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When Lighting Interiors Hurt, it Impacts Your Building’s Effectiveness

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Biscarotte | Flickr

Have you ever thought about the significance of lighting in terms of how it affects your daily activities and your ability to perform them well? Lighting interiors can make a significant difference in carrying through the intent of how you want your building to function, whether it be a retail clothing store, a hospital patient room, a residential design or a school classroom.

In the following four examples, I will be presenting you with how lighting can make a significant difference in helping a building design to perform better and be more effective —

  • Retail Clothing Store Design: Have you ever been within a retail clothing store where the clothes look so beautiful on the rack (as they are illuminated well there)? Then, you select your size off the rack and proceed to a dressing room to try them on. Low and behold, it looks terrible because the lighting overhead in the dressing room is flickering, makes noise and/or distributing an improper color. Needless to say — the sale was missed. Be sure to notice the good stores who get this right.
  • Hospital Patient Room: Within a hospital postoperative recovery room, there comes a point where it is important for the patient to engage in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) — various grooming activities. But for a recovering patient in the hospital who has been sick it can be a huge effort to go into the bathroom to engage in such activities. Now what if when looking in the mirror to groom, the lighting was poor? How do you think that would affect the patient’s mood, optimism toward healing, and general sense of “feeling better “as they start off and end their day? Thus, there are key places where lighting interiors can make a very significant difference in healing.
  • At Home: Suppose an elderly person keeps their medicine at home in their kitchen, by their nightstand or perhaps in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. Suppose there is improper lighting in one of these places at the time of day when this person goes to take their new medication. As they read instructions on the bottle, they misread and take the improper dosage amount. Thus, lighting interiors properly can have both subtle and serious consequences.
  • School Classroom: In a school classroom, improper lighting can actually affect learning — like when the student is trying to read the chalkboard from different distances, or when they are trying to read their computer screen while sitting next a bright window, or perhaps while trying to watch a computer-based PowerPoint lecture that the teacher is giving. After all, if that student is sitting in a dark room watching a PowerPoint lecture, will they be able to see the notes that they are taking on their desk? Perhaps not unless they have their own computer glaring right back at them in the darkness. Thus, better classroom lighting interiors can help to boost classroom learning and perhaps even participation.

As you can see from the following examples, lighting interiors are important factors that contribute to how your space gets used, which results in not only how your building is perceived, but also in how well those that use it are able to do just that. Improper lighting can hinder so many aspects of what makes space functional. So as you design your next space, make sure you consider the nuances involved when it comes to good lighting.

What works for one space within your building may not work for another space within the same building. Much depends on the activity that goes on within a particular area at a certain time. Also, do not think about lighting interiors in terms of just trying to prevent lighting mistakes. You should also think of lighting as another design tool which can help you leverage your buildings effectiveness.

For example, consider how natural daylight spectrums filter into your interior spaces as your occupants need a certain amount of exposure per day since it affects their circadian rhythm. And of course, the circadian rhythm can be linked to sleep and wake cycles and can ultimately impact overall health. Another example of how lighting affects functionality.

So, I urge you to consider how your lighting interiors are impacting your occupants. How might you make them better? And how might you use them to leverage what your design already does best?





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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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