Friday, July 9, 2010

A Bright Idea - Article published in the November issue of Blueprint Magazine

More often than not, deciding on the lighting pattern for a new home becomes the responsibility of an electrician with a giant marker in one hand and an extremely tight budget in the other. Function becomes the rule that governs, leaving design out in the dark. This process tends to be the norm because many have not been in a residence that has a professionally designed lighting system.

Experiencing one of these environments should cause one to think twice before relying on an electrician to design a lighting system. Sure, function is important, but a properly designed lighting scheme will do more to affect the end user’s environment than any other aspect of the home. Lighting prevails as the most critical aspect of making a home comfortable. In his book, “The Art of Lighting: An International Profile of Home Design” Randall Whitehead describes lighting’s importance. “Lighting influences the appearance, tone, and impression of every single object or space in a house through how it is lighted. It can make or break the overall ambiance of a residential interior.”

Thanks to the development of new technologies in lighting and controls, our options are nearly limitless. LED’s (light emitting diodes) , fluorescents, halogens, and incandescent lights give lighting specialists the ability to provide many different lighting schemes in a home. Numerous lighting control packages are also available on the mark
et that can meet the simple or complex needs of any client. As an architect, I am convinced that the spaces created in my office will not reach their fullest design potential without lighting integrated into the design process. If you do not have a lighting designer available in your area, find one from out of town. In the end, the money spent will be well worth it. Although most projects have an overall budget, if a lighting design package is not included, adjust the priorities to include this important aspect of your home design. This does not mean that extra money needs to be spent on the project but rather shifts the available funds from an area of less priority.

To understand some basic principles of lighting design so there is common ground when beginning to work with a lighting designer should be viewed as extremely important. Here are a few concepts that will bring a better understanding of why lighting develops into such a key element in the design of a home. Having
three distinct elements of lighting layers should be considered vital when transforming a space into something special. Each layer has a specific role, and if one is left out, the space’s potential seems lost. Great rooms, family rooms, master bedrooms and kitchens all benefit tremendously when designers utilize this technique.
Task lighting provides enough illumination to accomplish what we have set out to do, whether reading, cooking, or doing a craft. These sources of light tend to be close to the task (such as table lamps or under cabinet lighting in the kitchen). Recessed ceiling down lights can be used for this layer as well, but we often specify the actual bulb, or “lamp” as it is called in the industry, to be a specific beam spread, and wattage. Not meant to provide illumination throughout the space, this lighting only focuses on the task oriented areas.
Ambient lighting can be described as the general illumination that fills a space. This type of lighting can come from many sources, including the natural daylight that enters through windows and skylights. All light sources contribute to this layer. This collective ambience surrounds you and frees you of glare or harsh shadows. By using an indirect source of light, a general ambiance can be created and controlled independently. If using a light tray configuration, the fixture selection should have enough wattage/foot to fill the room with an adequate level of light. Low voltage linear lighting or dimmable fluorescents having electronic ballasts are the best options for trays. Rope lighting will only provide a very low level of ambient light. A few LED products on the market today are being specified by lighting designers. To have more wattage than you need should be considered the best design as well as being able to dim the lights to the desired level. This allows for flexibility in lighting levels, and also dramatically increases the life of the lamps.

In this bedroom photograph, task lighting over each side of the bed provides reading lights, and the tray light provides general room ambience.

Lighting Design - Crampton Lighting Design.

Accent lighting is considered the icing on the cake. Crystal begins to sparkle, paintings come alive, and the natural beauty of a flower arrangement draws your eye towards it. Drama and subtle elegance become aspects of the space. To be effective, accent lighting only needs to be brighter than its surroundings. As an example, this hall is lit entirely with accent lighting. Rather than using the typical can lights aimed at the floor, directional low voltage cans were used to accent the owner’s artwork.

Lighting Design- Crampton Lighting Design
Once these basic elements of lighting design have been addressed, incorporating a control system provides the ability to create multiple lighting scenes and to have access to them through dedicated switches. Setting up these scenes is accomplished by creatively mixing the layers of light. For example, if you are looking for a soft, intimate scene, the lighting level will be lower, emphasis will be on the accent lights, and the ambient light will be dimmed.

Most lighting control solutions have each layer of light as a grouping, controlled by one switch. Linking lights together (i.e. all of the task lighting or all of the accent lights) allows us to have greater control when setting up the various scenes for a room. To take this even further, accent lights can be linked with other accent lights located within visual range of the room. This creates a visual connection to the surrounding environment and expands the scene being created. Planning these scenes is most effectively done during the design process.

These are just a few of the design concepts involved in the creation of a successful lighting design package. Many technical specifications for fixtures, transformers, color temperatures, and lamp selections are part of the design process as well.
By planning with a lighting design professional, you can be assured that your product will be enhanced to its fullest potential.

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