Lighting Design can be a simple or as complex as we wish to make it!

Most people believe a lighting design should be free; after all, most manufacturers offer a free design service if you buy your products from them. But is this design really free?

Firstly, a free design from any manufacturer would tie you (and your project) to a limited range of products from a single company who are only permitted to promote their own goods, irrespective of the fact that their luminaires may not be suitable for any or part of your entire project, if at all! They may build the cost of the design time into the product or volume pricing: you may physically pay more for the individual products at the point of purchase, or pay for a higher number of light fittings than is actually required, thus driving up installation costs also.

The Lumen Architect is free from being tied to a single manufacturer and, as such, we are able to choose lighting from all over the world. Being free to choose the best lighting for your project is important for the final appearance of the build and for detailing the results of your hard work and dedication to your task; we just help you get there!

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Secondly, most manufacturers produce a limited report from the lighting design programmes such as AGi32, Dialux and Relux. However, some larger manufacturers utilise their own software for designs. The bulk of designers in the UK use either Dialux (origin Germany) or Relux (origin Switzerland) because they are free at the point of use for the basic programmes, although they have to pay fees to have their photometric files hosted by the software providers; AGi32, on the other hand, is a license purchase software (origin USA) where it is free to have your photometry hosted. These limited reports only tell part of the story and they will quote the basic values such as “illuminance”, “uniformity” and other such technical jargon without explaining what this actually means, where it is measured or why it is important that you also look at other factors: some may even refer to “lux levels” – there is no such criteria in lighting terms!

We perform lighting calculations using a variety of manufacturers fittings providing the manufacturer can supply us with the photometric files. These files contain the raw data of how a light fitting performs, how it distributes light, consumes power, etc. From this data, information such as “cone diagrams” and “light distribution curves” can be created to provide graphical formats for the novice to understand how the light is distributed by the luminaire. We would always include these in an architectural lighting project where we have specific needs to determine light functions for specific purposes, however, most domestic properties require mood lighting, an even distribution of light and a cosy feel so we won’t blind you jargon, we’ll explain what it all means and why it is important to you and your project(s).

Basic Cone Diagram for a Downlight
Simple Light Distribution Curve for a Bi-directional Pendant
Basic Cone Diagram for a Downlight
Simple Light Distribution Curve for a Bi-directional Pendant

Thirdly, most manufacturers are restricted to using only one design program and, whilst there are strengths to all of them, there are projects where one program will better suit the requirements of the client / structure.

The Lumen Architect uses both Dialux and Relux and will discuss this with you when creating a design for you. For example, if you want to see high level graphics and realistic 3D imagery of the luminaires then we would suggest Dialux if the manufacturer can provide us with the correct ULD files. However, if you require emergency lighting calculations throughout a building we would recommend using Relux as it has a specific emergency sub-section built into the program.

The importance of knowing the right stuff and when to apply it!

Too many people download a program, create a simple design that provides them with an appropriate amount of light for a special requirement but it can be very badly designed for the space or, more importantly, the occupants of the space. Light and lighting design for people with dementia, for example, demands a higher level of both luminaire and lighting design knowledge to ensure compliance with standards such as those set by the University of Stirling.

Furthermore, when designing for the elderly eye we must reduce glare (the kind of brightness from a light that makes you want to turn your gaze away), ensure uniformity (an even distribution of light measured by comparing the minimum illuminance to the average illuminance across the measured area) but also reduce diversity (an even distribution of light measured by comparing the minimum illuminance to the maximum illuminance across the measured area) because our eyes have difficulty adjusting to extremes of light as we age.

Furthermore, the amount of flicker (perceptible and imperceptible) can be harmful to those with dementia or epilepsy, for example. It is therefore vitally important to use good quality luminaires, drivers and lighting controls that are all compatible – failure to do this can cause more harm than good when changing your lighting from tungsten or fluorescent to LED. Some LED light bulbs (we call them lamps because bulbs go in the ground and come up each spring!) provide poor quality light, have horrendous power factor (very important if your power supply runs from a 3-phase supply) and have a tendency to flicker after just a few months, weeks or even days.

This knowledge is critical for lighting design! Therefore, we have a variety of options to cover the costs of the design and by talking with us we can determine what is right for you and the most cost effective solution.

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Dialux 3D view of a care home seating area in true colour
Dialux 3D view of a care home seating area in true colour

Dialux care home seating area simulated emergency in 3D Pseudo Colour
Dialux care home seating area simulated emergency in 3D Pseudo Colour

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Relux 3D view of a care home atrium in true colour
Relux 3D view of a care home atrium in true colour

Relux 3D view of a care home atrium in pseudo colour to show even distribution across the floor space
Relux 3D view of a care home atrium in pseudo colour to show even distribution across the floor space