By: Mariya Kucherenko, P.Eng IES

All of the greatest metropolis areas in the world have one thing in common: easily recognizable, iconic night-time city sky lines. Visually striking lighting effects help emphasize the very best features of the urban landscape, not only showcasing the character of the area but also creating the ever-inviting so called “wow” factor. Light is no longer there just for practical applications, such as visual comfort and safety needs. It has quickly become a vital marketing tool for designing attractive urban areas and public spaces. Buildings of all shapes and sizes, fountains, plazas, parks, monuments, bridges and roads: all transform with darkness into animated canvases.

A successful urban lighting design project begins with a strong collaboration between all the professionals involved and the client during the planning stages. The essential points to be analyzed and taken into account are: overall design concept; desired message for the observing party; existent surrounding light conditions; facade surface properties (color, texture, light reflectance/absorption, glass transparence quality); light impact on neighboring structures and surroundings.

Some of the most important criteria for an attractive landscape lighting design are proper vertical and horizontal illumination levels. In contrast to the interior lighting design, exterior design is based on the luminance (illuminance and reflective properties of the light surfaces). Contemporary glass architecture has made it possible to utilize inside lighting as one of the components of night time facade visualization. With the help of contrasting vertical illumination of frontal elevations, the impression of outward glow is created.

It is now possible to achieve great lighting design that is not only visually appealing but is also environmentally responsible. Energy efficiency, minimization of lighting pollution and CO2 emissions are all attainable with a holistic lighting approach. Thus it is critical to implement an intelligent lighting system based on integration of innovative light sources and efficient luminaries. New LED-light emitting diodes technology allows to build outdoor luminaries with optimized lighting control for a varying complexity of layers, staging and effects.

Due to the immense complexity of all of the possible lighting scenarios, it is imperative to have a clear and detailed visualization of the lighting concept variations available for the client. This is made possible by today’s sophisticated lighting calculation software. I personally like to prepare at least three different illustrated lighting design approaches that vary in budget, energy consumption and solution. This also circles back to the idea of clear communication between all of those involved in the project.

Whatever the parameters of any given project, set up by the client and the local government guidelines, there is always a unique strategy that successfully marries all of the necessary design elements. This is no longer the time of light –bulb –quantity –per -given-foot of space. This is the time of welcoming and functional environments that have no boundaries for inspiration.

To end, here is my favorite quote by Paulo Coelho – “No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind the door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.”

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