Project team:

Client: PCK Refinery in Schwedt/DE

Architecture: Obermeyer Planen + Beraten GmbH

Lighting design: Lichtvision;

Design head: Raoul Hesse

18. Oct 2017

A windowless control room in a refinery in Berlin/DE with a view outside.

Text: Jo-Eike Vormittag, Joachim Ritter
Photos: Oliver Voigt, Lichtvision

What Till Roenneberg and student colleagues experienced and proved in the bunker experiment back in the 1960s sums up daily life in some office facilities today. Our biological clock and the lighting required at workplaces in control rooms simply do not match. That said, what does not appear to match can be made to do so – by exploiting the potential of technologies available to us today.

Images and associations spring readily to mind when we hear the word “bunker”: a feeling on unease, a sense of being lost, enclosed in a dark space, or even torture. Strangely enough, these are the kind of subconscious feelings we have when we see, or are expected to use, specific workplaces. In the past, probably for reasons of ignorance. In the meantime, our fascination with bunkers derives from a variety of factors, also because they can provide shelter for inmates and surroundings, thus shielding themselves from the latter. In this project, the bunker – sorry, control room – at the PCK Refinery in Schwedt near Berlin/DE is typically windowless, like many other control rooms.

There is no incident daylight; the space is enclosed in thick walls, and the safety doors are tightly sealed. Sounds pretty dark and desolate. Given the lack of any form of purposefully designed lighting or contact to the outside world, this would make it a workplace that no employee could be reasonably expected to occupy for a longer period of time. The processes handled in the control room need to run non-stop: six teams work in three shifts round the clock at the 26 workstations. They know full well what it is like to work in a “bunker”. As a consequence, the company decided to have the 1000 square metre space redesigned to make it feel more natural.

In comparison to other renovation projects, the focus in this case was not so much on construction, but quite clearly on the lighting design. The concept developed is partly based on the latest know-how (research findings), but is also partly of an experimental nature, since designers do not have sufficient, let alone sound, knowledge of humans’ emotional responses to light or what effects light can have on humans’ feeling of well-being. What they do know is that they need to find solutions to protect employees from health hazards. Whatever people like to believe “HCL products and solutions” can offer, what we are talking about here are basic human needs and a minimum level of quality.

The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 106 as well as in our PLD magazine app (iPad App Store).


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