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Leveraging LED technology to make lighting more comfortable, flexible

To lighting designers like Sohana Arni, lighting is about much more than providing adequate illuminance to a room. Arni, a product manager with Eaton’s lighting division who specializes in high-end architectural spaces and large-volume applications, says lighting sets a tone in the subconscious mind. Lighting – good or bad – can affect comfort level, mood and productivity.

We talked with Arni to learn more about lighting design and how LED technology is changing the game.

Why is it important to consider aesthetics in lighting design? Why not just light the space?

There is a lot of research to back up the visual impact of lighting and how that, in turn, relates to comfort, mood and productivity. Bottom line – lighting can make or break a space. If you’re not using the correct lighting in a space, it can destroy the architecture and adversely affect people’s experiences in the space. But if you use lighting and design to their fullest potential, you can create and define the architecture in a space and reshape how a person interacts in that space.

Lighting can have a particularly strong effect on the elderly, workers performing precise tasks in a laboratory or similar setting, and people in residences. That’s why it’s always important to consider the end user of the space and tasks performed in that environment. Higher lumen outputs are recommended for laboratory environments where visual acuity is needed, whereas the elderly need increased light levels to combat aging eyes. On the flip side, residential spaces warrant lower light levels with warmer color temperatures, which help create a relaxed setting.

Lighting shapes a space, whether or not the average person realizes it. But most people can tell whether they’re comfortable and able to function. In fact, some of the best lighting is the kind that goes unnoticed, because it blends seamlessly into the environment.

Lighting is a subjective field, because what one person deems ideal, another person may find uncomfortable. But that’s the art and science of being able to effectively tailor lighting to individual needs and particular tasks.

What are common applications and benefits of LED technology?

LEDs are beginning to replace traditional sources across all platforms, from low-lumen, warm-output applications such as restaurants, to manufacturing facilities with high-output, high bays and even sports lighting venues.

With traditional lighting sources, a light fixture was just a light fixture. But now, LED platforms are opening the door to other advancements such as wireless and data-driven technologies. Soon, we’ll be able to integrate security, data and lighting into the real estate of a single lighting fixture.

In fact, LED technology creates a whole new dimension for bringing light into a space. And an entire methodology of how to light spaces more efficiently and effectively is in constant flux with the daily advancements of LEDs.

LED lighting fixtures offer greater design flexibility than alternatives. LEDs are also far more energy-efficient than HIDs, fluorescents and other sources. The lower wattage of LEDs has helped us meet strict energy requirements stemming from California’s Title 24, for example. Today, all product lines are replacing many traditional sources such as HIDs and fluorescents with energy-efficient LEDs.

In addition, LEDs provide more light and are cheaper to maintain. Coupled with modern controls, they provide the most efficient, effective lighting solution available.

Lighting designers are charged with finding solutions and helping lighting manufacturers solve lighting challenges – a practice that continuously pushes the limits of innovation. Today, no space has been left unlit by the LED revolution. Modern LEDs are especially appealing for hard-to-light and hard-to-service areas like natatoriums, or indoor swimming pools. Typical applications also include office spaces and schools. In these spaces, the efficiency of LED fixtures and the principles behind how they are controlled and respond to daylight translate to design parameters that require an expert understanding of the fixtures and their design.

What’s next for LEDs?

The growth of LEDs has been a fascinating experience, because the technology is moving at such a rapid pace. In fact, we’re updating our information every six months. It’s similar to cell phone technology in that many of us replace our phones with the newer, better version at least once a year.

Now that LED technology is catching up with the design side, we’re figuring out how to leverage it and use lighting to shape spaces like never before. As a former lighting designer, I can take that knowledge and apply it to fixture design, incorporating solutions that harness modern innovations and create choices for beautiful, functional spaces.

The future is bright and fast-paced, and there’s no place I’d rather be.