Technology, both generally and lighting specific, has profoundly changed how designers illuminate the built environment. Digital advancements in particular have broadened design toolkits while boosting the role that lighting can play in energy performance, data communication, comfort, and even human physiology.
With endless innovation happening at the nexus of lighting technology, design, and data, identifying which tools hold the most promise for the profession can be a challenge. So, Architectural Lighting asked 11 architecture and lighting practitioners with a variety of backgrounds and lighting expertise to share what they consider to be the most valuable existing or emerging technologies in their own workflows and for the overall lighting industry. The breadth of products, research, and design strategies they named—which include virtual reality, sensor networking, and manufacturing tools—illustrate how lighting has become integrated with and influenced by advancements made outside the realm of architecture and design.
BIG DATA, NEW TOOLS
Andrea Wilkerson • Lighting Engineer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory • Portland, Ore.
As computing power increases, so does the use of parametric modeling in generative design software. This big-data software enables users to calculate millions of design variables while incorporating the latest codes, standards, and research consensus. The approach, which can change the way we make and understand design decisions for spaces and buildings, is used for daylighting studies and ripe for further development and implementation by the larger lighting community. The software can be used in combination with virtual reality (VR), allowing a client to experience, say, the glare that comes with changing material surfaces from walnut walls to white marble. Plus, they will see how design choices can affect structural support, cost, energy consumption, construction time, and even maintenance. Value engineering will be redefined.
Generative design will lead manufacturers to provide lighting system data in new formats, and software will automatically send detailed design specifications, such as sensor responsiveness and spectral power distribution, to the manufacturer. Product life-cycle tracking will begin at the point of manufacture and ensure products are installed, managed, and performing as specified.
Jim Baney • Partner, Schuler Shook • Chicago
As lighting designers in the age of LEDs, we’ve had to become experts on color temperature and color rendering. We used to know, based on experience, that a given manufacturer’s 2700K fluorescent lamp was a little warmer or cooler than another’s. But now, we need tools to measure that difference, so our firm purchased a spectrometer—an Asensetek Lighting Passport Pro—based on recommendations and budget. It was not inexpensive, but we wanted something accurate enough to evaluate LED sources that we are specifying for our projects.
We love the app-based controls, which let you manage the device with your smartphone via Bluetooth. It generates spectral distribution curves, measures flicker and correlated color temperature, and kicks out TM-30 fidelity and gamut indexes, as well as the color graphics. This allows us to compare light sources against each other or test the information we’re getting from a given manufacturer. Our clients care about color temperature and color rendering—they want the numbers. We are not optics engineers or physicists, but we know enough to understand how the fixtures that we specify will perform.
Mariana Figueiro and Mark Rea • Professors, Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute • Troy, N.Y.
Some lighting professionals think of light and lighting simply in terms of horizontal footcandles, owing to how photometric instruments are calibrated based on the photopic luminous efficiency function, V(λ). But new metrics—circadian light (CLA) and circadian stimulus (CS)—have been developed to represent the human circadian system’s spectral and absolute sensitivities to light. The latest small spectroradiometers measure the complete spectral power distribution of light reaching the eyes and, together with on-board software, generate CLA and CS values on the vertical plane (where the eyes are located). Armed with meaningful metrics for the human circadian system, future lighting professionals will provide people with healthier living environments.
Randy Fisher • Senior Associate and Lighting Designer, NBBJ • Seattle
We increasingly rely on VR tools and 3D printing to clarify design intent and reveal the real-world built environment to clients and contractors. Digital simulations require significant computing resources but can save the client time and resources on large-scale physical mock-ups. Our digital design team recently used VR simulations and 3D models to help a client understand the look and feel of a new lobby design, including its fixtures and lighting effects.
For another project, we 3D printed several small-scale variations of a custom decorative pendant. The models only took minutes to print and gave our team a better understanding of design constraints not revealed via computer-rendered models. We made modifications and then a fabricator mocked up the selected fixture at full scale.
Richard Mistrick • Associate Professor of Architectural Engineering and Graduate Program Officer, Pennsylvania State University • State College, Pa.
