Do the new requirements for the use of energy efficient lighting design mean the end of creativity?
April 25 , 2012
Case studies/analysis of lighting projects
The author will look into recent projects of a leading UK lighting design practice, where sustainable and environmental criteria have to be fulfilled due to the project requirements, national statutory regulations as well as the practice's own sustainable policies and design approach. Three case studies will be used to illustrate these impacts and lighting design application techniques will be discussed.

Additionally, it will be demonstrated how intelligent thinking together with the use of automated and sophisticated lighting control systems, as well as proper energy management, which addresses dimming, switching, scene settings, daylight contribution, use of daylight, and presence detector sensors, can help to accomplish satisfactory results under a variety of conditions whilst meeting the necessary requirements.
The following questions will be focused on:
•    How much can be offered/promised to the client in terms of cost savings while ensuring that energy is not consumed unnecessarily and still providing the user with complete flexibility and control over their environment?
•    Are there intelligent ways to fulfill the regulations? If so, how these can be accomplished?
More often than not professional lighting designers face the difficulty of how to create energy saving, economical solutions which are both 'sexy' and unique. These issues relate equally to exterior and interior projects.
How do we achieve aesthetic designs and user well-being, and meet cost-efficient requirements whilst simultaneously creating carbon neutral designs?
It is easy to provide lighting for the office environment, where efficient fluorescent lighting has commonly been accepted. What about other areas? Three lighting schemes - an external façade of a car park, a five star hotel and an atrium redesign to a building in London's financial district will demonstrate how the lighting approach can resolve the apparent paradox.
Car park, Cardiff Bay/UK
New build, feature facade to multi-story building
Creatively lighting the facade to a car park can be a real challenge. Quite often the owner does not want to invest much in respect to lighting beyond the necessary. However, in this particular case, the client wanted an energy efficient lighting solution, along with an eye-catching result as the building is located in a visible place.
The example project is acclaimed by many as "the coolest car park in Cardiff Bay" with waves of blue light washing across the façade. The structure, which measures over 100 metres long and is six storeys high - has become a landmark in the city.
The design goal was to generate a unique feature element for the building that would emphasize the gateway point of an important regeneration project in the Cardiff Bay district. A car park is first and foremost a functional space, so the lighting designers had to work with the constraints of functional lighting and its high light levels and to consider the feature illumination with the background ambient brightness.
This is a unique scheme that brings with it a wide range of challenges. Namely, to create a special lighting effect by night on what is during the day a dull multi-storey car park structure, and to work with the physical limits of such a complex facade form on a large scale.The architectural idea of the wave like form was intended to call to mind the spirit of the bay area. The lighting concept response was to achieve a striking night-time effect echoing the movement of the water in the bay and creating visual impact, whilst not undermining the importance of other significant structures and buildings, including the Welsh Assembly on and near the site.
As the whole facade is made of many undulations across the overall span of the whole building, one of the main challenges of the project was calculating the appropriate beam angle of the luminaires as well as the optimum aiming angle depending on the varying distances from the sail-like structure to create an even wash of light.
The position of the individual luminaires was carefully defined. The fixtures were mounted on a special bracket precisely placed so that they followed the contours of the sail-like structure, thus avoiding views of the lamps from the roadway or glare from within the car park.
To extract as much light in the required direction as possible, a twin reflector solution was selected. In some instances, luminaires incorporate a mixture of medium beam for the inner lamp and narrow for the outer lamp. In total, there were twelve specific variations of the same luminaire. It was only possible to define these thanks to a large facade lighting mock-up set up by Base Structure, the facade manufacturer, along with the luminaire manufacturer, who supplied samples with different reflectors. The design team who supported the lighting idea were present and thus able to evaluate the mock-up.
LED light sources would be the standard option for such a decorative application, but unfortunately they are still too expensive for some applications, and due to limited project resources a more cost effective, low-tech alternative was proposed. To maintain the idea of creating a dynamic facade, Light Bureau decided to take a closer look at dual lamp fluorescent technology.
As the facade is external and exposed to weather extremes, Light Bureau recognized that this may create thermal operational issues for fluorescent lamps. With winter temperatures going below zero degrees centigrade and the need for the dimming of the sources to create the dynamic effect, there was concern because fluorescent lamp sources tend to 'drop out' when dimming in cold weather environments. By carrying out extensive research studies and lighting calculations, older but more thermally stable T8 lamp technology was applied.
In the end the facade was illuminated using two colours of T8 linear fluorescent lamps, precisely programmed to create a kinetic feature. Front and backlighting techniques were employed to achieve uniformity and helped to minimize the problem of hot spots over the curved facade. Each of the luminaires incorporates a separate blue and white T8 lamp in its own reflector and each fitting uses two separate DALI ballasts to achieve the degree of control necessitated by the concept.
