Lighting plays an important part in how we experience our world. It impacts how we think, how we feel and how we occupy the spaces we live in. Along with time, it is commonly referred to as the 4th dimension of architecture.
Lighting techniques shape our moods and affect the ambience of a space. We can feel alert or calm depending on whether cool or warm light is present. Similarly, we can add drama to a space through direct light
, or soften a space through indirect light
. Employing accent lighting
will emphasize the depth of a space, while installing orientation lighting
will encourage specific passages and influence the flow of movement through a space. More of these techniques are outlined below.
When it comes to choosing a light, knowing its Colour Rendering Index (CRI
) is one of the most crucial and valuable features to be aware of. A high CRI will ensure spaces, their occupants and furnishings appear vibrant and colourful, rather than dull and bland – one downfall of fluorescent light. LED lights often vary significantly with their CRI, so check product information carefully.
Brightness however is the most important aspect of lighting design. A bright light will set a positive mood and allow tasks to be performed with ease. Australia has established a set of standards that enforce minimum brightness levels for a range of settings. Below we have recommended types of downlights and their spacing requirements to meet the standards and bring exceptional lighting to your space.
Good luck with your lighting design.
Brightgreen CEO and Senior Product Designer
Australian Standard Lux Levels
Brightgreen recommends the following lux levels
for both residential and commercial spaces. All residential recommendations are only suggestions, as there are no Australian standards dictating light levels in homes. All commercial recommendations however are in accordance with the Australian Standards Lux Levels (AS 1680 series) for commercial settings.
*Lux Level measures the light intensity falling on a surface. One lux is equal to one lumen per square meter. For more information visit Lighting School Terms. ** No luminaries closer than 2m to the walls. The following assumptions were incorporated into the data: all roofs 2.7m, all tables, benches, desks are 0.7-0.8m high.
Types of Lighting
Lighting can be categorised into the following application types:
General lighting refers to an even illumination, commonly found in horizontal spaces. It can include a basic lamp on a table or a lighting fixture in a ceiling. General lighting can be further divided into direct and indirect forms.
Indirect lighting uses room surfaces such as ceilings or walls to act as light reflectors. By bouncing light off different surfaces, a soft and uniform distribution of light with minimal shadowing occurs. Indirect lighting is helpful for making spaces appear brighter and more spacious, as well as useful for lighting vertical surfaces such as bookshelves.
Direct lighting occurs when 90 to 100% of the emitted light is distributed in the general direction of the surface to be illuminated. Often the light is cast downward, making it suitable for working areas. Brightgreen’s award-winning D900 downlights available in both Curve
offer direct lighting.
Task lighting occurs in functional spaces that require concentrated purposes such as reading or writing. Task lighting is often brighter than other forms of lighting, but varies depending on the nature of the task. As an example, hospital surgical rooms require brighter light levels than libraries.
Accent lighting is generally applied to decorative lighting designs and is intended to highlight elements and objects in a space. Accent lighting allows certain objects to stand out or attract more attention in a given space. This type of lighting is commonly found in jewellery stores and other retail settings.
Projection lighting is used for projecting signs, patterns and images with lights. Projection lighting can be seen as its own art form and is often found in contemporary art spaces and exhibitions.
Orientation lighting provides orientation and guidance around a certain space or landscape. An example of this type of lighting are the lights highlighting each stair in a cinema. This type of lighting requires low illumination levels and often uses small light sizes.
Wash lighting is a form of lighting often used to emphasize architectural designs or objects in a room. This type of lighting allows room properties to be highlighted and noticeable to occupants in the space. Wash lighting is often applied in museums or large public areas and can further be divided into symmetrical and asymmetrical forms.
Brightgreen recommends the following publications for lighting designs:
• Lighting Design Basics
by Mark Karlen and James Benya
• Residential Lighting: A Practical Guide to Beautiful and Sustainable Design
by Randall Whitehead
• Interior Lighting, Fourth Edition
by Gary Gordon
• Architectural Lighting: Designing with Light and Space
by Herve Descottes and Cecilia Ramos
• Lighting Design: Principles, Implementation, Case Studies (Detail Practice)
by Ulrike Brand
• Lighting: A Design Source Book
by Elizabeth Wilhide and Ray Main
• In Praise of Shadows
by Junichiro Tanizaki, 1933 Japan, translated by Thomas Harper and Edward Seidensticker
• The Architecture of Light: Architectural Lighting Design Concepts and Techniques
by Sage Russell
Brightgreen recommends the following lighting design programmes offered by Switched On 2011
University of Sydney, Department of Architectural and Design Science
Director of programme: Emeritus Professor Warren Julian
Tel: (+61) (0)2 9351 5599
RMIT University, School of Engineering (TAFE)
Director of programme: Matthew Brown
Tel: (+61) (0)3 9925 4262
Queensland University Technology
Director of programme: Dr Ian Cowling
Tel: (+61) (0)7 3864 2592
TAFE SA Regency Campus
Director of programme: Phillip Saks
Tel: (+61) (0)8 8348 4424