Design Considerations
Last Update: October 26, 2010
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The Lighting Design (& Redesign) Process

“Design” is the science and art of making things useful to humankind; and lighting design is the application of lighting—including daylight when it is specifically used as a source of lighting—to human spaces. Like architecture, engineering and other design professions, lighting design relies on a combination of specific scientific principles, established standards and conventions, and a number of aesthetic, cultural and human factors applied in an artful manner.

In recent years, the field of lighting has been struggling with two prominent forces, energy efficiency and lighting quality. As the profession of lighting design began to emerge, in which the quality and artistry of lighting is held in high esteem, energy efficiency became a major concern in the design of buildings. Lighting designers initially faced the choice between attractive, well-lighted spaces and spaces that used a minimum of energy. Although the last quarter century has seen at least some easing of this dilemma – dramatic improvements in lighting equipment technology, and maturation of the lighting design profession, each permitting better lighting designs that use less energy than previous practices – the pressures for lower lighting power density (W/sqft) requirements often leave little if any room for the designer to provide anything but the most basic design.

Instigated by the 1973 oil embargo and subsequent energy crisis in the US, the pursuit of more energy-efficient lighting dominated the lighting field well into the late 1980s, creating awkward dilemmas for lighting designers. Fueled by utility rebates and commodity pricing, new technologies such as the T8 fluorescent lamp and the introduction of the electronic ballast were designed to use minimum power. Existing lighting systems were “retrofitted” to save energy. Lighting installations of inferior design and product quality were the rule, rather than the exception.

Many see the 1990s as a period in which the quality of lighting made a significant comeback. This was most evident as the new century approached in a new process for lighting design put forth by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES, 2000), in its 9th edition handbook. After many years in the making, the IES has published its first comprehensive design quality application guide independent of application type, DG-18-08, “Light + Design: A Guide to Designing Quality Lighting for People and Buildings” to further expand upon those elements which impact lighting quality. This document is highly illustrative in nature with many full-color application images. IES plans to publish its 10th edition handbook late 2010 or early 2011 further integrating lighting quality considerations into the design process.

The Advanced Lighting Guidelines’ mission is to describe lighting technology and techniques in order to encourage advanced designs that provide quality lighting with minimum environmental impact. This section provides the starting points for any lighting design problem. The strategies described in this chapter supplement the IES guidelines to encourage designs that minimize energy use, optimize lighting quality, and improve the sustainability of projects.

Opening Assessment
As with any design problem, an assessment needs to be made of the problem “givens” and the desired outcome.

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Design Considerations

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