Design Process

The artful illumination of buildings and structures can create dramatic statements.  A cohesive design utilizing lighting transforms a building into a giant billboard, creating instant recognition.  Buildings that blend into a city or community can become a glowing landmark at night.

The stages of design can vary from project to project.  The approach to lighting new structures is different than existing facilities.  In either case, there are several steps a designer should explore, taking a design from concept through construction.

Before developing a concept, the designer must evaluate the client’s expectations.  The reasons for facade illumination must be explored as well as the client’s image and proposed budget.  Physical constraints such as regulations, location, competitive brightness and the building’s size and setbacks need to be researched.  .

It is a designer’s responsibility to research the client’s expectations regarding the facade lighting.  Typical expectations could include increased visibility, unifying a site or multiple buildings, historic restorations, increased safety, or even developing a marketing tool.  The use of lighting may be used to create revenues through illuminated or interactive graphics and signage.  It can also be used to develop an interactive effect that can continually attract new interest through its evolving and changing looks.  The environment and the facades can now become a form of entertainment.  It can also be a form of art or even develop a story line such as functioning as an illuminated clock, weather forecasting device or even to express a preference for the local sports team.

If possible a site visit to review the existing conditions is often invaluable.  The site visit should include daytime and a nighttime review.  View corridors can be established and relative existing brightness can be evaluated.  For example, an urban site will require more brightness than a typical rural site.  Proper facade illumination usually creates a long distant image as well as a closer vehicular and pedestrian view.  Look at the site from several miles away.  How visible will it be?  What are the colors of the adjacent buildings?  Does your project want to blend in or stand out?  If the building is existing, set backs, parapet heights, material color, and reflections, existing power requirements should all be documented.  If the project is new, the designer should begin to review the architectural drawings.  Pay particular attention to the materials.  A glass curtain wall building must be designed differently from a reflective precast facade.  Many times a crude model is an excellent tool to use to become familiar with the building and its form.

This evaluation must explore the client’s budget, both initial and for maintenance.  It is critical that realistic budgets for maintenance are established up front.  Exterior lights need to be relamped, but they will also need to be cleaned, re-aimed and even replaced in corrosive environments.  Costs maybe greater than expected as accessibility to the fixtures could be difficult or even dangerous.

After all of the background information is collected, the design may begin.

After completion of this research phase a designer can proceed to the next stage or schematic design.  Each design project is unique.  The schematic phase may be confined to one (1) team meeting charette or it could be a formal submittal of drawings.  The purpose of the Schematic phase is to confirm the concept of the design.  It should be generic as not to limit the design, but it should be able to be priced.  Creating a budget at this point is critical for client approval and planning.

The Design development phase is the expansion of the Schematic phase.  Fixture types, locations. Wattages, and quantities should be determined.  This would also include the photometric studies required to quantify your design principles.  Mock-ups on models, similar buildings or full scale on your structure are available.  Color rendition properties of multiple sources and beam spread distributions can also be confirmed and reviewed.  Mock-ups are not only educational to the design team, but it is a great sales tool to help your client “buy into” the design.  The phase must include the discussions of fixture placement.  Are light wells needed?  How will they be drained?  Can parapets be raised to conceal fixtures?  This is the appropriate time to coordinate these details with the rest of the design team, before the building becomes too defined, and therefore inflexible.  The phase should conclude with another pricing exercise.  This is a check to confirm whether the budget is still adequate.

The construction document phase is the final refinement.  All fixtures must be located, circuited and controlled accordingly.  The majority of the phase is coordinating and detailing.  Specialty mounting details are typically required.  The weights and possible cantilevers must be structurally reviewed.   Coordination with weather proofing details need to be compared, of course, value engineering changes to the building must be reviewed as the columns you were lighting now do not exist.  A final budget, usually completed by the contractor who is responsible for the installation, is typically provided and evaluated.

The implementation phase is normally called the Construction Administration phase.  This represents the final documentation for formal pricing and contract negotiations.   Most projects will require the review of submittals.  Depending on the project location, the proposed fixtures may vary dramatically from the specified units.  Photometrics and samples may be required to properly evaluate if the alternates are acceptable.  If the fixture substituting is acceptable from a performance point of view they must also be evaluated from a maintenance or even aesthetic point of view.  As the building nears completion, the exact location of the lighting equipment must be determined.

Their positions and aiming angles should be either permanently locked into position or marked so that the fixture can be re-aimed later, if necessary.   Baffles may be required to trim light beams or eliminate glare.  They can be mock-up and then permanently installed later.  If interactive or intelligent lighting equipment is being used, the programming phase must follow.  When the design and installation is completed, the client should be educated on the lighting system.  The maintenance, aiming, cleaning, and fine-tuning of the lighting must be reviewed and planned for

Project Portfolio