Lighting

Trends

Bright Ideas: What Does the Lighting Industry Look Like Today?


20 Feb , 2018  

The humble light bulb has come a long way; from carbon filaments and fluorescent lighting, to the latest and fastest in lighting technology, the LED. It’s safe to say the lighting industry has seen a tremendous and awe inspiring change in the past 100 years. With a change in technology has also come a change in functionality. Those with a mindset tuned into functionality saw commercial lighting as a way to increase working hours and improve working conditions. And then came the design community, who looked beyond functionality and developed its aesthetic appeal. In today’s design context, lighting fixtures are starting to steal the show, in more ways than one.

Technology and design have been huge influences on the lighting industry, but so have trends such as sustainability and price sensitive markets. We asked prominent industry leaders including LasvitOSRAM, No Grey Area (NGA) and GAJ for their take and insights on the progress of the industry so far.

Lighting
G-West by GAJ

Looking Back: The Last Decade of Lighting

Whether you’re an expert, or someone even remotely connected to lighting, there’s one fact we can all agree on: LED has been the most influential technological advancement in the past ten years. LED refers to Light Emitting Diodes, a semiconductor-based light source that is small, energy efficient, and available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

“It’s hard to believe that just ten years ago it was not possible to use LEDs on palm trees because they simply could not produce the lumen output necessary. Since then, there have been incredible technological advances and most lighting fixtures today are LED-based, and require less power but can still achieve a higher output,” says Regina Santos, Associate Lighting Designer at GAJ.

Lighting
Sheraton Hotel, Mall of the Emirates, by GAJ

LED technology isn’t new though as the idea came about in the early 1960s, with the first LED developed at GE by Nick Holonyak, Jr. The excitement in the lighting industry is based on the new possibilities that have been imagined and made possible because of it. LED has much to offer in this regard; LED was considered only as replacements for incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. According to Regina, “manufacturers now are developing fixtures that are based on LED technology instead of trying to use LEDs as a retrofit solution for compatibility with other light sources and older models of light fixtures. As a result, we are now seeing slimmer light fixtures and new products that are based purely on this technology. It’s not just about how much energy that can be saved, but also how many more features can be introduced and still be within the limits of the load capacity for a particular space adhering to the Green Building Codes.”

Another huge driver of LED adoption is the focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. Lighting accounts for about 20 per cent of the total energy usage worldwide – approximately 1,944 terawatt hours. That’s an enormous figure and covers the A+D industry across all sectors. LED’s incredible growth has been on the back of the ban on incandescent bulbs as the industry sought more energy efficient solutions in a bid to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. From a manufacturer’s perspective, Elliot Barron, Partner at No Grey Area, points out that “the introduction of schemes like LEED driving sustainability has meant that manufacturers have to constantly improve their offering. And keeping up with the changes in legislation and new advances in the LED market has meant that lighting designers have to constantly battle to keep up to date with the latest products. And as manufacturers, we have to make sure those options are ready and in line with latest technology and trends.”

A further compelling reason for buyers to turn to LED is the increasing focus on TCO or the total cost of ownership of lighting; it includes not just the initial cost of lamps and luminaires, but also the expense of replacing lamps and costs for energy. LED technology will result in increased demand as buyers pay greater attention to this metric.

Digital Technology and the Rise of Smart Lighting

The introduction of digital technology into lighting systems has enhanced their effectiveness and added a dimension of flexibility into lighting design. While LED have no doubt transformed the industry, large players are looking to stay ahead of the curve with an eye on innovative trends like the Internet of Things (IoT) or software controlled smart lighting.

But what is smart lighting really? It’s a system enabled by software, internet or wireless connectivity allowing it to be customized, scheduled and controlled either on site or remotely. The result is a highly efficient system that uses far less energy and gives higher return on investment in the long run. In fact, smart bulbs are some of the most successful products that have stemmed from the IoT revolution.  The first generation of smart lighting involved motion sensors that only switch on when motion is detected. But the addition of control and functionality using mobile apps has provided incredible customization features such as adjustment of brightness or even hue in some cases. The world of possibilities to users is truly endless.

Beyond offices and buildings, the use of smart lighting sensors, apps and IoT networks is giving rise to a bigger picture including smart cities. Data, reports and real-time monitoring allow designers and urban planners to accurately predict issues and resolve them in time. Lighting points such as lampposts on high-speed roads with low visibility can immediately be repaired or replaced when damaged. Running time can be optimized based on usage statistics. Digital technology enabled lighting systems have an important role to play in the effectiveness of smart cities.

Lighting
Orbi, Mirdiff City Center; Designed by Bluehaus; Stretch ceilings by NGA

Lighting and Biophilic Design

Thought leaders and experts in the design industry are constantly reminding clients and the general public that biophilic design includes so much more than merely plants and vertical gardens. The human connection to nature is present in diverse and often subtle ways that can be hard to notice.

