29 Sep 2015

Guiding light: planning lighting for your project

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Lighting is a key component to any self-build project; it has a fundamental effect on how the space works and how you feel inside it. Iain Shaw, Partner at lighting expert Brilliant Lighting, presents how to perfect your lighting scheme.

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Your self-build offers so many opportunities to create a unique space that appeals to your own requirements and preferences, and lighting has a key role to play in this. The lighting landscape is changing rapidly. LED is fast becoming the principal light source for new homes, however this lighting technology is more complex than traditional sources. Whatever technology you’re working with, it’s essential to align and plan all aspects of your lighting design.

You need to start planning your lighting as early in the design process as possible. The more you treat your lighting as an architectural item, the more opportunities you will have to integrate your lighting into the fabric of the building. Getting ahead of the build process is vital. For example, the floor is a great location for recessed uplights, but it’s lost as an opportunity once the screed for the underfloor heating is down. If you plan ahead you can make the most of all the opportunities in your build.

Consider how you use your home

Lighting design isn’t formulaic, but it helps to have a structured approach. At Brilliant Lighting, when we approach the design of a project we start by looking at how the space is going to be used. Work through how you are going to live in your new home and consider the function of each room – it’s your house and only you really know how you will live in it. This means understanding how rooms are laid out and where you want the focal points to be.

Identify what you really want to highlight or emphasise. You’ll want shadow-free task lighting in key locations, but are there other areas that you want highlighted, such as artwork and photographs? Where do you plan on spending your time later in the day – are there certain cosy evening spots that will need good lighting? Think about what is going to make the space special and then think about how you might support that with light.

Understand potential problems

It’s worth considering the potential drawbacks of your space. Understanding potential issues early is a huge advantage. For example, have you got dramatic architectural features that might cause lighting issues? Planning out your basic lighting requirements early in the project should help you side-step the issues that only become glaring when the electrician is onsite looking to run cables.

Will your ceiling be low or high? Is the space going to be open plan – will it cater for a bulk of cables? It’s very easy to look at an almost wholly glazed room and picture how fantastic it will look in the light evenings of summer, but you need to make every room usable all year round. Taking a realistic look at the space early in the process will help you to identify where the lighting challenges are going to be and help you to head them off.

Create a plan

Once you have identified how you will use the different areas of your home and the potential problems of its design, you can start to make a plan.

Determine the optimum route – plan for different ambiences by thinking about your lighting in layers. For example, what lighting is going to provide your day-to-day needs and what is going to be the mainstay of lighting a space?

Task lighting is important and much easier if considered early in the process. Think about how you are going to deliver particular lighting to particular areas, such as food preparation spaces or a home office.

Accent lighting completes the jigsaw – it highlights the features in your home that you want to show off and makes them look amazing. This doesn’t have to be artwork, it can be anything that is special to you and understanding the elements of your home will help you to identify these. Many people choose to light staircases, baths and pillars – anything with a ‘wow’ statement. Make the space personal to you.

Working with LEDs

Modern lighting solutions are very efficient. Building regulations have effectively outlawed incandescent sources, meaning that LED is a really important lighting source. However, the bad news is that LED is evolving rapidly which means there are certain things to avoid when planning your scheme. Buy high quality LED fittings, test them out, look at the colour of the light and be very clear with the people working on your project if you want to dim fittings. In my experience, the biggest cause of lighting design issues is when LED’s are treated the same as incandescent lighting.

Dimming LED is a problematic area because the traditional dimming techniques you may have used in the past are largely redundant for the technology. Lighting control systems offer control of all the major lighting control standards, meaning you can manage dimming and colour in your software. Lighting control systems also offer other advantages – they make your lighting more efficient and can link with your security systems.

Further information....

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