What’s the difference between a Lighting Designer and a Lighting Consultant
Your new-build project is progressing and you turn your mind to designing a lighting scheme. Who do you contract to do this work – a lighting designer or a lighting consultant? Here is a bit more background information.
Lighting Designer – Product Design
A Lighting Designer can be someone who designs the architectural light fittings and the luminaires that we include in our projects. For example Tom Dixon who has a wide range of his own lights as well as other products he designs, Marc Sadler who has designed several renowned luminaires including Foscarini’s Jamaica and of course our own Tom Raffield who creates beautiful bentwood fittings such as the Butterfly.
These lighting designers concentrate on product design and therefore their speciality is not designing lighting schemes.
Lighting Designers – Theatrical
Lighting Designers can also be specialists in theatrical lighting including opera and rock musical shows. These designers think big and bold and you can’t get much more impressive than Patrick Woodroffe and Adam Bassett http://woodroffebassett.com who made a lasting impact at the London Olympics and continue lighting rock concerts and classical productions throughout the world. Other notable theatrical lighting designers are Mark Henderson and Paule Constable to name a few.
Excellent lighting in theatrical productions is absolutely critical – get it wrong and the whole event is lacklustre and dreary no matter how impressive the production itself.
Architectural Lighting Designers
These are designers who primarily design larger projects such as offices, museums, shops, hotels, restaurants and larger residential complexes. For example Stanton Williams who recently carried out the lighting for Musée d’arts in Nantes and Maurice Brill Lighting Design who have done a plethora of international projects such as the Lanesborough Hotel in London and the Gritti Palace in Venice.
These types of lighting designers are very high end and any residential projects taken on would be exceptional as their work schedule is primarily taken up with the larger design jobs. All lighting designs would closely co-ordinate with other design mediums using BIM and their specialism is design only, not supply.
There are other types of lighting designers who concentrate more on residential lighting and generally work on the premise that they will design the lighting with the assumption that they will also supply the fittings. John Cullen Lighting for example have some of their own products manufactured to their specifications but also supply architectural lights from other suppliers to which they allocate their own codes. Although this means that ordering is relatively easy it also gives less flexibility for the client if the electrical contractor wants to supply direct from the manufacturer.
At Luxplan we work more as Lighting Consultants as we don’t supply the fittings and all our schemes are produced with full transparency so that clients can purchase the products themselves. However, we will also call ourselves lighting designers as that is the most general term used.
Scenario: You’ve just spent £600 on a designer pendant light for your new-build home and then you walk into your local McDonalds and see it hanging just near the stand for the ketchup and straws. How do you feel? Luckily I hadn’t just bought such a designer light and I hadn’t specified the light for a client but I did walk into the local takeaway to see this very much admired designer piece on full display and somehow, well, it just doesn’t feel the same any more.
So why do we buy designer items? Is it the form, the cut, the ergonomics? Or is it the exclusivity which is usually linked to the cost? In other words the pricier the item the more exclusive, ie fewer people can afford it so therefore seen less. But then large chain outlets will have big clout – they’ll be buying in quantity and, if rolling out the same design throughout the country, will undoubtedly be placing substantial orders with the producers which means that they can specify lighting without being overly concerned with the cost. But is it short-sighted of the design houses to supply to large chain outlets and does it ultimately have a negative impact on the way their products are perceived?
Above are some snapshots of designer lights that I have encountered on the high street. I love all these light fittings and I’m not here to name and shame any of them as they enhance our shopping and eating experience but to be honest I would think twice before specifying them for a client, or I would at least warn them!
What do you think?
If only life were simple! If only we could buy an LED fitting, or retro-fit LED lamp, wire it in, connect it to a dimmer and hey presto – a perfectly dimming light. Unfortunately, as so many of you will have experienced, this is not always the case and lamentably, the answer is not always crystal clear. So how to stop LEDs from flickering? The following explanation in layman’s terms may help you resolve any problems you may have or, even better, avoid them in the first place.
Speak the Same Lanuguage
All LEDs have electrical control gear known as Drivers – even retro-fit LED lamps have tiny drivers in the base of them. These need to speak the same language as the dimming module. When using a simple Mains dimming switch there are two methods of dimming – one is Trailing Edge and the other is Leading Edge. Trailing Edge tends to be better; the dimmers are slightly more expensive but they are less prone to buzz and are generally more compatible with a wider range of fittings. The manufacturers of the LED driver or lamp should stipulate the dimming method recommended (some will say either) so then you can ensure that the correct dimmer is installed. Do check that the LED retro fit lamps are dimmable – not all of them are!
