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Tile 101 Light Reflectancy

By Kristen Radtke
ight reflectancy has been a recent topic of conversation and how it relates to interior finishes; specifically floor tile. Tile in the past was not tested for Light Reflectance Value (LRV). Why then is the question being asked? Our standards for buildings, interiors, and finishes are important. Not just for health, safety and welfare of the occupants, but as a valuable consideration for the environmental implications of the interiors and the finishes applied. The question dealing with Light Reflectancy is due to the interior environment, but also for the solar implications. The sustainability and green qualities in our architecture are just as important, if not for the green-ness of it, then for the green-ness of the bottom line. If it saves energy it should save money. Value in dealing with color is often confused with the term intensity. Intensity deals with the brightness or dullness of a color; how clear or muted a color is. Value is an important term as it speaks strictly to the lightness or darkness of a color. LRV is the total quantity of useable and visible light reflected by a surface in all directions and at all wavelengths when illuminated by a light source. It is a measurement that indicates how much light a color reflects, and how much it absorbs. This measurement is quantified as a number based on a scale of 0 100; zero is absolute black and 100 is pure white. Every color reflects a certain amount of light while absorbing the rest as heat energy. Dark colors with low light reflectance values tend to reflect little light while absorbing lots of heat energy. Conversely, light colors with high reflectance values reflect a lot of light and absorb little energy. When designing a space to take advantage of heating and cooling a building, these basics are important. For LEED structures, utilizing the most natural light in an interior is the goal. By utilizing natural light, there is less energy spent on lighting costs, as well as cooling costs to keep the space at a comfortable temperature.

Figure1: UVLightSpectrum

DAY LIGHTING The sun provides several different wavelengths of UV light that emit toward the earth. What does reach us on earth is about 5% UV light with wavelengths between 280-400 nm, 50% of visible light between 400-780 nm and 45% of infra-red (or heat) ranging from 780-2,500 mm. All of these waves interact with the substrates they fall on, either being absorbed, transmitted or reflected. All absorbed energy eventually gets converted to a longer wavelength creating heat. To take advantage of the most day lighting, the interior LRV would reflect light and heat, instead of absorbing the light and heat. In this situation lighter is better. Day lighting reduces the need for electrical lighting of building interiors, resulting in decreased energy use. A well-designed day-lit building is estimated to reduce lighting energy use by 50 60% (Sustainable Building Technical manual). This conserves natural resources and reduces air pollution due to energy production and consumption. 1

Day lighting design involves a careful balance of heat gain and loss, glare control, visual quality and variations in daylight availability. Shading devices, light shelves, courtyards, atriums and window glazing are all strategies employed in day lighting design. Other important considerations include the buildings orientation, window size and spacing, glass selection, reflectance of interior finishes and locations of interior walls. Research on day-lit spaces shows an increase in occupant productivity and reduced absenteeism and illness. As related to day lighting and design standards photo-responsive controls for electric lighting can be incorporated into day lighting strategies to maintain consistent light levels and to minimize occupant perception of the transition from natural light to artificial light. These controls result in energy savings by reducing electric lighting in high daylight conditions while preserving foot candle levels on the task surface. (def.: footcandle is defined as a unit of measure of the intensity of light falling on a surface, equal to one lumen per square foot. Originally this was defined with reference to a standardized candle burning at one foot from a given surface.) Optimized Energy Performance is one criterion for LEED projects, or designing toward LEED that takes day lighting into effect. How does the light reflectance of the floor area affect the room's interior? Brightness and quality of light are an important role in the illumination of institutional, commercial and industrial facilities. The light reflectivity ratings for floors are important when taking the complete interior environment into consideration. Since some flooring materials are made of combinations of different colors, measured light reflectance value is an average value based on a large area of the pattern. (Light reflectivity values are determined by measuring the percentage of light directed at any surface that is then reflected under standardized test conditions.) The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America recommends that floors have a reflectance factor of 20% to 40% for optimal sight in offices. Adequate visual contrast is provided if the Light

Reflectance Values (LRV) of the contrasting areas differ by at least 30 points. Contrast is a calculation of the difference between the LRV between the foreground color and the background color. COLOR AND LIGHT REFLECTANCY The CIE color model was created by the International Commission on Illumination known as the Commission Internationale de lElcairage (CIE) in 1931. The CIE color model is a mapping system that uses tristimulus (a combination of 3 color values that are close to Red/Green/Blue) values, which are plotted on a 3D space. The CIE specification is supposed to be able to accurately represent every single color the human eye can perceive. The CIE color models uses an XYZ axis of a three dimensional model. The Y parameter is a measure of the brightness of a color, the X measures the chromaticity of a color, and the Z parameter is [1-x-y]. All three create the tri



stimulus of a color. The human eye detects the presence of different wavelengths and senses them as a distinct color. If a substrate absorbs all visible light falling onto the eye, it sees this surface as black, and if the surface reflects all light, it sees white. 2

LRV is dependent on the saturation of the color and the amount of white or black that color contains. It is virtually impossible to have a dark color with a high LRV or a pastel shade with a low LRV. The LRV of the same shade can be affected by the surface of the substrate. A glossy paint, even a jet black glossy paint will have some reflectance from the surface. Flat and textured surfaces do not have this property and reflect only in a diffused manner. Higher LRVs are often specified for building systems which may be sensitive to heat. This recognizes that absorbed light will convert to heat but does not necessarily take into account the 45% of the sun's energy emitted in the infra-red range. TESTING Testing for LRV is measured with color measurement equipment, specifically a spectrophotometer. The value of the LRV is a measured result for each color. The spectrophotometer will measure a Y value which is equal to one of the three CIE tristimulus values and essentially measures the luminous reflectance (LRV) or transmittance (absorption) of a color. The Y value is used to determine the Contrast Ratio between two colors. Y = Brightness. This test does not produce, pass or fail results. A scale of results varies from 0 to 100; most finishes fall within the range of 5% - 85%. We can easily measure the Y value and therefore obtain LRV values for any of our finishes. ASTM testing for Tile: ASTM C609 07 Standard Test method for Measurement of Light Reflectance Value and Small color differences between pieces of ceramic tile. This test method covers the measurement of Light Reflectance Value (LRV) and visually small color

difference between pieces of glazed or unglazed ceramic tile, using any spectrophotometer that meets the requirements specified in the test method. LRV and the magnitude and direction of the color difference are expressed numerically, with sufficient accuracy for use in product specification. LRV may be measured for either solid-colored tile or tile having a multicolored, speckled, or textured surface. For tile that is multi-colored, an average reading should be obtained from multiple measurements taken in a pattern representative of the overall sample. Small color difference between tiles should only be measured for solid-color tiles. How does one figure out what the light reflectancy is for a tile? Testing for tile can be submitted to the TCNA (Tile Council of North America). For this test, one must submit 80 tiles (4 x 4 size) for the ASTM C- 609 Measurement of Light Reflectance Value and Small color Differences. A low tech option we have used is to obtain a paint fan deck and match the paint color chip to the tile. The LRV is noted on the back of the paint chip as the results of the test for the solid paint color. This is one way to get a feel for where the tile will rate in the more scientific testing. The TCNA test would be required for LEED certification, or other accreditation. As our buildings become more sophisticated, so do the materials, and the testing of the materials that are installed and applied into our livable and workable spaces. Day lighting concepts when applied correctly can save energy, money and create less pollution. Who knew day lighting also led to less absenteeism and illness?.My office needs a window!