How Lighting Designers Avoid These 5 Common Pitfalls

 In Architecture & Design, Interior

As a lighting designer, you have the challenge of developing a lighting solution that is aesthetically pleasing, energy efficient, controllable and highlights the architectural features while stimulating productivity. (That sounds like a long list of “bosses” to satisfy!)

Here are five dos and don’ts for lighting designers to help on your next project:

DON’T: Light everything the same way

DO: Create a sense of place with lighting

 The way a space is illuminated creates a sense of place and signals to users what the space is for.

Lighting is a key way to differentiate areas with varying purposes. For example, mixed-use development projects are growing in popularity in urban areas and their different uses require different lighting: warm lighting in residential or hospitality spaces, brighter lights in offices and more theatrical lighting in retail spaces.

In an office building, brighter white lights can stimulate alertness and cognitive function, while warmer lights are better for lounge areas, as they encourage relaxation.

DON’T: Avoid natural light

DO: Use daylighting when possible

Incorporating natural sunlight into your lighting design has the double benefit of improving energy efficiency and improving worker health and performance. Known as daylighting, this involves using sensors to dim the lights when there are adequate levels of light from the sun. This reduces the electricity used to light the space. Plus, study after study shows numerous benefits from exposure to natural sunlight—ranging from improved employee health to enhanced performance.

DON’T: Forget about the people who will use the space you’re designing

DO: Use human-centric lighting in your designs

Whether or not you are able to use daylighting in your project, your artificial lighting can also provide a kind of “daylighting feel” as artificial lights mimic the sun, either to complement daylighting efforts or as a standalone lighting method. Human-centric lighting is lighting that emulates the familiar tones of the sun.

Just as the sun changes its brightness and color temperature throughout the day, so too should the lights in a building. This makes for a very comfortable environment and enhances worker health and productivity.

Energy efficiency is important, but of greater value is worker productivity. Tiny improvements on productivity can have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line.

JLL’s “3/30/300” makes the case: for every square foot of office space, companies typically spend $3 on utilities, $30 for rent and $300 on employees. A 50 percent decrease in energy usage saves $1.50 /square foot, while a 5 percent increase in productivity saves $15/square foot. To that end, it’s in everyone’s best interest to design the space for maximum productivity and human-centric lighting is a key way to do that.

DON’T: Put all the lights on the ceiling

DO: Layer lighting, utilizing ambient, accent and task lighting

Start your design by asking what the space will be used for—what kind of work will the end users do here? Does the room need a particular atmosphere?

Then, start with task lighting that will help users accomplish their jobs. Task lighting can range from specialty equipment like the kind used in medical facilities to simple desk lights as well as certain ceiling-mounted downlights.

Whatever the light used, it should provide adequate light to accomplish the task and proper contrast levels—too much contrast and the shadows may interfere with the task and too little can make things illegible.

After the task lighting is set, add the ambient lighting to illuminate the architecture. This includes wall washers and indirect light fixtures that put a soft wash of light on the walls so the room doesn’t look like a cave.

The third layer, if necessary, is decorative and accent lighting to accentuate architectural features and add a touch of pizzazz to the room.

DON’T: Light only the floor or desks

DO: Light the walls

The human eye is drawn to light and it’s the first thing we see when entering or passing a space. This is called phototropism—it’s the same phenomenon that makes plants grow towards a light source.

Using only downlights to illuminate a space puts the light on the floor and any desks/tables in the space and leaves the walls dark. This makes for a cave-like feel and makes the space feel dark, gloomy and small. It doesn’t entice people to enter the space. On the other hand, washing the walls with light illuminates the “vertical plane” and makes the space feel bright, airy and spacious.

From a technical perspective, light is a difficult medium to leverage. It’s ephemeral, changes throughout the day and with each season. Also, light is like the wind—often times, you can’t see it, just its interactions with the environment around you.

These scenarios are just some of what lighting designers need to think about for each project. Discover how harnessing Amerlux lighting solutions can help avoid these common pitfalls in lighting design.

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