For large projects always check that the dimmers are compatible with the LED fixtures or lamps that will be used; I usually combine Philips MasterLED lamps with Varilight V-pro intelligent dimmers which currently work well together – please note the word ‘currently’ as specifications can change and manufacturers will always state that testing should be carried out to ensure compatibility. Forbes and Lomax combine beautifully styled fittings incorporating Varilight dimming modules but it always advisable to state that the dimmer will be used for LEDs when ordering.
Don’t Overload the Circuit
A common mistake is to look at the maximum wattage on the dimmer, say 250 watts (in old money) and decide that, as the LED lamps are only 5 watts for example, you would be able to dim a multitude of fittings on that circuit. Wrong. Ideally you should downrate by 6-10 times so in this case you would be best running 5 – 8 max fittings of 5 watts each. It is possible to get larger load dimmers so it is best to check the number of fittings on each circuit before installation.
Don’t Underload the Circuit
Some dimmers, especially Leading Edge dimmers, need a minimum load in order to work, some as much as 40 watts before they will kick in. The more modern Trailing Edge dimmers will generally work from a lower load set point but be wary of trying to dim one or two LED fittings on one dimmer or you may need to incorporate a ‘dummy load’ to enable the dimmer to work.
Keep it Simple
Try to avoid using MR16 equivalent LEDs where possible when dimming as you then have three factors to bear in mind – the dimming module, the driver and the transformer which involves more ‘communication’ and more chances of incompatibility. GU10 retro fit LED lamps or GLS replacement lamps are much simpler altogether. However, on a positive note I have had success with using Philips MasterLED MR16 lamps with low voltage fittings on a Hamilton Mercury system but this was several years ago so may not be true today. Always best to check.
Phase Adaptive Dimmers
If you don’t know whether you are going to use Leading Edge or Trailing Edge drivers then go for a Phase Adaptive dimmer; more high spec but flexible. Try Lutron for the latest in cutting edge dimming technology. And if you’re wiring a new-build or self-build property it is worth considering a digital method of dimming such as DALI.
Favour Constant Current
Constant current LED drivers general work much better than constant voltage ones. The LED fittings for constant current drivers should be wired in series and your electrician should always check what products are specified before any wiring is done.
If you are still having problems with flickering lights and you have assessed all of the above then it may be time to check out the wiring in the property. Loose or faulty wiring or spikes and troughs in the electrical supply reaching the circuits in question could be having a knock-on effect so it is always advisable to check this out as well.
Disclaimer: The above article is the individual opinion of the author and no commercial transactions should take place on the basis of any advice given above.
Planning exterior lighting often comes low on the agenda of self-builders new-build projects. Here lighting designer Claire Pendarves gives some tips and advice on planning your garden lighting.
Plan the Layout
The more you plan the better the effect. If you’re not a keen gardener and don’t have a basic plan in your head then I would strongly advise bringing in a professional landscape architect or garden designer. So often I see the landscape design being left as an afterthought and although it’s workable, especially if the coffers are running low, it can mean that the project can seem half finished for a number of months or even years.
Less is More
Francis Bacon said “In order for the light to shine so brightly the darkness must be present” and this is so true when it comes to lighting our gardens. An over-lit garden can seem flat and dazzling whereas careful placement of exterior fixtures can make it seem quite magical. Also, I find that the lighting budget for a new-build can balloon by over-specifying on the exterior landscape lighting quite unnecessarily.
Light the Outside for Inside
When you consider the British climate we spend most of our time in our houses and sadly the evenings where we are relaxing in warm summer gardens are all too few. With so many new-build designs featuring large expanses of windows and the trend being to connect the design of the interior and exterior spaces it makes sense to consider how the garden lighting will look from the inside. Accent garden lighting placed near the house can visually extend the living space and relieve the cold appearance of black glass panes at night making occupants feel less vulnerable.
Accentuate the Positive
Take a critical look at your building and planting to see what existing features you can highlight. Rough stone walls take on a magical warmth when uplit with low glare inground LEDs as can well-structured trees and shrubs. If you’re struggling to find any existing features this could help you decide on your planting; palms, silver birch and olive trees for example light well and oversized lit planters can look stylish and dramatic.
Paths and Steps
I always think of lighting as a journey and nowhere more than when lighting routes within a garden where functional lighting should dovetail with the aesthetic. Consider the approach from the parking area, unloading shopping on a winter’s evening and the trail up the garden path to the enveloping warmth of home. It is particularly important to select low glare fittings for all paths and steps ensuring that the route is smoothly lit with no dark patches on the way.
