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Mon 13 Aug 2007 12:00 AM

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Light impressions

Lighting for public spaces should be functional, welcoming and environmentally friendly.

Lighting design, whether functional, welcoming or decorative, can have a huge impact on the overall feel of an interior and public areas are no exception. And as they often represent the first impression of a company, getting the design right and creating an ambience is as essential as good advertising or public relations.

Public areas can be split into two specific areas: receptions and corridors. Receptions should be both functional and welcoming and provide a clear focal point, while corridors and lift lobbies should provide users with the correct orientation and information for the space they are using.

With the reception providing the first impressions of a company, Deepa Bhambhani of La Murrina agrees the lighting should be in keeping with the style of the organisation. She explains: "The design of the reception area can be subject to the fancy of fashion. They say a lot about a company's personality. Whether the emphasis is on elegant restraint or colourful vibrancy, the important thing is to underscore the building's personality with the right light while not forgetting the orientation function of the lighting in the process."

It is also essential to know who will be using the public space. The softer lighting that may be wanted for waiting areas will differ from the lighting required by a receptionist using a computer or a security guard on duty.

Barry Hannaford, director, DPA Lighting adds that maintenance considerations should be taken into account when choosing lighting for reception areas: "I'd say as a general rule keep the lighting simple and use longer, low maintenance equipment. It's important to consider future maintenance and ease of replacement as well as the lit result. You don't want to have to use scaffolding to replace a single lamp in a busy 24-hour entrance lobby."

But with climate change and environmental concerns, the lighting design must also reflect a more sustainable approach as Vikash Banwarie, projects marketing and sales manager, Philips Lighting Middle East and Africa explains: "A lighting designer must keep in mind environment and energy conservation. If the lighting is linked to controls it can be dimmed down to only required levels in the night mode. Also the use of new generation light sources like LEDs must be considered, as they consume less electricity and are practically maintenance free compared to conventional sources."

This use of controls is particularly useful when considering lighting design for internal corridors or lift lobbies with smaller levels of traffic according to Banwarie: "The lighting should be on high frequency controls. The controls can dim the lights to the desired levels when not required, movement detection can be linked to the lighting so when there is no movement the lights will be switched off or dimmed, saving electricity."

Making sure that the lighting does not create an oppressive atmosphere within corridors and enclosed public spaces should be a top priority for an interior designer according to Dorothee Picker, project manager, Evado GmbH: "These spaces tend to be grossly utilitarian, therefore lighting that creates space and depth, or orientates the guest by providing a clear focus benefits such areas."
In the 1950s lighting consultant Richard Kelly highlighted the use of the three ‘light energy impacts': focal glow (highlight), ambient luminescence (graded washes) and play of brilliants (sharp detail). Orlando Marques, senior lighting architect, In-Lite believes the use of these three types of light can lead to the most successful lighting scheme for a public area. He says: "In a reception you have diffused light to give you light that is floating, then accented light that shows things like the reception counter or the floor if you want to guide people in a corridor, and finally the play of brilliants, which could be a chandelier or other focus point you could put into a reception area."

So if Kelly's three ‘light energy impacts' form the ideal lighting scheme for a public commercial area, what lighting should be avoided? Rudie Hoess, general manager, Belight explains: "Avoid any directional spotlights that interfere with line of sight. You also want to avoid strong and cold, white light that will turn people into ghosts."

Hannaford adds: "Avoid inefficient lighting for maintenance and energy reasons. Also lighting that gives poor colour rendering and lighting fixtures that have inappropriate light distribution. The wrong light can often kill expensive finishes making them look flat and dull."

Current trends at the moment seem to be focusing on energy conservation with the use of LEDs and multi-functioning controls becoming more popular. Picker explains: "The most significant trend in lighting is the development of LED lighting systems, in particular warm white LEDs.

This technology provides greater design scope for multi-functional installations capable of creating ambient, focused and sculptural lighting. In addition this technology enables the deployment of user-friendly systems with multi-functioning controls, such as those that adapt the brightness control for the time of day and amount of foot traffic." It seems that this trend towards the use of LEDs is going hand-in-hand with a reduction in the use of halogen and incandescent sources.

The use of concealed lighting is also proving to be popular within public areas. Hannaford explains this trend: "There is a movement away from lots of down-lights recessed into ceilings. Concealed lighting is becoming far more popular with fixtures located within slots, so you no longer have the ceiling peppered with lights."

The chandelier is also making a comeback according to Bhambhani: "There has been a return of the traditional shape of the chandelier but reinterpreted in a contemporary way."

An example of this trend is La Murrina's New Classic which sees traditional Venetian chandeliers in modern and bold colouring. The company also has the Disegno collection of lights created in collaboration with different designers. This year they have released four more designs by Marco Piva, Karim Rashid, Massimo Losa Ghini and Sandro Santantonio. With multi-coloured designs and custom-made dimensions the models are designed to satisfy the decorative needs of large spaces including reception areas and lobbies.

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