Need a light?

With a steady increase in commercial developments across the region, architects and designers are working together to bring fixed-lighting design out of the dark.
Need a light?
By Selin Arkut
Tue 05 Aug 2008 11:08 AM

With a steady increase in commercial developments across the region, architects and designers are working together to bring fixed-lighting design out of the dark.

The main question facing many designers today is how to set their lighting designs apart from all of their competitors. Using white lights, coloured lights, white lights against coloured glass, or coloured lights against gleaming crystals – whatever the combination, differentiation is the key to success in this market.

“From a consumer perspective - the challenge is making a universally accepted product while enhancing the intent of the design space. Generally speaking, lighting is the last thing most people think of but, the first think they notice,” said Barry Weinbaum, CEO of Renaissance Lighting - designers and manufacturers of solid-state lighting fixtures.

Varying the source, texture, and color of light, even the appearance of the lighting equipment, can all help to maintain an interesting environment.

“Adding carefully placed focal and decorative lighting further varies the composition in a stimulating fashion. Sparkle, provided by low wattage accent light on gleaming materials or carefully controlled exposed sources, adds a sense of cheeriness to the environment,” said Raman Krishnan, regional director of Lighting Design Alliance.

Architectural lighting

Architectural lighting, now not only refers to the outside of a building, but to the interiors too. Today, architects and interior lighting designers are working closely together to achieve the best effects using fixed lighting solutions.

In the last decade, especially with the advent of new malls, hotels and mixed-use projects, developers have realised the value addition architectural lighting can bring to a project, and with that, lighting designers started getting involved from a project’s early stages.

“Most people don’t even think about lighting unless it is truly terrible and causes discomfort. Architectural lighting focuses on three fundamental aspects of the illumination of building and spaces,” said Krishnan.

“The first is the aesthetic appeal of a building, an aspect particularly important in the illumination of retail environments. Secondly, the ergonomic aspect – the measure of how much of a function the lighting plays. Thirdly, is the energy efficiency issue to assure that light is not wasted by over illumination, either by illuminating vacant spaces unnecessarily or by providing more light than needed for the aesthetics or the task,” he added.

A final consideration, is the look of the lighting fixture. The design of the fixture should compliment the space, whether it is a commercial or residential application.“Lighting design is very responsive, so as the design progresses the lighting might have to take a different direction as other aspects of the building or interior design might change to the extent that the lighting ideas lose relevance. This is particularly common when surface materials are changed late in a project,” said Weinbaum.

LED

According to many designers, the uses of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) has become more popular as the source of light in lighting fixtures. Incandescent bulbs are rapidly becoming a thing of the past in terms of price, light output, and performance.

“On average, LEDs outlive incandescent bulbs by approximately 55,000 – 60,000 hours and require much less maintenance and/or replacement,” said Weinbaum.

Thanks to the advent of LEDs, coloured light is much easier to use nowadays, and coloured lighting solutions – fluorescent or LED – are becoming increasingly popular in office environments, shopping malls, spas and even healthcare facilities. New, more sophisticated lighting control systems have also made it easier to use dynamic coloured lighting.

“A key feature of LED lighting is the ability to change the colour of the light. This opens up the possibility to personalise the light effect, and change it whenever required. It is used to change the ambiance in a room, or to change the colour of different objects. Even further, the light can be programmed, so the colour is continuously changing,” said Smedema.

“If designed well, coloured light can be used very effectively in making hospitals feel less like hospitals, by influencing well-being, emotion and mood. For example, in with the LED-based concept AmbiScene for scan rooms, coloured light by the LED-Wallwasher could be used to communicate signals between patient and staff, underline a specific theme for the patient and could create an emotional state of mind for the patient,” he added.

LEDs are also being used to create ambience and dynamic effects. Examples of this include shelf lighting, where traditional fluorescent lamps are too large to be used, and for colour wall washing between merchandise, a sector where decorative effects are key.

The dynamic use of colour and new effects therefore, offers properties the opportunity to differentiate themselves and create welcoming environments for customers.

“Artificial lighting does more than brighten a dark room. It sets a mood, draws the eye to special architectural details, and makes a home’s entrance inviting long after the sun has set. The question of how light penetrates space, shapes it, and alters it by means of shadows interests an architect: light is an instrument for designing a space,” said Krishnan.

In addition, some companies are mixing different sources of light to create a number of effects. Using much less energy to generate the same amount of light, these sources generally have much longer life spans.“Powerful light cannons, lasers and LEDs are all state of the art sources and when you add in modern metal halide and high pressure sodium sources, we really do have a broad spectrum of choice.. Compared with even a few years ago we are able to create good lighting designs with lower running costs and considerably smaller carbon footprints,” said Henrik Clausen, director of the Fagerhult Lighting Academy based in Copenhagen.

Environmental impact

The impact of lighting’s energy is a concern among commercial users. Lighting accounts for around 15% of the energy bill in most homes, but approximately 25% in commercial buildings, consequently amounting to one of the leading sources of global climate change.

Because of this, the building industry has targeted lighting as a key element in sustainable design, and there is now a global movement to develop and implement lighting solutions that address environmental regulations.

“The current trend in lighting is focused on increasing efficiencies without sacrificing the look and appeal of the lighting fixture. We are in the midst of an environmental revolution that affects how we maximize the use of energy and reduce the impact of that use on our environment. The lighting industry is now more focused on determining the best use of new technologies that produce more lumens per watt, provide greater control of the light that is produced, and reduce environmental impact through reduced energy consumption,” said Weinbaum.

The technology exists today to create great and dramatic lighting designs, while saving energy and minimizing long term maintenance. The future

So, what does the future hold for fixed lighting design? LEDs represent significant developments in lighting and we should expect the current rapid pace of change to continue, especially in the Middle East.

“The prolific nature and size of projects in the Gulf has ensured that the lighting industry has singled this area out as one of terrific growth. The projected success of the many shows and events prove that the spotlight really is the Middle East to provide world-class solutions that lie on the cusp of future developments in technology and trends,” said Krishnan.

Clausen agrees, “In many ways we have been lucky in the Middle East in that we have witnessed a substantial number of Iconic buildings being built where the enhancement of the external structure by light has been seen as a non-negotiable part of the design and thus the finished effect.

My hope is that more clients will also see the value of considering their most precious and expensive asset, their people, when planning the lighting of the interior space. It has to become the norm that we light spaces for people rather than the machines they operate and that the innovation we see externally will also become a given for the internal spaces,” he concluded.

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