Talking about lighting – first considerations


Different types of buildings need different types of lighting.  Cinemas, casinos and galleries use lighting primarily to enhance appearance, create an emotional impact or highlight architecture.  Contrast this to a building that houses sports facilities or a health centre where functional lighting needs to be in place to serve the purpose of minimising risk and ensuring maximum practical benefit to the centre’s users. Aesthetic appeal will be much higher on the list of priorities for bar or restaurant than a building built with a specific public service function in mind.


When lighting the interior of a building a good starting point would be to refer to the colour temperature chart to help you decide which colours are going to be right for your indoor illumination. Referring to the temperature scale which ranges from 1000 to 10,000K (expressed in Kelvin ‘K’) the difference between warm colours at one end of the colour spectrum to cold colours at the other is illustrated.  As a guide, commercial lighting usually comes somewhere between 2000K to 6500K and in larger buildings warmer colours are usually preferred in public areas as they are said to encourage a relaxing atmosphere.


Looking at the specific points to consider when thinking about lighting:  a designer would need to be instructed on the following:  atmosphere, function, comfort (over practicality), lighting design trends, rate of importance of safety and visibility.  Facilitating questions to be asked then would be something like the ones below:


What kind of activity will be taking place in the venue or building?

What impact will daylight have on the illuminated areas?

What amount of lighting will be required and what is its main function?

Which parts of the illuminated areas need to stand out, which need to blend in i.e. which areas are ‘task’ areas and which are just surroundings?

Should the lighting fixtures be a feature in themselves or should they remain simple and functional?

Is energy efficiency a main consideration above other considerations?


Once these questions have been answered a designer would look next to where the lighting is expected to be placed. Depending on the age and structure of the building lighting might need to focus on particular architectural features, in older building perhaps, or , in the case of a more modern venue, lighting might be better placed within cornices, coves, soffits, as a flat ceiling fixture, a wall fixture or even as free standing lamps.