How much will it cost to light my new build? ask self-build owners. How do I budget for my lighting?
There’s not an easy answer to this but you, as the instigator of the project, probably hold more answers than you know. Here are a few personal observations from my years as a lighting designer.
Architectural Design of the Build
The design of your building will determine how much natural light you can take advantage of – position and size of the windows and surrounding landscaping will have a strong impact on the interior illumination. The more you can benefit from natural light, the fewer light fittings you will need to purchase and the lower will be the running costs so it’s worth bearing this element in mind during the initial planning phase.
Initial Cost versus Running Costs
There are two elements to bear in mind – the cost of a) purchasing the products and b) installing them and then there’s the price of running them over the years. Incorporating a home automation system can be quite a hefty outlay initially but there are economical features that can be integrated and an installer will be able to arm you with the figures to help you make an informed decision.
Keep it in proportion to the rest of the Build
If you are looking for a high end finish throughout the building the quality of the integral fittings should be in line with the standard of building materials and other fitments. I’ve seen projects let down at the eleventh hour by clients saving (the tiniest proportion of the complete build cost) by using plastic light switches or cheaper LEDs giving out glary cold light. And I’ve even had a client who presumed the cost of lighting the entire house would be equivalent to the price he was paying for a rather luxurious bath tub. As the saying goes “Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar”.
What defines expensive?
Everyone holds an approximate price bracket in their heads and this is greatly influenced by what their priorities are. Several years ago when I owned a lighting and lifestyle showroom I had a beautiful ribbed nickel picture light on display in the shop front; the price was approximately £200. A client of mine admired the piece but baulked at the price and asked who on earth would pay so much for a wall light. This same client owned a designer clothes shop in the same town and there were only a few items of clothing in her shop that would come under this price bracket. I may be biased but if you factor in the enjoyment per day, per month, per year I would say that my wall light won hands down over a dress worn a handful of times but then it’s all a matter of priorities…
Get it right Now
I’ve had clients who say they like subdued light and want to hold back on the number of fittings. Whilst I am a great advocate of mood and ambient lighting an allowance for greater task lighting should always be borne in mind, especially as over the years we will need more light with our aging eyes. No one wants the hassle of adding more lighting once the build has been completed and whilst lamps can help add illumination to living rooms and bedrooms it’s not so easy in bathrooms and kitchens where more task lighting is needed.
So how much will it cost?
In short I’m afraid there is no easy answer but as a lighting designer I like to know more about the style and quality envisaged for the project and will propose the best, most cost-effective solution for the scheme in hand always bearing in mind quality and longevity.
By Claire Pendarves
Lighting Designer – Luxplan Lighting Design
“What type of downlights should I use in my new-build” is a question which raises its head in the early stages of a building project. “Should I go for dedicated LED downlights or use fittings that will take retro-fit LED lamps?”
Here are some tips that I can offer from my experience as a lighting designer.
Recently some clients had fallen in love with an LED downlight by a renowned design company and wanted to incorporate these in their lighting scheme. The fittings were beautiful with the light source set back (always recommended), a gold domed interior and a minimal trim giving all the benefits of trimless without the complication of needing to be plastered in. In addition the fitting had a wide variety of specialities that could be incorporated such as beam angle, colour temperature, CRI, light source and dimming protocol.
The fitting was a beauty but there was only one problem – price. These designer downlights don’t come cheap and although of prime quality, incorporating these in a full house design can drive up the budget exponentially so they are not usually the average self-builder’s first choice.
Dedicated LED Downlights
Whilst you may not want to blow the budget on the top designer downlights my ethos is that if you are going to incorporate dedicated LED downlights then you need to go for the best for these reasons.
Colour Temperature and CRI
These are not the same thing – Colour Temperature relates to the warmth of the light emitted and CRI (Colour Rendering Index) means how colours will look under the light. The higher the CRI the better the colours will look (more akin to natural sunlight) and lower the colour temperature the warmer the light. Generally the better quality downlights will allow for 2700°K and 90 CRI but you would be hard pushed to get this from a standard cheaper version.
There is nothing worse than dazzling glare from downlights so the light source should be set back, either within a dome or with a baffle such as these below. A dark baffle or dome will absorb more glare and a gold or copper toned dome will warm the light further.
