Lighting Design

Planning your lighting requirements is not as difficult as it may seem. The right lighting can make tasks, such as cooking, working on crafts, or simply reading, more efficient and enjoyable; lighting can also be used to set the mood of the room. A well designed lighting system allows you to achieve a number of outcomes – and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Evaluating your needs. Identifying lighting requirements for each space and use will allow you to determine placement and illumination requirements. The lighting should be designed to your lifestyle. You should not have to adapt your lifestyle to the lighting; something that happens all too often in a poorly designed system.

 Another consideration is the energy usage limits now imposed under the Building Code of Australia (BCA); these requirements limit the amount of energy consumed by lighting uses in new builds. As a rule of thumb these you should allow 5 watts of lighting per square metre of floor space indoors. When you consider that a halogen downlight consumes 50 watts of power each managing the lighting design is something to be taken seriously.

 So how do you plan your lighting? In many cases the electrician is not the answer. How many new builds have you seen with basic lighting – a network of downlights in the kitchen, bayonet fittings in the centre of each room for ambient lighting and a wall mounted light beside the entry and exit doors to the house. This basic lighting design will meet the minimum requirements but will not match your lifestyle. An alternate option is to hire a lighting designer; this of course requires additional funds. With a little education you can take ownership of the problem and design the lighting system in conjunction with your electrician. This entails understand your requirements and how you intend to use each space. Lighting requirements is science, but lighting design – this is art. Would you let your builder select your artwork?  Of course not – the same approach needs to be taken with your lighting.

Lighting Design; so what do you need to know?

The foundation of lighting design is understanding the three layers of lighting: 

Ambient lighting. Ambient lighting is the layer of light that illuminates the space overall, 

Accent lighting. Accent lighting highlights certain features or points in a room; eg, lighting artwork, and 

Task lighting. Task lighting, sheds light on specific area to make a task easier; eg, kitchen lighting. 

The art of lighting design is how to marry up the different lighting requirements to your lifestyle. Lighting design is considered by some to be a bit of a ‘black art’; however, taking a systematic approach can completely change the dynamic of a room. There are three steps to the process: 

Step 1. By room, determine how much task lighting is required for your lifestyle needs and how much energy will be required to deliver this requirement. 

Step 2. Consider your interior design and determine what accent lighting is required to create your desired effects. 

Step 3. Now you have achieved the effects that you are after consider what ambient lighting requirement you have. 

In a new build this may have to be a process that is revisited to balance the 5W per square meter requirement. It is during this process that you may decide to compromise and look at dual use lighting; eg, dimmable LED downlights in the lounge to provide task lighting for reading and doing hobby work that can also provide ambient lighting for watching television and/or socialising. 

So you now have the foundation knowledge to develop your lighting design. So what type of lighting should we install? In a future article we will look at the confusing subject of light temperature – the difference between cool and warm light and where to use each.





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