Lighting A Key Design Element

Lighting is much more than a device that enables us to see. Proper lighting defines space and creates atmosphere, essentially setting the mood and tone of an area. When designing a space, where does lighting come into play? According to Rebecca Alston, owner of Rebecca Alston, Inc., an interior design firm based in Manhattan, "Lighting is extremely important within the design process. You can destroy your finishes with the wrong source." With this in mind, board members must consider many factors when designing common area. Not only must they consider aesthetics, they must examine the cost and efficiency of bulbs and fixtures.

The first step in planning lighting is to analyze the space in terms of style (contemporary, traditional, etc...), determine the desired effect (decide on the mood you are trying to create), investigate the efficiency (what uses the least amount of energy and at what price?); and determine the square footage, (how much needs to be lit?). Each of these questions must receive careful consideration before designing a lighting concept.

Choosing Bulbs and Fixtures

A very popular bulb is the original means of artificial light, the incandescent. However, though it is said to be one of the more attractive bulbs, the incandescent produces a lot of heat and is the least efficient. Incandescents also possess the shortest life span and can become extremely costly over the long haul. Quartz halogens are another attractive choice, but although they last longer than the incandescent, they still produce as much heat. A new form of the halogen bulb called the Xanon, lasts even longer than the original halogen.

However, the fluorescent bulb is, by far, the most efficient light source. Fluorescents have good light distribution and a long operating life (approximately 20,000 hours). Compact fluorescent bulbs can last ten times longer than incandescent bulbs and produce much less heat, providing an energy savings of 60 to 70 percent. In addition, if regular stockroom-style industrial lighting doesn’t capture the potential of your subject area, flourescent bulbs now render the spectrum of colors – they come in 35 different shades of white, making them as attractive as they are efficient.

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