The guarantee issued by the manufacturer is only as solid as the manufacturer issuing it and manufacturers can merge, reform or go into administration. Technology can fail and LEDs are no exception so try and ensure that you purchase dedicated LEDs from quality suppliers and don’t pay too much attention to the 10 year guarantee. Even when all is well with the manufacturer/supplier over the years your LEDs will change slightly in terms of colour and output and replacing one failed LED with a brand new replacement will often ‘jar’ in the existing overall scheme.
In residential situations this is usually more of an issue where ceilings are high as a more punchy amount of light will be required to travel the distance. Retro-fit lamps can’t get quite such high output as a dedicated LED fitting although in most domestic situations I don’t find this is an issue.
So, whilst good quality dedicated downlights may tick all the boxes in terms of function and design, the price and longevity issues make it worth considering the alternatives.
The quality of retro-fit LED lamps has vaulted in the past few years with excellent colour temperatures and CRI and even the facility to warm the temperature as they are dimmed – perfect for dining rooms.
Just caste your mind back to when lighting was easy. The ‘bulb’ died and you popped another in within a matter of minutes. Things have now come full circle but with a difference – the ‘bulbs’ are LED GU10s or MR16 lamps and the need to change them is rare though much easier than calling in an electrician to replace a dedicated LED fitting.
A good source for purchasing LED lamps online is: https://www.ledhut.co.uk/spot-lights/gu10-led-bulbs.html
Always ensure the lamps you select are compatible with the dimmers used.
Mains or Low Voltage Fittings
There are still many low voltage downlights available, particularly from Europe, although my feeling is why have a transformer when you can avoid one more link in the chain that could go wrong. When the budget is restricted my tendency is to specify good quality Mains downlights that take LED GU10s, most of which cost about £100 less than the designer light I mentioned at the beginning. Worth thinking about.
Avoid ‘runways’ of lights – concentrate on where the light is actually going to fall
Don’t have all downlights on the same circuit – this will help manipulate the ambience
Ensure that fire hoods are used where necessary if fittings are not Fire Rated
Avoid using downlights in vaulted ceilings – insulation will be compromised
Future proof your project – go for the best LEDs or choose standard fittings with LED GU10s
This post was written by
Claire Pendarves – Lighting Designer and Design Director of Luxplan
We offer a lighting design and specification service throughout the UK
How to Light Open Plan Spaces
Planning the lighting for your new-build may seem daunting to self-build enthusiasts but with careful thought you can enjoy the benefits of a lighting layout that is not only atmospheric, but functional and energy-efficient as well.
With the vast improvement in insulation materials over recent years the effect on our interior spaces has been quite dramatic. We are now able to lift our living areas into lofty heights without compromising on warmth whilst creating open plan, interconnecting living zones where the social functions of a modern-day family can be accommodated without the barriers of internal walls and doors.
It’s an exciting prospect for the self-builder to envisage the seamless interconnection of their living spaces but at some stage they will have to face the task of planning the lighting which is a vital element in creating atmosphere and functional zones. The designing of the lighting plan is totally linked to how the space is going to be used and it is attention to detail in the early stages that will create the most effective and dramatic results. Put off the decisions and there is a danger that the outcome is blanket lighting akin to an office – spend time attending to the details and you will find you can zone the areas creating harmonious living areas through the very use of light
In order to achieve the best lighting effects the internal space needs to be planned; this is particularly important with kitchens and bathrooms but to achieve the best results, planning where the furniture will go in the open plan space will reap vast rewards. Seating may not always be near the walls, especially in large spaces, so deciding where the sofas and lounge chairs are going to be placed means that floor plugs can be situated in these locations either as standard plugs or part of a 5 amp circuit for lamps. It may be that a large rumbustious family area is not conducive to lamps in which case some downlights (with dark baffles for minimum glare) strategically placed over reading or games areas is more task focussed and when dimmed, can add to the atmosphere. It’s still worth factoring in the floor plugs though, even if they are not required initially, as the occupants’ needs may change over the years.
Deciding where the dining table is to be situated is often challenging but again it is worth making the decision as, in addition to selecting any feature lights, there will be dark nights when fish (with bones!) may be consumed – even if your own eyes are sharp and young at the moment, it is always worth future-proofing your lighting.
