Shedding some light

From exterior to interior projects, hot topics and trends, to challenges in the current market, Andrew Selwood discusses the latest innovations and key aspects to consider when approaching a new lighting project

Lighting is one of the single most important elements to consider when beginning a construction project – if designed correctly it can transform a space but, if not considered correctly, it can adversely alter the perception of a project. To ensure lighting is an integral part of a project there are a number of key factors that need to be considered and understood. These include the intended use of the space, the look and feel of the project, co-ordination with architecture, control and energy consumption.

The most important consideration in undertaking any design is understanding and interrogating the brief.

I do have an aversion to the cheaper edge lit flat panels on the market that are prevalent in CAT A fit-outs and design and build office projects. Whilst these fixtures illuminate the space, in some instances cheaper luminaires cause veiling reflections on monitors or high levels of glare in office environments. Aside from the fittings adding little aesthetically to the space, their misuse creates a lit environment that may fall short of current design standards and recommendations. When the option of a cheaper solution is put forward by an installer, it is important to understand how this will impact what this may mean to the final product.

Energy consumption within buildings should be at the forefront of our minds as engineers. Whilst LED lighting technology is providing significant reductions in energy consumption, we need to understand that over lighting a space and then reducing the output of luminaires by controls is not an acceptable practise. There is not a direct correlation between the dimming profile of a luminaire and its energy consumption. If a space is over lit by 25 per cent, dimming the light fittings by 25 per cent will use more energy than if the luminaire was correctly selected in the first place.

Flexible thinking
Ridge was recently challenged to create an innovative lighting installation for the mast at Alexandra Palace to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the first television broadcast. This installation required a unique approach. Unable to mount directly on to the Grade II listed structure, we commissioned custom made external rated tripods, enabling us to position and clamp the luminaires to light the upper part of the mast from the flat roof.

To avoid penetrating the structure, we mounted the light fittings to specially adapted flat roof support systems that are usually used for air conditioning plant. In rethinking our approach to this project, we were able to reduce the original number of luminaires. This positively impacted on the energy requirement of the project, allowing a significant reduction in enabling works and a simplification of the controls system. The result was that we were able to light the structure in a manner that met the client’s brief, allowing for future expansion and achieving the reduction in costs. With this approach the design, installation and commissioning costs were reduced by over 60 per cent.

Whilst having benefits, the introduction of a networked control system may not be suitable for all projects. Individual rooms requiring scene setting or a particular architectural solution can be supported by a simple room controller to provide enhanced functionality to selected areas. Larger open plan areas can still benefit from modern controls via stand-alone sensors that provide functions, such as daylight harvesting of motion control, without the need for a fully networked and integrated system.

We are also seeing an uptake in organic lighting control systems which use sensors within fittings to track movement and thereby change the lit environment dependant on the behaviour of visitors. Multi-use sensors will soon become a reality, enabling us to install sensors that work across both security and lighting.

For many clients, cost is one of the biggest issues when undertaking any construction project and needs to be understood when designing lighting solutions. With aspirations to create original and innovative lighting designs, the potential cost of such concepts must be considered. Ridge works closely with clients through the design process, whether upgrading current systems or creating innovative installations using the very latest in technology to align the client’s goals with their available budget.

Technology and the future of lighting
With technology continuing to evolve at pace, we are seeing a more dynamic approach to lighting spaces, such as the use of colour. Clever use of coloured lighting can transform a space, such as displaying corporate branding or mirroring a brand’s signature colour using projected light. The use of geometric shapes and curved fixtures has become more popular as the understanding of how LED technology can be embedded within luminaires is better understood.

Colour tuneable white luminaires are also being used to adjust general lighting to correlate to colour, temperatures or the natural daylight cycle. This has benefits in concentration, energy levels and a general improvement in the wellbeing of users.

To aid our designs of external buildings or monuments we employ our in-house geo spatial team to produce 3D scans for inclusion in lighting designs. This worked well on the Evesham War Memorial as part of the Enlighten Evesham Project, where we lit the curved memorial and statue of a lone soldier on a plinth. Without this scan, we would have spent a significant amount of time building the model. The finished output allowed us to illustrate lighting positions to the client, along with undertaking sample scene set ups.

Final thought
Ultimately, lighting design should be a carefully considered output. As I’ve explained, if a space is poorly lit it can make or break how a building project is received and, as such, we need to work hard at improving the lit environment by making correctly informed design decisions.

As engineers, it’s easy to get caught up in the newest product or state-of-the-art control system. We need to understand the key drivers behind the decision to light the space. Each area has its own unique challenges and we must assess the site, the materials in use and the look and feel of the final project. It is imperative that we are sensitive to the environment we are lighting and understand the ways in which selected luminaires can be used to illuminate and enhance a space.

Andrew Selwood is an Associate at Ridge and Partners LLP (Ridge). Winners – Consultant of the Year 2017-18 at the Building Awards, Ridge is a multi-discipline property and construction consultancy offering a broad range of planning, project & cost management, surveying, architecture, design, engineering, health & safety, property consultancy, expert witness & advisory services with specific expertise in all market sectors. A dynamic, forward thinking business, Ridge takes an innovative approach to delivering buildings, infrastructure, engineering, property and construction solutions for its clients.

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