Trees and Shrubs
Up-lighting and back-lighting trees and shrubs can be dramatic and effective although positioning of the light source should be carefully considered to create impact with minimal glare. Fixed in-ground lights with adjustable lamps within the fitting can work well for larger trees but for shrubbery that will grow and alter throughout the seasons, the ubiquitous spike spot is a wonderful tool offering flexibility and effect at a relatively low cost
There is no doubt that exterior lighting can bump up the cost of a project but it is a lamentable mistake to buy cheaper fittings with the aim of stretching the budget further. If the bottom line is looking too inflated it is better to choose fewer fittings and still stick with quality. Beware of stainless steel as there is a vast range on the market and I’ve seen cheap fittings corrode within six months near the coast. Go for 316L stainless steel or galvanised when selecting steel; alternatively copper is incredibly resilient and tones down well and bronze is practically indestructible. Alternatively hard anodised aluminium can work well or a good quality powder coated finish can be more economical.
It is true to say that with modern technology it is now possible to illuminate an entire garden with the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb. Whether the decision is made to light the exterior entirely by dedicated LEDs or a mixture of light sources will rather depend on budget and logistical factors such as the placement of drivers and transformers. Mains fittings offer more flexibility and combine well with retro fit LED lamps although for smaller punchier lights LEDs are general the best choice. Fibre optics can also look magical when combined with water features and, once in situ will last for years although your electrician will not love you for specifying them.
Ideally there should never be less than two control circuits, three being the optimum and a fourth giving prime flexibility. The first will be atmospheric lighting close to the house, the second will be security and facility lighting (this will often be on a PIR with a timer and over-ride facility), and the third will generally be for landscaping beyond the immediate vicinity of the house, such as driveways and additional features. The luxury of the fourth can allow for an entertaining circuit such as illuminating a barbeque and dining area, swimming pool or hot tub if such indulgences exist.
Lighting a garden can be a functional exercise or an exciting adventure which will add a totally new dimension to a property. There’s no quick fix solution to creating it but with careful consideration and measured planning the effect can be a work of art. It’s a matter of choice.
Sculptural Pieces from Chelsea Flower Show coming to Tremenheere
I was thrilled to see that Cornwall based garden designer Darren Hawkes won a Gold for his Brewin Dolphin garden and that some of the sculptural elements of this will soon be installed at Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens near Penzance. This will be a huge bonus to Tremenheere which already features some outstanding pieces and this news took me back to my involvement with Tremenheere last summer.
I had received an enquiry on the answerphone in the office for my local lighting design service (Illumina Lighting) but had tried to call the mobile number without success. Heading back from a design job in Lamorna I tried the number again and this time I got through. The man I spoke to said that he wanted to light an art installation and, when I asked whereabouts he was based I was informed that he was near Penzance. As I happened to be only fifteen minutes away I said I could drop by that day so duly rolled up at Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens for the first time on a beautiful late summer’s afternoon.
At the side of the car park stood a gleaming chrome skip that I could only assume was artwork and it raised a little chuckle. Then I went on to meet the creator and driving force behind the gardens, Dr Neil Armstrong, who firstly showed me the striking building housing their fresh and airy restaurant and then guided me through the lush gardens up to the highest point where the most beautiful view of St Michaels Mount and the bay lay before us.
This was, he explained, a tricky lighting task and time was of the essence. He then led me through a pillared entrance leading to an inclining passageway and beyond to one of the most exquisite spaces I have every encountered. An elliptical domed ‘temple’ with a crisp oval opening in the roof casting the sky as the lead player above the cool white vessel below.
This was the work of world renowned American artist James Turrell – a Skyspace come to Cornwall. James Turrell has installations throughout the world; Israel, Japan, China, Australia, Europe and of course, the States. The structure was now finished but it remained unlit and the artist was due to visit in three weeks to see it complete. Time was of the essence! Not only that but the light had to be pure and the angle of the light had to be so delicately placed so as not to highlight any imperfections in the curved structure; in addition it was only to be used at twilight and was not to be the main player – the sky and the light should work in unison, each complimenting and paying tribute the other. A delicate task and a wonderful challenge.
Oh, and one other point, said Neil – there’s no electricity!
It was a tall ask but I promised to get back to Neil within three days with a solution to the problem. Five days later we met on site in the early evening; I was armed with a two metre length of high output, 2700°K, 95 CRI LED tape with a long lead, driver and plug that we could link to the generator as a temporary measure. The only way we could see how it worked was by trial and error so we positioned the tape and sat back to watch and wait.
There was a stillness in the void and the changing sounds of the settling of the day in the garden beyond. Somewhere nearby an owl hooted and the first touch of autumn entered the night air. We sat, we watched, we changed the angle of the tape. Should it be flat? No the light had to breathe, yet if it was at too great an angle it would throw the light out onto the surface on the other side and the effect directly above it would be lost. And as the crisp sky above us changed to an inky blue, so did the intensity and the effect of the light change in unison.
