Why is lighting often so boring & unimaginative? – featured in Pro Landscaper Africa (Paper Plane Publications)

Read the April 2021 Issue of Pro Landscaper Africa here

I have asked the question in the title “Why is lighting often so boring and unimaginative?”

The answer is quite simple.  Most lighting designers have not studied the theory of light, vision, light production and most importantly know the importance of being compliant with standards and regulations. They design the way that they have always done, often not correctly although a desired light level was achieved.

That said, the opportunity to light any space whether indoors or outdoors can be so exciting, imaginative, artistic whilst always being compliant with the latest standards regulations and CIE (International Commission for Lighting) directives.

There is more to lighting than meets the eye, both literally and physically.  This is especially true when we are lighting workplaces, in particular offices where we provide light on the primary task area and at the same time provide light directed towards the eyes of the employee or occupant.

It is always important that from the earliest of times, light is the trigger of the emotion, biology, physiology, psychology and neurology of humans and in fact every living creature and amazingly it includes flora too.

I am sure that we all understand the concept of lighting the immediate or primary task working plane on the horizontal plane at light levels to execute the task efficiently, in comfort and with the highest level of productivity.

We also are required to provide light for the non-visual needs of our bodies.  Our bodies and the Circadian Rhythms respond to the right quantity and colour temperature of light.  This is known as Circadian Light (CL) and the stimulus is known as Circadian Stimulus (CS).

The lighting design is made more complex when being required to provide Human Centric Lighting (HCL).  HCL is lighting that varies the colour and intensity of the light that it produces at different times of day.  It is artificial light which emulates natural light.

We then need to understand the spectral quality of the different light sources, the different light levels required depending on the age of the occupants and finally to know how to apply the Equivalent Visual Efficiency (EVE).

There are so many options to the qualified lighting designer to use Power over Ethernet (PoE), yes the same cables that businesses use for their data network can power light sources.  More can be included such as Visible Light Communication (VLC) where the luminaire becomes a data access point within the network which will give users of smart devices can instantly have access to the network whether WiFi or LiFi (Using the luminaire itself with other equipment to access the system or the internet).  Lighting controls include DMX512, DALI and more modern systems such as Bluetooth Mesh, Wirepass, Casambi and others.  Finally, at this time only, there is the Indoor Positioning System which enable people to navigate supermarkets, hospitals, airports and shopping malls.  The possibilities for its use are endless.

Finally, we must now deal with the effects on lighting from the pandemic both during and no doubt for a long time to come.  The qualified lighting designer must know how to complete a lighting design that takes social distancing, personal space at each workstation and perhaps even one way movement within the space.  Then there are the sneeze or cough screens where most people do not appreciate that between 15% and 50% of the planned light level on the primary task area of each workstation will be lost.

Now with a little basic understanding that I have tried to convey in the limited space of a magazine article, we can be much more imaginative, more innovative, and more caring for the well being and in some cases the enjoyment of the occupants of indoor spaces and equally for those passing through outdoor spaces.

Perhaps last but certainly not least is the importance of being compliant with all relevant standards as applicable for the indoor and the outdoor spaces.  Many do not realise how important and onerous some of the outdoor standards are for the qualified lighting designer.  A major requirement is to prevent obtrusive or nuisance light, to prevent upward light which will result in skyglow.  The requirement to be met is the Model Lighting Ordinance which embraces the requirements of the International Dark Sky Association.

How do qualified lighting designers ensure that these requirements are met?   The answer is easy.  All lighting designers should be qualified in the science of light, lighting, vision, colour, lighting economics and more.  They should be extremely competent in the use of their preferred lighting design software.

From my personal experience of 50 years this year, the majority are not more than basic users with limited knowledge of light and lighting.  These statements are in no ways meant to denigrate lighting designers or to alienate them but to highlight how important it is to become the qualified go to guy for lighting design.  It is the result of a lack of formal education in this specialised field in South Africa.

In conclusion, from this content it should be abundantly clear that it is not simply doing a lighting design to provide 300 lux for the entire space, but rather to design for the primary task, which incidentally is only about an area of 0.5m²to 1m², the secondary or adjoining area of the workstation should be lit to 60% of the level of the primary task area and then 20 % of the primary task area light level for the remainder of the space and pause areas but not less than 100 lux.  All the other complimentary but in some cases mandatory lighting aspects should be included.


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