While light levels may be objectively measured, how we perceive light is entirely subjective. Light affects us on a primal emotional level. On a biological level, our brains are hardwired for long nights huddled around camp fires. More than just cycles of light and dark, color temperatures tied to the sun’s appearance at high noon and sunrise/sunset play a central role in regulating our body’s biochemistry. How light affects us changes throughout the course of our lives, can be culturally dependent and is ultimately, entirely personal. In order to illicit the desired emotional response, a lighting designer needs to be able to make choices about where, when, and what kind of light to put on any given surface. These choices need to be perfectly reproducible but also flexible and able to adapt to changes in ambient conditions and space usage requirements. This is what a lighting control system does. Designing a lighting control can be hard. Yes, it requires a thorough understanding of the technology, but that is not what makes it hard. What makes it hard is understanding how best to apply the technology within the context of the entirety of the job. What does the system need to be able to do, both now and in the future? How, and by whom, is the system is going to be used on a daily basis? What sort of special events, overrides and/or automatic triggers may help the space achieve the client’s desired level of efficiency? First and foremost, have you guaranteed that someone with no formal training or experience can easily turn on the lights? And what about the budget? It is easy to assume that hard means expensive. While that may be true for certain projects, it is by no means universally true. As I mentioned above, the difficult part is developing the detailed narrative. The actual equipment and installation required may not be very expensive in the scheme of your project. In fact, part of good design involves finding elegant solutions that streamline parts, pieces and installation requirements. A well designed system, tailored for your project and your needs, should cost less than a generic system capable of “doing it all.” Often, after careful analysis, a basic time clock and some presets may be all that a project needs. Make controls parts of your initial design conversation. They may not seem glamorous, but they give life to your design. They are the first thing your client experiences when they enter the space and the last thing they touch when they leave.
Presented by Dan Nichols, Architectural Business Development, Starlite Productions