an argument, written in order performance: A basis for application. Lighting Research
to generate an argument, about the nature of illumi­ and Technology 23:135.
nance recommendations and the responsibilities of pro­ 18. Saunders, J.E. 1969. The role of the level and
fessional organizations. My hope is that these observa­ diversity of horizontal illumination in an appraisal of a
tions will clarify the basis of illuminance recommenda­ simple office task. Lighting Research and Technology 1:37.
tions and lead to a more open process of determining 19. Smith, S.W. and Rea, M.S. 1979. Relationships
what illuminances are recommended. between office task performance and ratings of feelings
and task evaluation under different light sources and lev­
References els. Proc CIE 19th Session, Kyoto.
1. Audel and Co. 1917. Hawkins electrical guide, 20. Stenzel, A.G. 1962. Experience with 1000 lx in a
Number Eight. New York: Theo Audel and Co. leather factory. Lichttechnik 14:16.
2. Bailey, I.; Clear, R.; and Berman, S. 1993. Size as a 21. Urwick, L. and Brech, E.F.L. 1965. The making of
determinant of reading speed. / of the IES 22 (no. scientific management: vol 3, The Hawthorne investagations.
2):102-117. London: Pitmans.
3. Beutell, A.W. 1934. An analytical basis for a lighting 22. Van Ierland, J.F.A.A. 1967. Two thousand Dutch
code. Ilium Eng 27:5. office workers evaluate lighting. Research Institute for
4. Boyce, P.R., and Rea, M.S. 1987. Plateau and escarp­ Environmental Hygiene Publication 283. Delft, The
ment: the shape of visual performance. Proc CIE 21st Netherlands: TNO.
Session, Venice. 23. Weston, H.C. 1922. A study of efficiency in fine linen
5. Boyce, P.R., and Rea, M.S. 1994. A field evaluation weaving. Industrial Fatigue Research Board Report no.
of full-spectrum, polarized lighting. / of the IES 20. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.
JOURNAL of the Illuminating Engineering Society Summer 1996

24. Weston, H.C. 1945. The relation between illuminance part of the concerned interests and by a process that
and visual performance. Industrial Health Research Board involves seeking to take into account the views of all par­
and the Illumination Research Committee (DSIR). ties concerned and to reconcile any conflicting argu­
London: His Majesty's Stationary Office. ments."
25. Weston, H.C. and Taylor, A.K 1926. The relation To equate the use of consensus with a failure to use
between illumination and efficiency in fine work, (typesetting sound technical judgment is misleading and hampers
by hand) Final Report of the Industrial Fatigue Research our efforts to find a reasonable basis on which to make
Board and The Illumination Research Committee. lighting decisions. Failure to use consensus means that
(DSIR). London: His Majesty's Stationary Office. standards are set by only one person or interest group
that may not have properly examined all the technical
Discussion evidence.
Bravo to an excellent, insightful, and delightful paper. Boyce correctly points out that the IESNA had been
The author's perspective deserves serious consideration. hindered by the desire to find a single number or equa­
Only two comments are offered. First, regarding what tion to predict visual performance and has failed to con­
we, the IESNA, should do, I vote for the fourth option. sider the various nonvisual components of task perfor­
Second, let's finally put this illuminance thing in per­ mance, comfort, and productivity. Our consensus deci­
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spective and move on to other important criteria. sions in the future must consider all the parameters and
G.R. Steffy involve research of the complex tasks actually performed
Gary Steffy Lighting Design Inc. in offices and the ways in which lighting affects these
tasks. Now that hardware improvements have made it
P. Boyce is to be commended for his delineation of possible to reduce energy use without sacrificing visual
the issues facing the lighting community in the develop­ comfort, it is possible for the IESNA to determine and
ment of illuminance selection procedures. As he points study all the parameters needed for "good" lighting,
out, it is time for the IESNA to understand that there is whatever that may be. At that time, I believe that we can
no magic formula for determining illuminance levels reach a true consensus for lighting recommendations.
and that the issues surrounding visual performance are B. Collins
many and complicated. His recommendation of option NIST
four—further study and development of procedures for
obtaining real consensus—is one that the Society should The author has presented many important and
heed. thought provoking issues of concern to our society, often
To reinforce P. Boyce's viewpoint, it is important to in the form of opinions. Although, as he states, this paper
realize that the use of consensus in standards develop­ does not present research or application, there is mater­
ment is a hallmark of all engineering and other stan­ ial of value provided to better understand the purpose
dards-writing bodies, such as ASTM, IEEE, ASME, etc., in and future directions of IESNA. However, for every opin­
the United States. This refers to the way in which agree­ ion, Newton's fourth law states there is most likely a
ment is reached, not failure to use and understand tech­ counter opinion. A few of these are given here.
nical data correctly. Thus, use of rigorous procedural To argue that lighting professionals are in some way
requirements and diverse representation are central to responsible for total task performance, i.e., not just the
the consensus process. The American National visibility and visual comfort portions, but also the other
Standards Institute (ANSI) defines consensus as follows: aspects (cognitive, motor, etc.) is misleading. This issue
"substantial agreement has been reached...by directly arises in interpreting visual performance or subjective
and materially affected interest categories. Substantial response studies, but should not be confused in forming
agreement means much more than a simple majority, recommendations for lighting practice. To take the case
but not necessarily unanimity. Consensus requires that to extremes, illuminance levels were not a factor when
all views and objections be considered, and that an effort the surgeon amputated the wrong leg.
be made toward their resolution." These procedures are Because the nonvisual components may be unwar­
replicated at the international level by both the ranted in practical applications, perhaps the present
International Standards Organization and the level of knowledge of how lighting influences the visual
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Each components is adequate for general lighting practice. P.
of these entities uses consensus and due process as key Boyce's discussion of visual performance models never
elements of their standards development process. directly answers this question.
ISO/IEC defines consensus in the following manner: Currently, the primary and perhaps the only analytic
"General agreement, characterized by the absence of sus­ procedure available to advise illuminance levels is
tained opposition to substantial issues by any important through visual performance relationships. Boyce would
Summer 1996 JOURNAL of the Illuminating Engineering Society

