Walk into any space – your corporate office, a retail store, doctor’s office – and you are immediately met with an array of visual elements that not only impart a lasting impression, but also act as a driving force behind the efficiency of the designed area. Playing an active role in showcasing – or subtracting from – a particular space, lighting has the power to change the look and feel of a room with a flick of a switch. From accent and decorative lighting sources to general illumination, lighting is a critical tool in effectively maximizing the value of a space.
By understanding the function of a space and its various architectural elements, specifiers can move from simply providing sufficient illumination, toward implementing multi-faceted and textured lighting solutions that enhance the lighted environment. To determine the most appropriate lighting sources for a space, it is necessary to consider not only the task being performed in the space and its aesthetics, but also energy and cost savings, installation needs and ongoing maintenance.
Bright (and Small) Ideas for Beautifying Spaces
Extend beyond simply providing sufficient lighting. It’s important to consider the focal points within a room, whether artwork, architecture or furniture, to ensure the lighting enhances the beauty of these showpieces. Increasingly, specifiers are avoiding big, bulky lighting fixtures that detract – and distract – from the aesthetic appeal of a space, and instead are embracing miniaturization – smaller-sized light sources that don’t sacrifice performance. “Barely there” lighting solutions are compact, smart and provide a seamless experience while ensuring maximum impact.
Diversity is Key. Selecting varied lighting sources, or mixed-source lighting, helps to create depth and dimension within an area, increasing its visual appeal. Mixing general illumination with more focused-lighting sources, such as wall washes, task lights and accent lighting, can help to achieve a greater optical impact as well as better spotlight the area’s specific requirements and functions. By mixing light sources (and even mixing different color temperatures), specifers have access to a variety of options and are able to not only achieve the required functional light levels, but also enhance the ambiance of the space. When utilizing multiple sources within the same or continuous spaces, it is often best to work with lighting manufacturers that can help ensure a consistent aesthetic appearance throughout the interior.
Color is important. Lighting applications that deliver the appropriate color rendering index (CRI) within a room should also be utilized in lighting specification. When color is central to a spacial design, specifiers should look to lighting solutions that possess the appropriate spectral distribution curve to effectively maximize the hues and therefore overall appearance of a space. As a general rule, select lighting sources with a CRI of 85 or higher as they are closest to actual daylight. This is an effective measure in providing consistent color throughout day and night. If a lower-CRI product is specified, it is possible that the space will appear completely different at night than it does during the day.
Be mindful of daylight contribution to the space. Another crucial and sometimes overlooked component in determining proper illumination levels is the assessment of ambient light within a space. By understanding how the presence of natural light interacts with the various surfaces throughout the area, specifiers can effectively harvest daylight and properly integrate it with lighting control systems to not only improve upon the visual appeal of a space but also increase energy savings.
Surpassing Energy Standards by Going Green
No longer is “going green” a nicety; it is a requirement. Realizing this, specifiers continue to seek solutions that provide ROI for both the building and the environment. They must be knowledgeable regarding the semantics of sustainability and possess a thorough understanding of the corresponding energy codes and ASHRAE standards implemented by their respective states and municipalities.
With an increasing demand for these energy-efficient technologies that reduce energy consumption, more and more designers are turning to LED (light emitting diodes) or solid state lighting – one of the most energy-efficient options on the market today, using from 2 – 20 watts of electricity and LED’s can help to cut energy consumption by more than 30 – 50 percent. However, other lighting options that provide comparable energy savings should not be overlooked, including ceramic metal halide and compact fluorescent. Even low voltage incandescent halogen offers considerable opportunity for dramatic lighting design and superb energy savings potential when incorporated with a lighting control system.
Further, it’s important to consider utilizing the existing elements of a space to achieve optimal lighting results and further cost and energy savings. If a room has a substantial amount of glass, leverage the available natural light and consider coupling this element with low-voltage or cove lighting – indirect lighting sources built into walls, ledges or valences within a room – as these sources require much less energy. Selecting materials that reflect light is another an effective method to move light about a space without implementing additional lighting.
Illuminating Cost-effective Strategies
In today’s economy and with increased focus on preserving environmental resources, cost savings is also a key consideration in lighting specification. It’s not uncommon during the course of a project’s lifespan for the original intent of the space to change. Unfortunately, if lighting sources have already been installed, completely redesigning or dismantling fixtures can be a costly process.
When sourcing for a commercial building that is likely to experience various and diverse corporate tenants throughout the years, plug-and-play lighting options should be considered. This option enables one source to be effortlessly converted to another and is also simple to install – providing designers with total functionality and flexibility across a multitude of luminaires while also offering the ability to mix lamp sources and functions to fine-tune lighting based on application requirements.
Ease of maintenance is another consideration. Are the selected lighting applications maintained easily, with little disruption? Thinking about maintenance before, during and after installation, as well as lamp-life and serviceability, specifiers as well as building or facility managers can better define the most appropriate lighting source for the budget and space.
Relamping or the process of replacing or switching out installed light sources is an example of why maintenance is an important consideration. Determining how often a facility wants to or is able to relamp during a given period of time is a crucial consideration when selecting an appropriate lighting source with a corresponding lamp-life. Since relamping can require extensive equipment and servicers, it can be a costly process and facilities should consider changing out all sources within the lighted area simultaneously if possible, even if only one has gone out, in order to keep costs at a minimum.
Every space has the ability to shine and there is no better way to enhance its features and function than through intentional and creative lighting design. By recognizing that what goes in above the ceiling impacts what is beneath, specifiers can better select the appropriate illumination source to compliment a space’s physical attributes while fostering energy and cost savings – casting the right light on their space and its inhabitants.