The secret of good lighting is to have layered light coming from various levels and it is here that the latest in LED technology can be brought into force with inground uplighters and floor washers adding interest as well as high vaulted ceilings being accentuated with spots or troughs housing LED casting light up onto the ceiling. Positioning and angling of linear LEDs is important – ideally you need enough space for the light to breathe and should aim to avoid any reflection of the individual LEDs within the tape. It is always worth noting that such lighting tends to show up any imperfections in the wall; this can be used to your advantage where the walls are purposefully textured but this is not always the case with supposedly smooth walls. There are several suppliers of plaster troughs and diffusers which are invaluable when planning indirect lighting; we often specify products from Orac Décor.
Points of Interest
From a design point of view, wide expanses of wall sometimes need breaking up and, if there are no relevant architectural features to highlight, it is here that the formation of niches or shelving – either to display objects or artwork – can incorporate lighting thereby serving a dual purpose. Similarly, light can be bounced off walls with the use of angled downlights or spots and this is where feature walls with artwork or textured walls can serve a dual purpose.
Here we incorporated lighting behind opaque panels placed at the back of the shelves which added interest and also helped to widen the room.
Planning the circuits will pull the design together and it is worth imagining various scenarios during this process and how they will interconnect. There will be times when, whilst the focus is in one living area, having the unused areas plunged into darkness would leave you feeling cold and vulnerable. Soft and subtle lighting in these regions gives a feeling of connection and, with the latest LEDs, can be executed whilst consuming minimal amounts of electricity.
The more circuits that are incorporated in the lighting design the more flexible will be the living space and it is here that home automation can come into its own. If there is only one area in the house where home automation is used it is here that this facility is invaluable. Many owners will profess that it is ‘all too complicated’ but in fact the reverse is true. The software deals with the complicated bit – all you have to do is select the scene on the wall switch, phone or remote control to set a scene out of a pre-planned few. Much easier than twiddling dimmers or forgetting which switch relates to which circuit and it is a facility that is fast becoming a pre-requisite in contemporary new builds.
A simple home automation system that is worth checking out is Loxone
With an open plan living space on the ground floor the stairs are often part of, if not a feature, of this area. Left in darkness this is another zone that can leave us feeling vulnerable and isolated and there are now numerous ways to accentuate beautiful stairways with low energy LEDs and feature lighting suspended from the floors above.
Contemporary living spaces will often have large expanses of glass allowing natural light to flood in during the day but bear in mind the gloomy overcast days of our British winter when you will want to whack up the light in the core of the building. Good quality light output is required more on dull days than during the evening or night so factor in some crisp lighting to pep you up on those February mornings.
Connect with Outside
When night does fall, ensure that some accent lighting has been incorporated beyond the plate glass windows as this will cheer the interior and will serve to soften the edges of your living space. Uplighting trees or plants with simple spike spots can still look dramatic and is a flexible solution to exterior lighting in the early stages of the building’s life; even path and step lights can add a magical element to the garden when viewed from the interior.
Carefully planning your lighting in the early stages of the design will ensure that your space is flexible and functional and you will reap the benefits in the years to come. And bear in mind the pace at which things change in the building world – unless we plan for tomorrow we are already planning for yesterday.
Plan your circuits
Decide where your furniture is going
Consider Home Automation
We design and specify lighting schemes throughout the UK and beyond. All projects can be carried out remotely and are fully transparent enabling our clients to purchase light fittings direct from suppliers at the best prices.
Bathrooms and wet rooms are getting more luxurious by the day and constitute a large proportion of the spend in contemporary new builds and renovations.
Planning your bathroom and wet room lighting will reap benefits if carried out in advance of your new-build. This one small area has to change from being a functional zone on a gloomy winter’s morning, when the light needs to be crisp and sharp, to relaxing haven with a pre-party drink in the bath and all the scenarios in between. This can be created through a combination of layering the light, allowing for enough lighting circuits and the flexibility of dimming. Whilst shower rooms and wet rooms tend to need only one or two circuits more circuits and dimming options will be required to optimise the mood when there is a bath in the room.
Downlights placed close to the wall will give a softer effect by creating reflected light which is gentler on the eye, however, if using dark coloured wall tiles or paint allow for a greater number of downlights as less light will bounce back into the room. Try and avoid a grid layout which tends to be flat and give thought to the style of downlight used – a dark baffle with the light source set back will create less glare, as will a fitting with frosted glass.