The entire system is currently operated via an astronomical time clock facility based on a DMX protocol interfaced with DALI ballasts. The system switches the lamps one hour before sunset every day, allowing the light sources to warm up before the dynamic cycle starts. The lamps 'warm-down' for half an hour at 11 p.m. These safety measures have guaranteed lack of failure in the operation of the installation to date by greatly reducing thermal stress and, as a result, increasing the service life of the lamps.
Another crucial aspect increasingly taken into account while designing buildings and structures is the natural environment. This is due to the lighting installation being visible after dark, and its possible negative impact on local ornithology. For millions of years birds evolved under a day/night cycle, where the bright light of the sun during the day was replaced at night by weak light from the stars and sunlight reflected off the moon and planets. This situation ended when humans started to artificially light the night sky, which is especially clear in wealthy industrialized areas. Globally, hundreds of millions of migrating birds are adversely affected by the presence of artificial light on a yearly basis; many of these birds do not survive the encounter.
Reactions of local and migratory birds to artificial light are largely determined by the wavelength characteristic of the light source, it is understood that artificial light can negatively influence their behaviour. Birds appear to have excellent colour vision which attracts them to coloured light. According to research, the use of magenta, indigo and blue light have minimal disorienting effects on birds due to the light frequencies.
The lighting designers decided not to use coloured over-sleeves due to service life issues, quantities maintenance, and efficiency. In addition, blue lamps are more efficient than lamps with sleeves. This project is an example of an environment/bird-friendly lighting scheme for tall building and structures in the UK. The designers made sure that the decorative lighting uses the appropriate wavelength of light and is carefully controlled by limiting the hours of illumination during the night.
Reflecting back on the presented projects one can say, "Yes, there is a future for the lighting design profession itself to create exceptional design." However, success and development in the long term will rely on how much effort we put into the establishment and recognition of the profession today along with the creativity and resourcefulness of a new generation of lighting designers yet to come.
The new energy conservation requirements will keep us on our toes as lighting designers. Having restrictions and new constraints does not have to mean that design cannot be aesthetically pleasing and in line with the functional needs of the client. It is a challenge, especially in the hospitality sector, where a high level of design, including satisfactory technical criteria, is expected. This will force us to work closely with architects and interior designers. We must develop a dialog early on - the integration of lighting is the key to the success of any project. We should think more clearly about how we design these environments. In our future more and more lighting control systems, scene settings, as well as use of daylight sensors, automatic dimming and the like will be a necessity.
To create a magnum opus of design, it is essential for the client, lighting designer, architect, engineer, and other members of the design team to establish sustainable, environment-friendly principles of design, a clear understanding of a given project brief, concepts for exterior or interior spaces, realizing the different experiences one has in them, and direct, close collaboration between designers and engineers to resolve any problems.
For lighting designers it is crucial to analyse each surface, material's reflectivity, texture, colour, contrast with regard to sustainable issues and energy conservation and be able to communicate that information to the design team, to influence possible changes of design and/or materials used; to be in the "loop" when it comes to new scientific research  (medicine, biology, environment, etc.) that relates directly or indirectly to the lighting field, to understand the "big picture" approach and any possible negative consequences; and to continue one's own professional development by extending existing lighting knowledge and frequently questioning the design approach towards the interior and exterior projects you as a designer are involved in.
Another very important aspect is a matter of social responsibility and awareness when designing energy-efficient lighting in residential/hospitality environments. What about the influence of artificial lighting on a human's biological clock? Norms and legislation are written by very wise, technically oriented people, but they do not necessary see the "big picture"/whole spectrum of the problem and possible consequences.
In evolutionary terms, human beings as a species have only recently changed their outdoor, agrarian lifestyle due to the invention of artificial lighting, with the help of which we can perform our visual tasks and extend day into night (24/7). The consequences of spending our days and nights in a built environment, protected from natural elements such as daylight cannot yet be measured due to the short time scale of this process. Only recently have people started to become increasingly aware of the fact that artificial light cannot substitute daylight due to its lack of full spectral characteristics, which are necessary to regulate a number of biochemical processes in our bodies.
The last couple of years have witnessed a shift in approach towards lighting with a focus of understanding of what defines excellent, environment-friendly and human-oriented lighting design schemes. Clients come to us seeking professional advice - not schemes which are harmful to their bodies. It is not too late to realize that our profession is not only about creating good, aesthetically pleasing ambiences supported by technological solutions. It is about the people and places we exist in.
Lighting designers have the power and necessary knowledge to transform a space to suit any requirement. Almost any environment can be positively enhanced whether retail, hospitality, gallery, museum, theme venue, lecture theatre, boardroom, ballroom and so on. We should be aware of the fact, that we can manipulate artificial light in a manner no one else can, which is almost like "playing God" without knowing it. Are we ready to be lighting experts? We have to accept here and now that we are a recognized profession and understand that our practical expertise can and does make a difference to others' lives, health and the environment, today and for generations to come.
The choice is ours.