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A Panelized Home: Creating the Lighting Plan

   
 
  The Hammonds meet with lighting designer Markus Earley to discuss preliminary lighting design concepts  
   

The main goal in lighting is to design a system that is layered and flexible, in order to meet the multi-functional nature of a room or entire home. One light fixture in a room may enable basic visibility, but not be adequate or appropriate for other needs or activities. Task lighting, art collections, entertaining, and television viewing, for example, all benefit from specific lighting solutions. Each of us have unique tastes and we like our furniture, fixtures, carpets, lighting, and wall coverings to complement each other and express who we are. The right lighting can help make it all possible.

To achieve the look and feel they wanted for their home, the Hammonds hired lighting designer Markus Earley, a formally trained interior designer with over 17 years lighting design experience, to help them develop a lighting plan for their home. Whether remodeling or building from scratch, a lighting designer–like an architect–will meet the client to learn about the homeowners’ lifestyle, tastes, and needs to get a good idea of what lighting will be appropriate. In the Hammonds’ case, they decided that the kitchen, dining room, bathrooms, library, and master bedroom were areas in the house where lighting would play a prominent role. Once the lighting plan was finalized, Earley transferred the plans to a set of blueprints locating the fixtures, controls and electrical outlets. From this document, the Hammonds’ contractors were able to do the necessary wiring and rough-in of fixtures during the construction stage of the project.


 
 
  Lightolier’s TechCenter’s Effects Gallery demonstrates many common—and not so common—lighting plans.  
 

The Technology of Lighting Design
Until prompted, most people do not give much thought to the way rooms are lit. When we do notice lighting, it is often because a room is too dark or bright. Lighting product manufacturer Lightolier’s TechCenter, located in Fall River, Mass., displays 100s of lighting scenarios to help homeowners understand how light functions in the home. According to Lightolier, a key question to ask is "How much light will we need?" The amount of light required for good vision depends on three factors:

Age
By the age of 55, many people need twice as much light to see as well as we did at age 20. As a person grows older, eyes are also more sensitive to glare–so light should be both plentiful and well shielded.

Type of task
Workspaces, like the Hammonds’ kitchen island, for instance, need to have lights that provide adequate light levels and are located in such a way that the person at the workstation will not get in the way of the beam and cast shadows on the work surface. Food preparation and recipe reading are tasks that require accuracy (and sometimes speed) so good lighting is essential.

Reflectance
We cannot see light. Instead, what we see is the reflected brightness (luminance), of materials. For instance, if the Hammonds’ kitchen counter were going to be stainless steel, the lighting designer would probably not want to put a spotlight directly above it. If that were the case, the light would most likely bounce off the surface and reflect extreme brightness (glare).


   
 
  Kitchen lighting options at the TechCenter.  
   

Type of light
Lightolier also outlines the three basic lighting techniques. Here is a quick summary.

Ambient lighting provides general, overall illumination. It defines a space and brightens objects and surfaces in the room.

Accent lighting is the type of lighting used to highlight specific objects by directing additional light to focus attention to selected objects and surfaces.

Task lighting is light we use for detailed work. Generally we illuminate areas where food is prepared, where we read and perform other tasks where both well-diffused and direct light is required.

Light sources
Basic light source choices include incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent–with several variations and options available within each category. Energy efficiency, the amounts of light required, color accuracy and appearance, and cost and maintenance should all be considered.

Fixtures
The intended light distribution, function and purpose will guide your choice of fixtures. The appearance and style of the space need to taken into consideration, as does the type of activity they will illuminate. Options and possibilities may differ between new construction and remodeling.

Controls
Options for controlling lights range from simple switches to complex systems that handle multiple lighting schemes through pre-programmed timers and settings. If you anticipate the need to change lighting scenes to suit a particular activity or quickly change the mood of a room more advanced controls and fixtures will be required. Although more costly, integrated lighting systems can monitor energy usage, turn lights off when they are not needed, as well as offer a full range of controls for an entire house from a single location.

Credit: Renovate Your World