Design is often evolutionary and only rarely revolutionary, but today, technology has excited a revolution in lighting. Now, more than ever, lighting design and technology are essential to the success of a project. Lighting has become a critical extension and an added value to architecture and designed interiors.
No longer generated by burning fuel or filaments, lighting today is produced by exciting electronic signals that produce luminous energy, otherwise known as the LED — light emitting diode — which is based on the electroluminescence of semiconductor materials.
The quality, performance, and controllability of the light produced by LEDs is realized because of their unique compatibility with digital technologies that permit the incorporation of intelligence into lighting systems. By understanding that electronically generated illumination is a wave in the spectrum of energy we can control and direct, we are able to manage this illumination as a component of a broad-based integrated system of energy and deploy it across multiple applications of a building system. Our electronically managed information, communication, and entertainment will include the quality, colour, intensity, and mood of illumination as a synchronous component of a smart-controlled environment.
Understanding certain characteristics of light is important to understanding the functionality and applications of LED illumination. For example, light from illuminating sources takes shape because of the way light propagates through three-dimensional space, obeying properties such as divergence, focusing, reflection, refraction, transmission, absorption, and diffraction. LEDs emit bright point sources of light, and as such, they do not inherently work well in illuminating across large spaces. Of course, this functionality has been solved by the development of larger-scale luminaires that are created by arranging multiple LEDs into a broad array of diodes. Additionally, the optical lensing and photometrically designed reflectors built into luminaires produce a broad distribution of balanced illumination.
Technology provides the ability to manage the intensity, colour, and distribution of illumination from multiple sources at varying intensities and optical focuses within a space. Control and management of the visual experience and the extensive range of available applications have extended the possibilities of realization, perception, and utility of the lighting performance within a built environment.
In addition, we can now impact the dynamics of human interaction and emotional well-being with the colour control of a dynamic lighting system. For example, we can implement the progression of colour tuning to align with natural daylight over the course of a day. Tunable white, warm dimming, and full-spectrum colour control connects the relationship of people, their moods, performance, and state of being to the dynamically, electronically lit environment.
Of course, the possibilities of imposing subtle or intense colours on independent surfaces or environments dramatically changes the mood, intensity focus, and perception of the physical environment. As such, lighting is no longer just an accessory to a designed environment. Rather, the dynamic capabilities of technologically sophisticated lighting within a space impact the emotional, physical, and psychological experience. It impacts the perception, utility, performance, and well-being of people as a synchronous component of a smart-controlled environment.
Science and technology can be enablers of art and design. Now, more than ever, it is exciting to discover the possibility of what’s next.
Robert Sonneman is the visionary behind SONNEMAN – A Way of Light. His award-winning designs have been at the forefront of the design world for over 50 years, as he continues to push the boundaries of innovation to achieve the perfect balance between art and technology. His focus today is on using the latest technology to innovate new directions for modern lighting.