Page N3.2 . 09 July 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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Lightfair 2003

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Emerging LEDs

A trend that was prominent at Lightfair, both at the seminars and in the industry trade show, was the fast-developing light emitting diode (LED) technology. In the past, LEDs have been used for low-brightness applications, such as small lamps and indicators on computers and other electronic gear. Today, 95 percent of the LED market is devoted to such devices as cell phones, automotive dashboard displays, and traffic lights. But LEDs are becoming brighter and more energy efficient, so they appear destined to provide an alternative to fluorescent and incandescent light in architectural settings.

In particular, the market is being transformed by high-brightness LEDs, a new class of devices developed in the early to mid-1990s. According to Lightfair speaker Robert Steele, Director of Optoelectronics for Strategies Unlimited, a Mountain View, California market researcher for the lighting industry, the technology and the markets have both advanced dramatically since the mid-90s.

Steele said the architectural market has been growing about 47 percent per year since 1995. "Other than [cell phone] handsets," he noted, "it's the fastest growing market right now. Within five years we see [the architectural] segment of the LED market being about 15 percent rather than the 5 percent it is today."

As if to reinforce this point, at Lightfair's "New Product Showcase & Awards" presentation, the "Best New Product of the Year" award went to the Destiny ColorWash from TIR Systems. This LED-based luminaire offers a bright, uniform, and dynamic color wash. A design excellence award went to the Tech-Track from Tech Lighting. It is a field-shapable, low-voltage track system with an abundant selection of heads and glass pendants.

Relearning Daylighting

Among the courses on lighting fundamentals, one workshop focused on daylighting: the maximization of diffuse, indirect sunlight. The workshop was hosted by professors Joel Loveland, University of Washington, G.Z. Brown, University of Oregon, and Andrew Bierman of the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute.

Loveland is also a daylighting consultant with Seattle's Lighting Design Lab, which offers design assistance to architects. He notes that there is more to daylight design than simply adding windows and skylights. In fact, Loveland explained in the workshop, "Overglazing is probably the number one problem. We [consultants} take out more windows than we put in."

Although people designed buildings for thousands of years to admit or moderate sun penetration, the arrival of electric lighting in the 20th century allowed Western architects to neglect daylighting principles.

Renssalaer's LRC has orchestrated a new generation of research that draws from the empirical daylighting studies of Lisa Heschong and others who showed that daylit buildings improve human performance in, for instance, higher test scores for schoolchildren and better sales for retailers. LRC researchers also look at the biological relationship between sunlight, or lack thereof, and seasonal depression.

Bridging the gap between architecture and biology, the LRC has postulated that our circadian rhythms have evolved over millions of years to demand that humans have access to daylight in order to suppress naturally produced melatonin and feel wakeful. Electric light, Bierman explained, does a much poorer job of giving us that sense of rejuvenation.

Dramatization through Lighting

Another Lightfair seminar focused on the emotion inherent in lighting design. Cindy Limauro, a professor of lighting design in the Drama Department of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, began by citing numerous examples from the art world of how lighting evokes emotion, from the paintings of Rembrandt and Edward Hopper, recreating sunlit spaces, to those of Degas and Van Gogh, depicting lamplight.

Limauro defines light as a combination of four physical properties: angle, intensity, color, and movement. Isolating each property of light, she showed how each one can evoke different modes and moods. "It can drastically change not only our visual perception, but also our emotional response," she said. She cited numerous architectural examples, including the Hall of Dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, for which she designed the lighting.

Limauro said: "I think that sensitivity to light has greatly increased, not just with architects but also in terms of the expectations of the general public." She believes architects are learning how lighting can contribute to a project, and how they can benefit from consulting lighting design specialists.

Indeed, the overall message from Lightfair 2003 was that building projects cannot be taken to their ultimate potential without a great deal of lighting competency. This lesson comes at a time of increasing specialization throughout the field of architecture. Although some architects may be reluctant to delegate this part of design, hiring lighting consultants can create opportunities for collaboration and, potentially, buildings of greater sophistication.

Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

Brian Libby is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer who has also published in Metropolis, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Architectural Record.

 

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The Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, by Tadao Ando, received an Award of Merit at Lightfair from the International Association of Lighting Designers.
Photo: David Woo

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The Newton Library in Vancouver, British Columbia, designed by the Patkau Architects, was cited by Lightfair speaker Joel Loveland for its outstanding daylighting.
Photo: James Dow

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On display in Lightfair's exhibitor hall, Lightstar indirect luminaires were examples of innovative LED applications.
Photo: Orgatech

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Lighting designer Cindy Limauro demonstrated how lighting can evoke emotion in her design for the Hall of Dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.
Photo: Cindy Limauro

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AddressPro digital dimming products give users control over individual lighting zones, with ballasts for compact and standard fluorescent and standard and low-voltage incandescent lamps.
Photo: Universal Lighting Technologies

 

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