Mar 10, 2021

A design’s ability to adapt during uncertain times has never been more important. Are lighting controls up to the challenge?

By Matt Ochs

Flexible is the New NormalAmidst all the change and uncertainty that unfolded in 2020, our approach to architecture and design can be transformative and resilient. Distance learning, social distancing, touchless technologies, open-air restaurants, partitioned workspaces…we have to re-examine ways to balance the human need for social interaction with changing rules of social engagement. What will shared spaces look like, how will they operate, and how will this mindset affect the places where we work, learn and play?

While change remains a constant and design thinking continues to evolve, lighting and shading control systems will play an increasingly essential, pivotal role in commercial and public spaces that feel comfortable, secure and inviting.

What does lighting control look like in these spaces? It is simpler to design and more flexible, offers seamless integration, facilitates a connection to the outdoors, and enhances personalized and touchless control options for better usability. Here’s a closer look:

• Simpler to design, program and personalize for each project.
With thousands of fixtures to choose from and a constant stream of new lighting technologies, designers need lighting and control solutions that are not only easy to design, but minimize friction once installed. Controls must offer assurance the system can be implemented, adjusted and scaled to the client’s—and the building’s—current and future needs.

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New systems give you the freedom to use the fixtures, sources and protocols you want without putting limits on your imagination. Solutions that offer intuitive, app-based, all-in-one programming of lights, shades and controls will let you design to your vision—while offering flexibility on-site.

App-based programming ensures that you can reconfigure and recalibrate system settings throughout the design process, and throughout the life of the building as space needs change over time. Flexible, wireless, digital control is always an advantage, but it is especially important now when social distancing, updated occupancy protocols and a palpable sense of uncertainly is shaping the way people feel about their indoor spaces.

Restaurants offer one of the most compelling examples of the need for flexibility and personalization. Not only do they invite guests throughout the day and play host to a wide variety of functions, many restaurants are facing extraordinary challenges in the face of COVID restrictions and need systems that can help customers feel confident about returning to indoor dining.

As restaurants adjust their layouts for changing occupancy rules, they also plan for a time when they can be lively, crowded gathering places again. Wireless, digital lighting can help define and redefine spaces with just an app, enabling simple rezoning and reconfiguration of lighting and shades with no rewiring or complicated programming. For example, create socially distant areas of light over tables, and then redefine the space as occupancy guidelines are updated. Innovative lighting solutions can speak volumes, help drive revenue and inspire renewed interest in the dining experience.

In the V restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, restaurant innovator Ben Calleja designed with layers of light to re-create a feeling of home for his guests. “I design lighting in layers starting with the floor, moving to the furniture, tables and flat surfaces, and ultimately to the walls, hallways and corridors,” says Calleja. “With a flexible, integrated system, I can carefully consider every detail of the light settings, plan for seasonal changes and make sure the adjustments happen inconspicuously over the course of the day.” Calleja uses a wireless system with remote access right from his iPad, ensuring that he can make any changes based on guest and staff feedback, and no one else ever needs to touch the lighting.

• Design with dynamic lighting to make an impact that gets more powerful over time.
In architectural environments—especially in those occupied throughout the course of a day, or that frequently host special occasions—dynamic light can be applied to create a mood, invoke a feeling and help building occupants feel more connected to their surroundings. This is true for spaces like the workplace, where you may want to instill a feeling of productivity and energy, and also for spaces like lobbies or entertainment venues, where light becomes a part of the overall brand and experience.

Dynamic LED technologies, such as tunable white, ensure that you can choose the right shade of white for the furniture, materials and décor in the space. With a flexible control solution, you can adjust the lighting to the final project with no need to be locked into CCT levels that were chosen at the outset of a project.

• Integrated lighting and shading control enhance connection to the outdoors.
People have always craved community with nature, a window seat and beautiful views. That desire has only been heightened by the recent pandemic when outdoor access was limited for many people. Indoor spaces feel more comfortable when they are airy, light and welcoming. Lighting and shading solutions give designers the power to embrace natural light in new ways.

Smart, integrated shading solutions help foster that natural connection all year long. On steamy summer days or during short, frigid winters, automated shading enhances desirable access to views while we stay comfortable inside. Create a cohesive light story by controlling daylight and electric light in the same system with shading solutions that minimize glare and eyestrain.

Incorporate products that pull daylighting far into the space, beyond the window’s reach with natural light technologies that extends the experienc — dynamically shifting in color throughout the day to mimic the natural path of the sun, creating harmony between interior and exterior areas.

• Ease of use and touchless solutions give clients peace of mind.
Wireless occupancy and vacancy sensors ensure no one must enter a dark, unwelcoming space. Automated scene control allows lighting and shading to subtly adjust and shift throughout the day with no need for anyone to touch a control or take time away from their task at hand. Personal control solutions provide convenient app-based access, or simple, wireless remotes to ensure lighting can be tailored to one area or one person without being accessible to a wide range of people. This is especially relevant today as we look toward a world of touchless technology as a possible solution for healthier environments.

Healthcare facilities, in particular, have recognized the advantages of wireless design and control. One hospital in the Bronx, New York recently used wireless control to facilitate the opening of six new COVID-treatment floors in just three weeks. Wireless control simplified design and installation in the temporary patient care areas and will be easily reprogrammed when the floors are turned into permanent facilities once the pandemic crisis subsides.

From boutique hotels, to multi-floor office buildings, to essential healthcare facilities, the future of lighting system design is about recognizing that spaces are not static, and offering clients flexible solutions that support both the practical and emotional elements of building design.


Matthew Ochs

Matt Ochs

Matt Ochs is senior director, commercial business, for Lutron... More info »