An interior lighting system requires a host of considerations – from lighting product, control, performance to maintenance, energy-efficiency and cost. Buildotech takes a look at the varied aspects driving the lighting planning today and speaks to design professionals on the matter of lighting aesthetics and technology.
Good lighting design perceives to achieve the illuminance required to perform a task and also create a comfortable and controlled lit environment. Most architects and designers simply work with what they know but with fast changing technology, the role of specialized lighting consultant is coming into prominence. What’s more with the emergence of concept of smart and connected homes, lighting is now part of the home automation for which the system integrators have come to play an important part in pre-planning and detailed schematic phases.
Tools & Technologies
Several new software tools now available give designers a starting point to perform equipment and operational needs assessment. Software programs like EcoLumen, DIALux, Radiance, Plug-Load Calculation Tools, Energy-modeling software and Commercial Lighting Solutions (CLS), an interactive online tool among others, estimate energy savings, calculate watts per square foot and fixture counts as also retain data for future reference.
Besides, new advances in lighting technologies ranging across fixtures, controls and luminaire are aiding energy costs and environmental impact reduction. Compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) is now a transitional technology, gradually being replaced by LED-based products. Another new technology OLED (organic light-emitting diode) with superior lighting quality and benefits than LED is set to become mainstream in near future. Steven DenBaars, a research scientist at UC Santa Barbara is developing laser diodes that can replace incandescent lightbulb and even LEDs. He imagines using just tiny but powerful lasers, redirecting their light into fiber optic cables and other types of light-transmitting plastic that could take that light and evenly distribute it into a warm, diffuse glow. “In this way, it would be possible to take a single point source of light and use it to create a diffuse glow that seems to be emanating directly from the materials of a ceiling — or wall, or floor, or light fixture of any conceivable shape,” explained DenBaars.
In terms of control technologies, while dimming is a common practice for incandescent control, fluorescent dimming is beginning to be pursued seriously. Intermediate lighting controls like time clock controls, occupancy sensors and daylight sensors help switch or dim lights without human action. The primary disadvantage of these is the loss of control by the occupants. A recent development that address the same is the personal occupancy sensor. This device contains a 15A power strip with six receptacles. Four of the receptacles are tied to a small personal motion sensor to detect motion for a preset period of time.
Even more sophisticated lighting control systems are being developed that combine the earlier technologies with microprocessors and low voltage relays. Replacing numerous components and independent systems, they contain internal timeclock functions and input from occupancy sensors, interior and exterior daylight sensors, momentary contact switches and even dimmers.
Structured Design Process
In creating a visual environment, the design process takes into account multiple requirements like practical limitations, performance of the light source, lighting control, energy efficiency, running costs and so on. Some other important points for efficient lighting applications are:
- Customized specifications:
Lighting technique and fixtures tailored to individual spaces within the project yield the highest performance and efficiency. For example, for cove lighting, fixtures with continuous and integral field-cuttable castings reduce installation labor and costs.
- Natural light application:
Daylighting is not always an appropriate choice. Depending on site positioning and climate, it can increase air-conditioning costs for cooling. For instance, natural light through the ceiling is much more effective, because glare and heat gain can be controlled easily.
- Personalized control:
Efficient systems include dimming and other adjustability features controllable by the occupants. The new trend in design is the involvement of the endusers, so controls should be capable of adapting to the users’ demands.
Digital control & Automation
Advanced digital control systems offer distinct advantages over older, analog systems. For easy and cost-effective integration of multiple control inputs, the new systems consolidate the power switches for a load to a single relay that, in turn are controlled by a programmable or adjustable control/logic card. Then there are digital controls that enable configuration via handheld tools or online connection.
Some control strategies are even able to self-configure the entire lighting system including controllers, occupancy sensors, switches, daylighting sensors, plug-load controls, lighting control panels, interfaces and accessories to varying degrees of accuracy. For instance, in large set-ups, lighting systems can be extremely complex, involving literally thousands of digital addresses. Automation in this regard, simplifies this process by embedding the complex data into the system’s architecture, making it a matter of pointing and clicking.
New wireless sensors developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory boost home energy efficiency through automated control systems for air-conditioning, lighting and other systems that access data such as outside air and room temperature, humidity, light level and occupancy. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are also developing new protocols and standards that will improve how smart appliances and fixtures communicate with each other and interact with the electric grid.