A simple guide to hospital lighting levels

Written by

Cliff Green

Posted on

March 15, 2019

The CIBSE guidelines for lighting in hospitals give detailed advice on all aspects of lighting levels and design in the sector.

Its revised Lighting Guide 2 was published in 2008 and is the lighting bible for the healthcare sector.

Along with specific task requirements, the CIBSE guide focuses on the effects of lighting on patients and staff, as well as the attention to lighting aspects of the building in pleasing ways, while a central concern is to encourage energy savings.

Significantly, the revised guide now recommends that wall-mounted luminaires for general or patient care lighting are mounted at a minimum of 1.8m, from floor level to the centre of the luminaire for greater efficiency.

For patient lighting, the task lighting requirement for reading and other similar tasks by introducing a “patient reading/activity plane” focuses on how the patients carry out these tasks. While 300 lux is the minimum level, patients in general rest with their head or back against the pillows, so the task area needs to be illuminated around the region of the patient’s torso, rather than the pillow area itself.

The Lighting Guide 2 also requires a multiple-level assessment. The direct glare from the luminaire, with its average luminance against its immediate background, should be calculated, followed by the luminance balance produced on the room’s surfaces by the luminaires.

min. level 300 lux for patients in rest

Lighting in ward areas

ActivityIlluminance (lux)Area
General lighting100Luminaires to use lamps with a colour rendering capability of RA80
Patient reading300To be controlled by the patient and to be provided over the patient activity/reading area
General nursing care300To be provided over the general bed area with a uniformity of ≥ 0.5
Night light5To be provided at the general ward area with a maximum of 0.5 lux over the pillow
Watch lighting15-20To be provided at the bed head pillow position
Examination or treatment at bed position1000Rare – a portable examination light must be used if required

Lighting in intensive care and high dependancy units

Bed head observation (watch)10 to 20
Bed head30 to 50
Bed, clinical400
Bed, examination1000


Lighting in operating theatres and clean rooms

Operating table (directed locally)10000 to 160000Local switching (auto/manual)
Operating theatre (general lighting)1000Dimming (auto/manual)
All other work places≥ 500 but ≤ 1000Dimming (auto/manual)

Lighting in corridors and circulation areas

Hospital street (floor)150 (day) 50 (night)Uniform illumination levels should be provided to avoid bright and dark patches to walls and floors. The installation should also be capable of operating at a reduced level (50 lux with 0.5 uniformity) at night for comfort and energy efficiency.
Corridors (floor)200 (day) 50 (night)Uniform illumination levels using low glare luminaires, positioned to avoid alternating brightness patterns being viewed by trolley-borne patients. Installation should also be capable of operating at a reduced level (50 lux with 0.5 uniformity) at night for comfort and energy efficiency
Stairs (landings and treads)150

Lighting in reception and waiting room areas

Floor200The lighting while being functional should mirror the efficiency and drama created at the reception areas of major commercial buildings
Reception (floor)300A measure of retail lighting philosophy should be employed to create a welcoming and impressionable ambience.
Enquiry desk (task area)500Comfortable accent lighting techniques should be employed to make the desk visually stand out from the general surroundings.

Lighting in imaging rooms

General lighting (1m above floor)300To be provided by ceiling fixed or recessed luminaires co-ordinated around any equipment. Two-way switching and control required.

Lighting in examination and consulting rooms

Working plane500Luminaire selection and positioning is important to avoid visual discomfort to patients
Couch or chair (local)15000 to 30000To be provided by a local examination luminaire

Lighting in canteens and dining rooms

Whole floor50Separately provided and switched will allow for a cleaning, security and maintenance level.
Tables200Accented for function and atmosphere and dimmable to cater for the social event and time of day
Serving counter300Comfortable accent lighting techniques should be employed for safety reasons and to provide a focal point for users of the facility




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