Creating a contemporary perimeter of light

Exterior spaces provide such a huge potential for lighting and design creativity; a potential that has only recently started to be considered or really taken full advantage of. Selecting high quality architectural exterior lighting products has been difficult for the building services engineer due to the lack of well designed, economic products available. 

The historical view to exterior lighting is that it is there to merely be functional. Functionality has always been, and will continue to be, an important factor and in addition, promoting safety is an important element of external lighting, but needs to be executed correctly. With a well-designed and co-ordinated design potential hazards can be avoided, navigation can be easily facilitated and any ‘no-go’ areas can be eradicated without the space being over lit.  

However, exterior lighting can be so much more than just functional. Emerging exterior lighting trends are moving away from pure functionality towards the aesthetic and exterior lighting is now playing a fundamental role in enhancing the main architectural details of a building. After all, any building should be seen as a landmark, one that the building owners and the local community can be proud of. With high quality products emerging onto the market, thoughts are now turning to the building perimeter and the opportunities that it can provide.  

New opportunities

The building itself is really where an exterior lighting design begins as the building is at the heart of an exterior area. When approaching the design, many may assume that the building facade is the starting point however – it is possible to bring harmony to the design by looking at the space beyond the entrance of the building, the entrance lobby, atria or conservatory spaces can be considered.  

Areas like this provide the link between the ‘outside, in’ and give an exterior feel to the space which can enhance the interior environment. For a truly successful lighting scheme, a holistic approach should always be taken and lighting products are available which are suitable for both indoor and outdoor spaces. For example, Elencho is a projector that has been developed for both indoor and outdoor applications and with more products like this being launched, it allows building services engineers to achieve total product uniformity.  

With the ‘outside, in’ area considered, the areas around the building would be the next zone to look at and this would include the building facades, landscaped areas, surrounding pedestrian access and parking areas. All of these areas provide a wealth of opportunity for exterior lighting such as accent lighting and floodlighting. Exterior lighting is available in a wide variety of forms for building services engineers to select from, such as in-ground lights, projectors, bollards and columns. Some of the latest architectural luminaires offer uniform design in all forms, allowing the building services engineer to create a harmonious exterior lighting scheme.  

Whether chosen for being visually striking or for having a classic and subtle style – exterior products are available to suit. The latest exterior lighting products have a free form and organic styling, providing freedom to create more than just a functional lighting scheme. For example, the recently launched Lofoot is a unique range of lighting modules that takes its inspiration directly from the organic form. Nature is at the heart of its design and each striking module offers a distinctive ‘bud-like’ aesthetic and creates a smooth, free flowing form.  

However, from a building services engineer’s perspective – although aesthetics are important to ensure that a building’s lighting scheme works – other factors can be crucial to its success.  

Sensitive schemes

Because of poor product and the tendency to believe that the more light in a space the safer the space, exterior lighting hasn’t been without its opponents so any lighting scheme needs to be sympathetic to any criticisms that they are energy intensive, contribute to light pollution and produce light trespass. This means that now, more than ever, the energy efficiency of lighting products used need to be a top priority for building services engineers. Any exterior lighting scheme should be using products with good light control, an energy efficient light source such as LED, High Intensity Discharge (HID) or CFL as well as employing intelligent controls to ensure the lighting scheme is well managed and energy usage is minimised where possible.  

 Environmental impact of lighting no longer means simply ensuring exterior lighting just has an energy efficient light source. There is a growing demand for products that take into account the energy used to manufacture it, the materials themselves and the product’s ultimate recyclability. Products are now available that offer extremely strong environmental credentials such as the family of low carbon footprint and energy efficient Lofoot modules. With low levels of plastic content and high levels of glass and metal – it means products like Lofoot can provide up to 90% recylclability. 

Better design

A robust design is also crucial for a successful exterior lighting scheme. Low maintenance due to a strong, durable design and a long lasting light source is important in order to lower ongoing maintenance cycles and reduce ongoing costs – something which building services engineers are under constant pressure to do.    

Current exterior lighting trends and products really do demonstrate a sea of opportunities and creating a contemporary and low environmental impact lighting scheme for a building perimeter is now a far easier prospect. Building services engineers can now select a design theme, ensuring a uniform look is achieved throughout the project as well ensuring ongoing maintenance and energy costs are kept to a minimum.

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