Posted in education on April 9, 2015 2:04 pm EDT

New Thinking on LED Fixtures & Control

Architectural lighting is undergoing a revolution -- and changing what's possible for house of worship designers.

First Baptist Church of Dallas uses linear LED fixtures for cove lighting with DMX control through lighting console and architectural processor to change the ambience of the room. Images courtesy of Idibri.











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TAGS: avl design, business, design, led, lighting, sustainability,


By Cathy Hutchison

When the First Baptist Church of Dallas opened its new sanctuary on Easter Sunday morning in 2014, as the video screen depicted the resurrection, the architectural lighting in the room created a sunrise that took the video beyond the screens and out into the room. The congregation was immersed in darkness moving slowly and colorfully into light via cove lighting that blended seamlessly into the architecture. The emotional impact of the moment was stunning. It was a moment that wouldn’t have been possible to create even five years ago.

Just like the semiconductor revolutions that have impacted audio and video technologies, lighting is experiencing its own transformation [in the form of] solid-state lighting (SSL) technology.

Just like the semiconductor revolutions that have impacted audio and video technologies, lighting is experiencing its own transformation. Solid-state lighting (SSL) technology—including light emitting diodes (LED), organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), or polymer light-emitting diodes (PLED) provide more light with less heat, use far less energy and have better control and color options than traditional lighting fixtures that use filaments, plasma or gas. While much of the conversation tends to focus on the energy savings, the revolution is changing what is possible for designers of houses of worship.

The shift in architectural lighting

“There are so many benefits to choosing LED for house lighting applications. In addition to the obvious savings in lower electrical use, infrastructure savings can also be substantial [since] LED systems allow for smaller mains power and HVAC systems when the facility is designed from the ground up around an LED-based lighting system,” points out Fred Mikeska, vice president of U.S. sales and marketing for A.C. Lighting Inc. in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. “The savings from LED-based lighting solutions are not limited to new construction, however. Savings extend to retrofit systems as well.”

Lighting experts emphasize that savings from LED-based lighting solutions are not limited to new construction in the church setting. Savings extend to retrofit systems, as well, and often provide a complete return on investment in four years or less.

“LED fixtures have microprocessors so it changes the whole dynamic for designers,” reports Van Rommel, director of business development for Pathway Connectivity in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “Typically, designers are concerned with getting light out at the appropriate color temperature (which affects how surfaces, textures and materials look), setting the correct beam angle, cutoff (making sure a fixture produces illumination within a particular field) and even illumination without glare. It is very easy for promoters to bring fixtures to the market and just talk about the energy savings—leaving out the aesthetics. There are so many more choices available to owners and architects.”

Jim Anderson, director of product marketing for Philips in Boston, notes, “In addition to the energy savings, there are a lot of other benefits to LED, such as ‘instant on.’ Any discharge lamp requires a cool down time to turn back on. Not only that, but most traditional fixtures are difficult and expensive to dim or have shifts in color when you dim. LED is fully dimmable without color shift. It provides consistent light throughout the cycle.”

Another benefit to LEDs is that the smaller form allows production of smaller fixtures—or fixtures in different forms, Anderson notes. “This is especially beneficial in cove lighting applications. At the Old North Church here in Boston, traditional fixtures added to coves blistered the paint,” he says. “With LED, you don't have the heat. Not only that, but LED lasts a long time, making it a clear winner for architectural applications, including wall grazing, color washing and pinpointing architectural features or objects.”

The evolution of control systems

Rommel reports that not so long ago a control system sent a signal to a group of dimmers and told them to go up or down. “So, in a ceiling you might have 3-4 fixtures per dimmer. Control wasn't that hard to manage,” he explains. “Now, the dimming is accomplished inside the fixture itself with an onboard electronics package. What that means is that what used to only be three wires—readily understood and second nature to an electrician—is now those three wires for power plus additional wires for data, which requires a new installation skills set.”

Images from Pathway Connectivity illustrate wall station mode for its Cognito lighting console.

“The levels of controllability with LED give architects a lot more tools from a design perspective,” Anderson adds. “Larger spaces are controllable remotely, and the whole controls industry is moving very fast—and not just because of the controllability of lighting. The lighting industry is becoming more connected—becoming part of the ‘Internet of things’—where connecting lighting, sensors and controls can bring significant benefits. Wireless, wired, remote … there are many protocols for connecting lighting systems, and the industry is evolving rapidly, but it is not mature yet. There is much more to come.”  continued >>