Let technology lead the way

By Stuart Gaunt of Reggiani Lighting

 

From the moment LED emerged as an effective light source it has taken the market by storm and this technology is now seen as the only way to achieve cost effective lighting installations.

 

In fact LED is widely thought to be the perfect replacement technology for our beloved halogen lamp as well as almost all other less efficient light sources.

 

One of the main reasons for this growth in popularity is that we have benchmarked LEDs against the performance of halogen lamps in the Colour Rendering Index (CRI) as well as in colour temperature and appearance – and it has definitely proved its worth. But, in a bid to gain quick acceptance in the market place, we then took this wonderful and fast moving technology and squeezed it into all sorts of pre-existing shapes and sizes.

 

This is all well and good but it certainly isn’t making the most of what LED technology has to offer and by merely squeezing it into existing luminaires we run the risk of compromising both the LED performance and the vast potential which it has to offer.

 

Throw out the rule book

 

The recent changes to Part L amongst other things have meant that lighting designers working on commercial environments have had to change the way they light a space, but this is good news as far as LED technology is concerned because it means that the industry will be forced to think outside the box.

 

That’s not to say that we should throw good sense and good design out of the window. For example it is still important that the LEDs are correctly mounted onto a well-designed heat sink; that the photometric performance is measured in accordance with current regulations and that life cycle data is correctly and realistically stated. But there is nothing in the rule book which states that the completed luminaire should look anything like an existing luminaire or light source.

 

Halogen lamps for example give us a datum point against which we can measure the CRI of our LED source but it is not necessarily a worthy target for all of our efforts. In fact, LEDs can be precisely engineered using the latest phosphor technology to promote responses in almost any area of the visible spectrum, while at the same time removing harmful or destructive light frequencies.

 

For the industry this is only the beginning because as far as design is concerned it means that luminaires are no longer constrained by the dimensions or performance of the lamp.  In practice, then, luminaires can be designed to suit the purpose for which they were intended rather than the shape of the lamp which has been specified.

 

Better by design

 

We all appreciate the design classics of years gone by but few of us would actually purchase a car or TV just because it looks the same as the one we had before. Instead we actively seek the latest innovation in both performance and design and accept that we need to move with the times.

 

So why are we still harking back to the ‘good old days’ with our lighting design rather than making the most of what new technology has to offer?

 

In the past we have simply accepted that a circular luminaire will normally give a circular performance on the surface to which it is pointed. The same can usually be said of a square or rectangular luminaire. But what if a square luminaire could produce a circular output and a circular luminaire a rectangular output? Or what if a luminaire could produce a diffuse ambient light and a more intense beam at the same time?

 

The truth is that this is already possible and it is really only the beginning of the journey as far as LEDs are concerned. But in order for the industry to flourish we need to leave behind the well-established shapes and dimensions and take a step into the unknown – albeit an unknown which is already using an energy efficient, established light source.

 

An energy efficient future

 

The need for energy efficiency is firmly at the top of everyone’s agenda and the need to be green is a key driver for many technological advances within this industry. Unfortunately these improvements often come with some level of compromise because as an industry we are failing to see the true opportunities which many of these new technologies offer.

 

LEDs are a perfect example of this in practice but this needn’t be the case because as far as LED technology is concerned we are still just at the start of a journey which promises to be very exciting. LED is both a maintenance and energy saving technology which has the power to change the approach we take to lighting forever – but only if we are prepared to let technology lead the way and not be constrained by the shapes and sizes which have dominated the past.

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