Future high-performance buildings—those that optimize daylight to minimize electric lighting, provide occupant comfort, and control cooling and heating loads—will be designed with parametric modeling interfaces such as Grasshopper and Dynamo. Open-source and proprietary plug-ins for such interfaces link traditional modeling software, such as Rhino3D and Autodesk Revit, to energy, daylight, and computational fluid dynamics–based (CFD-based) tools. These tools can inform design decisions related to the building form, orientation, envelope, daylight apertures, and shading.
Some design firms have already embraced this approach, which involves co-simulation of daylight (Daysim and Radiance), HVAC loads (EnergyPlus and OpenStudio), and CFD. The user enters the variations in design parameters to study and the performance metrics to compute in a flexible model development environment. Simulation output helps designers understand how a building interacts with its environment to enable high-quality, low-energy—or net-zero—building design.
LED technology ushers in more than energy efficiency and longevity—it is also enabling an “internet of light” ecosystem that supports new forms of distributed intelligence. In Arup’s London exhibition space, we’re using LED spotlights that double as Bluetooth beacons, broadcasting URLs to smartphones in order to report their current temperature or how long they’ve been powered on. These beacons, which use the Physical Web protocol, could give visitors a way to interact with the space through their smartphones, unlocking rich new data streams.
While this innovation is exciting and forward-looking, the paradigm shift will disrupt the lighting industry: Like how a smart watch is no longer just about telling time, smart or connected lighting can be disruptive if it is no longer just about illumination. Future generations of lighting designers will need to be as technically savvy as they are creative, and will need to track trends in urban development and sensory design—extending their design thinking well beyond the realm of art, architecture, and engineering.
Eric Höweler and J. Meejin Yoon • Principals, Höweler + Yoon Architecture • Boston
Artificial lighting evolved as a means of overcoming darkness and extending the length of the workday, but it has also been used for communication. Think of the lanterns Paul Revere used to warn of approaching British troops: “One if by land, two if by sea.”
Today, contemporary lighting technologies offer new possibilities in communicating through light patterns. Computer-controlled lighting allows architects to vary ambient natural light levels over the course of the day, tailor color temperature to user preferences, react to occupant behaviors and activities, index a building’s energy consumption, and express an ambient mood. Tall buildings, like the Empire State Building, can use color-coded lighting to signal celebration (green on St. Patrick's Day) or mourning for a pop star (purple for Prince).
Architecture is a broadcast medium. Recent developments in lighting technologies augment that communication, marking a shift from illumination to communication.
LIVING WITH LIGHT
Juan Pablo Lira • Principal Lighting Designer, Focus Lighting • New York
Clients want to see a return on their investment or a measurable change in their environment or product. Prior to implementing our new lighting design for the 7 For All Mankind store in SoHo, the client installed a RetailNext tracking system that, using a range of sensors, records how many shoppers walk by the store, how many walk inside, which product displays they view, and what they purchase. This “before” data allows us to determine if a lighting redesign on its own increases traffic and sales at a retail store and, if so, by exactly how much.
In this case, the redesign was successful: Three months after changing the lighting, the number of shoppers who ventured inside increased by 197 percent, leading to a 20 percent increase in sales, and boosting the company’s annual profit by $1 million.
Marilyne Andersen • Dean of the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Professor of Sustainable Construction Technologies, and Head of Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Performance-Integrated Design, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne • Lausanne, Switzerland
As we spend more time indoors in predominantly static lighting environments, it is becoming increasingly urgent that we monitor the effects of daylight dynamics, from the spectral distribution of light to its temporal and compositional properties. These are key drivers of the nonvisual effects of light on physiology and health, as well as of our perceptual response to light.
Through modeling, we aim to find trade-offs to limit visual discomfort while ensuring sufficient light exposure, but we also need a way to measure such characteristics and develop tools to integrate them with conventional, 2D, threshold-driven metrics in a design process.
Beyond task illumination aspects, we need to better understand how much light exposure we need over a day, a week, or a season, in order to fulfill our physiological needs, whether regarding circadian entrainment or direct effects, such as alertness. We also need to embrace comfort criteria more holistically, including the emotional aspects of daylight beyond established performance indicators and its influence on behavior or preferences. That is, we need to bring spectral considerations and temporal dynamics into research (through new metrics) and practice (through tool developments). •
With additional reporting by Wanda Lau.