Here we used downlights with dark baffles above the mirrored recess which helps expand the bathroom
These add the benefit of lowering the light which gives a better ambience; I tend to use wall lights either side of mirrors over basins – much better for applying make up or shaving – or even coming out of mirrors as this can enhance the space-expanding elements of mirroring. There are a vast range of bathroom wall lights on the market and don’t just look at dedicated bathroom lighting – exterior lighting can work brilliantly in bathrooms and can give a more individual feel.
This bathroom had a sloped ceiling and so we used low voltage mast lights in anodised aluminium near the bath
Ambient LED Lighting
This is the fun part! The inground LEDs washing up walls, the low level floor washers and don’t overlook alcoves which, when lit can create an additional dimension. At the same time planning is crucial as this form of lighting can sometimes highlight any irregularities in the walls or even an unbalanced layout. Sometimes, when planning lighting with clients, it can flag up an unbalanced feel to the room and if done in the early stages the layout can be addressed.
This awkward tadelakt bathroom was in an eco build with sloping ceiling; here we created another dimension by situating LED panels within recesses.
The bathroom lighting has to be easy to manage and PIRs (movement sensors) can be very useful when linked to one of the circuits; it is easier to set this on the ‘ambient’ circuit which can then double up as soft lighting for night time visits. Dimmers are vital for bathrooms but not so important for wet rooms and shower rooms as they are not generally used for relaxing, however, the PIR circuit is again useful for night time visits and I don’t usually dim this particular circuit.
This bathroom in an old rectory needed to be subtly lit using modern lighting techniques without losing the classical feel
We can all get rather muddled with our zones but in general it is better to err on the side of caution and largely dismiss any of the plans that show areas where you can use standard light fittings. In reality it probably isn’t going to happen! The electrician is going to have to sign off the work and he may be reluctant to sign off a bathroom with an IP20 fitting even with a high ceiling so although technically you may be well away from any source of water he would need to be very amenable to agree to this.
Here we did use an IP20 pendant light as the ceiling was so high and we had a knowledgeable and amenable electrician
Generally I would opt for IP44 as the mildest light fitting and a minimum of IP65 in shower enclosures. In theory these can be mains voltage as long as they’re fitted with a 30 mA RCD (ie so that the electrical supply cuts out if there is any water/electricity mix present) – in reality, again, the electrician may insist that these are low voltage to be on the safe side. IP65 downlights in a standard height ceiling above the shower would be fine but if you were to specify exterior surface mounted spots in shower areas where there is a sloped ceiling it would be wise to run it by the electrician beforehand. It is also worth noting that the low voltage fitting should have a remote transformer as an integral one would be just as vulnerable as a mains fitting.
Always verify the fittings to be purchased with the electrician prior to placing the order
Work out where you’re going to put the driver or transformer during the early stages of the build – ensure that access to this is relatively easy, eg a cupboard or in the attic.
There’s no doubt that the majority of us will desire beautiful designer pieces when selecting feature pendant lights for our new builds and renovations. Sadly the budget won’t always run them so here are three comparisons that could save a few pence.
The beautiful Discoco pendant light by Marset shown here in the 53 cms diameter version compares relatively well to the Motion 50 by Nordlux. Of course Marset produce much larger versions of the Discoco going up to 132 cms diameter and this 50 cms version is their largest – not that big in reality.
The Caboche by Foscarini is one of the most stylish bling lights on the market, shown here as the 50 cms diameter version. however, it is also available in larger sizes (up to 118 cms diameter at approx. £1,500). The Plaza by Dar has a maximum size of 50 cms diameter but can create the sparkle for less than half the price of the coveted Caboche.
Well there’s no comparison really – who wouldn’t want the real thing! However, if the budget won’t run to the beautiful Louis Poulsen Artichoke lamp then the Norm 69 X-Large gives a great effect at a fraction of the price. You’ll have to assemble the pieces which can be quite fun – or a trial if you’re not that way inclined – and it’s basically a shade that slots over a standard pendant light fitting. I’ve used the Norm 69 in numerous situations running from large vaulted hallways to children’s bedrooms and playrooms and it has been hugely popular.
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