The verdict was that it was viable but we needed someone to execute the work before the artist’s arrival in two weeks. It had to be someone more than a standard electrician as the angling of the LED tape was vital and it would need to be checked constantly during the progression of the work. And it had to be someone who could start immediately. I promised Neil I would get back to him with an answer although silently I was stumped.
Then, in the middle of the night the answer popped into my head. There was only one person who I felt would do the job with the delicacy required. I had met lighting artist Eleanor Bell a couple of times and had seen some of her pieces; she was an artist but she was also a qualified electrician and, although our client base overlapped my gut feeling was that she would be right for the job.
I put my ego aside and phoned Eleanor. As it turned out she was thrilled to be approached as she is a huge admirer of James Turrell and had even written her university dissertation on him. Another magical evening of testing, tweaking, discussions and conclusions was spent in the Skyspace and so, feeling that my part of the job was done, I passed it over to Eleanor’s competent hands.
James Turrell duly arrived and gave his seal of approval to the lighting. Everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief, Eleanor met her hero and yet another layer was added to the ethereal Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens.
A Charity Day is being held on 7th June 2015 in aid of Cornwall Hospice Care. All ticket money will go to the charity.
The European Commission has just agreed to delay the banning of the halogen replacement version of the incandescent lamp until September 2018. This ban may come as news to the average consumer amidst curses and mutterings but the positive news is that by this date the market should be well established with cost effective LED alternatives; in fact by this time we will probably have turned away from this type of halogen through choice in any case.
So let’s have a look at the twisty path of the incandescent and its replacements and where we are heading in the near future.
*Author’s Note to purists: ‘Lamp’ or ‘Bulb’, does it matter as long as we understand?
The Classic Incandescent Light Bulb
Now that was a blow when we were told that our trusty light source was to be banned. It gave a beautiful warm light, excellent colour rendition and went a fair way to heating one’s home in the winter. But no – that final point was one of the reasons for its demise!
People started hoarding them before the guillotine’s axe was to fall. In fact, I remember asking what I could do for a very ill friend and she said all she wanted was a good supply of 100 watt clear incandescent light bulbs so she could read easily!
So these were then replaced with:
The Compact Fluorescent Lamp
Has anyone, anywhere and at any time said they love these lamps? In the early days the light temperature was cold and the colour rendition was ghastly, casting a grey hue and making faces look sallow and colours lack lustre. They would take several minutes to warm up, whilst keeping most of us in fruitless anticipation of a decent volume of light being emitted. To add insult to injury they have received slurs relating to their effect on our skin and eyesight.
These have improved over recent years but how many people have bought the latest versions? I mean, isn’t the point of them that they last for years, and years… And then, when we do want to change them where do we put the old ones? We all know that they shouldn’t be disposed of with normal refuse but where? And what a bore! How many people actually do dispose of them in a responsible manner and, in reality, how much mercury is being added to our landfill?
Halogen Light Bulb
The Halogen version of the incandescent lamp. The best replacement in terms of clarity, colour rendition and the vitally important fact that they are dimmable. Not nearly as energy efficient as compact fluorescents but give instant light and the candle version works well with chandeliers when the bulb is exposed.
These are the lamps to be banned in September 2018
LED Light Bulb
The relatively new kid on the block, these have a very space age look. Not cheap and many not dimmable but we are getting to a better quality of light more instantaneously although we are still struggling to reach the output of the good ole incandescent 100 watt lamp. Still, progress is being made.
Latest LED Light Bulb
These are beautifully clear and sparkly. The higher output lamps are not all dimmable yet but undoubtedly within months this will be rectified. We are nearly there now with quality of light and the more efficient lamps keeping well below 10 watts with excellent output.
Another feature that some of these lamps offer is ‘dim-to-warm’ meaning that as they are dimmed, the colour temperature warms, more akin to the warmth of candle light.
And soon to come…
The Graphene Light Bulb
A new method being perfected by the University of Manchester forming a light bulb made of graphene coated LEDs which will be even more energy efficient and long lasting. It is anticipated that these will be on the open market in a matter of months at competitive rates.
The Squirrel Cage Lamp
This seems to have by-passed the regulations being of an industrial nature although very ‘on trend’, especially in bars and restaurants. Not energy efficient in the original version but can now be replaced with similar filament style LED versions such as:
Eco Filament lamp available from www.urbancottageindustries.com
And finally a funky version of the Compact Fluorescent
These are basically twisted fluorescent lamps in weird and wonderful shapes. Energy efficient, warm white with average colour rendition but not dimmable. These are by Plumen www.plumen.com
All in all it has been quite a journey and this is a small illustration of how nothing stands still in the lighting industry which is what makes it such an exciting field.
Design Director, Luxplan