New LEDs allow lighting design evolution

Lighting technologies give designers endless possibilities
Monday, January 11, 2016
by Doug McMillan

Lighting design is experiencing an evolution with the introduction of the new energy codes ASHRAE 90.1 – 2010 and NECB 2011 at the end of 2013 in British Columbia and at the end of 2015 in Alberta. Then there is the constant introduction of new, brighter, higher quality LEDs (light emitting diodes), and control systems to keep up with the new technologies.

There are many benefits to using LEDs over traditional lighting sources, and their versatility provides lighting designers the freedom to explore design options not previously available to them. However, because of the increased initial cost of LED compared to the traditional sources, new and exciting designs often never see the light of day and are lost, instead, to cost savings.

With the arrival of new energy codes and the requirements of luminaires to provide multilevel illuminance, which LED naturally provides at no additional cost, it proved to be yet another benefit over traditional lamp sources. As a result, designers are now able to use the latest exciting luminaires to execute designs without fear of cost cuts, while owners and building managers can benefit from low maintenance costs until the end of the LED system life.

Originally, LED lamps were simply added into existing luminaires without taking into consideration the glare and efficiencies they had once marketed. Today, manufacturers design LED luminaires from scratch, resulting in smaller, more efficient optics which seem to defy the laws of physics. These new optic systems either control each LED separately or as a whole. With manufacturers designing around the LED, they are looking at illuminating for all possible applications and to overcome the shortfalls of the LED source. This allows the designer to achieve the desired look, without compromise.

The controls systems that are emerging for these new LED luminaires are simpler than ever. Luminaires can be complete with on-board modules that provide the head-end of the system with an IP address to allow for easy relocation of the luminaire should a room change or be relocated. While there were systems that provided similar functions for traditional luminaires, their cost did not allow for the frequency of use that these new systems allow. New sensors can be easily connected and removed from the luminaire without requiring electricians.

At the same time, manufacturers are realizing they should not be stopping with just on-board controls, and are starting to add small microchips and processors on the LED boards to replace remote drivers, act as speakers, or even allow for Li-Fi technology that uses light to deliver wireless internet faster than existing 4G and Wi-Fi systems.

The design of the new luminaires around the high quality LED source and optics, along with the ever advancing controls, has allowed lighting designers to refine their designs. Using today’s technologies, we are now able to surpass a design completed just five years ago, almost completely. These technologies allow designers to fulfill many architects’ aspirations of having certain lighting effects without seeing the luminaires. Designers can use thin or small luminaires that still have usable amounts of light in them, whether they are flush or recessed into the ceiling. They can be in plain view without creating glare. They can be adjusted on the fly without an occupant being in the building or standing next to a large bank of switches. They can light our path when we arrive to work after hours by just clicking one control point. The general rules for lighting are now irrelevant and the design possibilities seem endless.


Doug McMillan, Associate IALD, is a lighting designer at AES with over 15 years of experience in the lighting design field. His perspective of lighting design is about effect and allowing the light to work with the texture and features of the building. The importance of lighting, on both the aesthetic and practical use of a space, cannot be overstated. AES provides solutions that enhance architectural details, create the desired mood, and enhance functional aspects.

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