have us encompass the complexities of human nature by To S. Berman

offering the importance of user expectations in lighting I should like to thank S. Berman for his thoughtful
considerations. But in any consensus forum, other exi­ counteropinion. If the IESNA is ever to reach consensus,
gencies of human nature will also be manifest—such as it will do so through clearly stated arguments such as
aggressiveness—with a particular self interest, as well as those presented by S. Berman. His first point is that light­
other modes of single or even hidden agendas. Analytic ing professionals should not be held responsible for total
procedures become an important and unique tool in task performance, but only for the visibility and visual
dealing with this kind of human nature in a forum envi­ comfort parts. I agree, but the corollary of accepting this
ronment. limitation on responsibility is that the lighting profes­
The Society's illuminance selection values will contin­ sional can no longer claim to have changed total task
ue to require some help from consensus because it must performance, only the visibility or visual comfort of the
perform its responsibilities with imperfect or incomplete task. This may be important. For every task that has a
information. But this feature should not obscure the visual component, there are critical lighting conditions,
need for the continual search for better knowledge and if these conditions are not met, task performance
which is absolutely essential for the Society's survival. will deteriorate. Berman stated, "Illuminance levels were
Our situation is somewhat analogous to the attending not a factor when the surgeon amputated the wrong leg."
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physician of a cancer patient. In the absence of a cure, Illuminance levels could have been a factor if the reason
the physician treats as best possible with present knowl­ the surgeon amputated the wrong leg was that he could
edge, but that doesn't mean eliminating the search for not read the patient's chart in the lighting provided.
better understanding even though the research is com­ S. Berman then raises the question of the precision
plex. The reason that "consensus does not appear to be required in our knowledge of how lighting influences
a comfortable posture" is that we know, as the physician visual performance. I did not discuss this question
knows, that it is possible to do better. Let us not forget because I do not know the answer. Further, I doubt if this
this responsibility. question can be answered until some research on the
S. Berman application of visual performance models to practical sit­
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory uations is undertaken.
Berman then asserts that analytical procedures are a
Author's response unique and important tool in dealing with self-interest in
To G. Steffy the consensus process. This is correct and it has two
First, I thank G. Steffy for his kind remarks. Second, I implications. The first is that the study of analytical pro­
should say that I agree with both his comments. The cedures should continue. The greater the understanding
fourth option is what I would vote for too. As for "putting of how lighting conditions affect visual performance, the
this illuminance thing in perspective," I agree but I sus­ less there is to reach consensus about. The second is that
pect that my perspective may be rather different from the consensus process itself has to be open. Only then
his. Specifically, he implies that illuminance is not that can the operation of self-interest be exposed.
important and that we should move on to other impor­ Finally, S. Berman makes a plea for continued
tant criteria. There undoubtedly are other important research so that in the future we may do better. Again, I
lighting criteria, but for functional lighting at least, I agree, but I also consider it essential that the objectives
believe that illuminance remains an important criterion. of research be redirected. Specifically, it seems to me that
This is not because it has a major effect on visual perfor­ it is about time attention was paid to how some of the
mance, but because it is closely linked to peoples' expec­ existing models of visual performance could be applied
tations. in practice and what would be representative values of
the input variables required for each model. If this were
To B. Collins to be done, we could not only develop a useful consen­
I thank B. Collins for providing an authoritative defi­ sus process for selecting illuminances, but we could also
nition of consensus and for explaining that the use of identify some important questions that those intent on
consensus to achieve an engineering recommendation is refining visual performance models should address.
common practice in many standards-writing bodies, both
nationally and internationally. The processes by which
consensus is reached in these various bodies should be
studied by the IESNA before adopting a process of its

JOURNAL of the Illuminating Engineering Society Summer 1996

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