Since time immemorial, our greatest source of light has been the sun, and most of our daily processes and activities are generally in tune with the sun’s cycle. It makes sense to mimic natural lighting into an artificial environment, something that is very much possible today with the help of advanced lighting systems. A biologically effective, dynamic lighting system with white light colour sequence and brightness control that replicates the course of daylight can support the natural biological rhythm to increase our well-being and improve our capacity to perform.

Lighting
The Address Hotel Downtown Dubai; Lighting installation designed and produced by Lasvit

Working under artificial lighting for long periods of time has been known to dull the mood, and it causes fatigue and even depression in some cases. Elliot highlights the fact that “using high quality LEDs with a colour rendering index of over 90 really helps to bring out the true colour of the materials used in the space. This stops us from seeing dull grey areas and helps to lift the mood.”

Premium lighting manufacturer Lasvit is fully aware of this and acknowledges nature as a primary source of inspiration for many of their designs. Their product designs don’t stop at the switch to LEDs though. “In the modern age, we spend most of our time in an artificial built environment and hence our innate need to affiliate with nature grows more and more. Some of the Lasvit installations try to bring a piece of joyful nature into these cold buildings we are made to work in,” says Jitka Plchová, PR & Communications Manager for Lasvit. She tells us how her team designed and installed the Crystal Garden designed by Petra Junová which actually blooms in Terminal 3 of Singapore’s Changhi Airport. This beautiful installation transformed one of the busiest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia into a place where travelers contemplate surrounded by tiered flower beds and glass dandelion.

Oliveiro Rodrigues, Business Development Director for OSRAM Lighting Middle East, tells us about the company’s human centric lighting concepts and how concepts of biophilic design are integrated into the various solutions. “Human centric lighting defines the marriage of light, climate and space to correspond to the individual needs of people in particular surroundings. It is recommended that the use of natural daylight in the concept stage of lighting design is considered whilst reducing excessive exposure to UV rays, heat or glare, a disruptive effect due to direct sunlight. Since it’s easier to concentrate in good visual conditions, light atmospheres deemed to be pleasant achieve a greater sense of well-being and motivation and thereby contribute to improved creativity and productivity,” says Oliviero.

The Dark Side of Lighting Design

As with any industry, lighting has its downsides too. The lowering cost of producing LEDs have resulted in a proliferation in the number of manufacturers able to produce these new lighting systems. While all of them produce chips that are seemingly according to spec, the performance isn’t consistent across the board, resulting in a different end product with each type of brand. “A 24-degree engine with a 3000 Kelvin colour temperature from one manufacturer, for example, will be different to that of another and the light performance will not necessarily be the same with the same beam angle. This is one of the reasons that you should never simply choose a product from a catalog. You have to test what is available for your particular specifications,” says Regina.

Project specifications are another aspect that been a challenge as of late, for designers and manufacturers. The checklist grows longer with every new trend or technology that becomes mainstream. Elliot mentions how highly competitive the space can get, meaning brands are in a constant race to be first to market before trends or technology move on. Having to balance the sustainability element while keeping costs low is a huge challenge.

Then, of course, there’s the much-dreaded value engineering phase that most projects are heading towards these days. And lighting is one of the first areas to be cut, even by means of post-budget approval. According to Regina, “this is a mistake! Lighting has the power to transform or ruin a space and so it should never be about finding a cheaper solution but rather about finding a quality alternative. Value engineering is fine but we need to put value back into value engineering.”

Lighting
Flex Lighting by OSRAM

Working under artificial lighting for long periods of time has been known to dull the mood, and it causes fatigue and even depression in some cases.  Elliot mentions, “using high quality LED with a colour rendering index of over 90 really helps to bring out the true colour of the materials used in the space. This stops us from seeing dull grey areas and helps to lift the mood.”

Premium lighting manufacturer Lasvit is fully aware of this and acknowledges nature as the source of inspirations for many of their designs. Their product designs don’t stop at the switch to LEDs. “In the modern age, we spend most of our time in the artificial built environment and hence our innate need to affiliate with nature grows more and more. Some of the Lasvit installations try to bring a piece of joyful nature into these cold buildings we are made to work in,” says Jitka Plchová, PR & Communication Manager of Lasvit. She tells us how her team designed and installed the Crystal Garden designed by Petra Junová at Terminal 3 of Singapore’s Changhi Aiport. This beautiful installation transformed one of the busiest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia into a place where travelers traverse through the space surrounded by tiered flower beds and glass dandelions.

Oliveiro Rodrigues, Business Development Director for OSRAM Lighting Middle East, tells us about the company’s human centric lighting concepts, and how concepts of biophilic design are integrated into the various solutions. “Human centric lighting defines the marriage of light, climate and space to correspond to the individual needs of people in particular surroundings. It is recommended that the use of natural daylight in the concept stage of lighting design is considered whilst reducing excessive exposure to UV rays, heat or glare, a disruptive effect due to direct sunlight. Since it’s easier to concentrate in good visual conditions, light atmospheres deemed to be pleasant achieve a greater sense of well-being and motivation and thereby contribute to improved creativity and productivity,” says Oliviero.

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