SANGEETHA SWAROOP examines latest technologies to enhance outdoor ambience
From spotlights in the yard that highlight focal points in the landscape and area lighting which illuminate walkways to bollards that light up boundaries and gardens and backlights for casting silhouettes, the world of outdoor lighting seeks to enhance the ambience and illumination of all domains of architectural spaces.
The right lighting enhances the aesthetics of the home environment as trees and gardens come to life at night with strategically placed lighting fixtures. While formerly the outdoors was flooded with light, today, the stress is on planned lighting that provides just the right ambience.
Landscape lighting: A villa project
illuminated by Cracknell and solar
pathway lights by PTL Solar (below)
“Lighting can be used to emphasise the elements that are the focus of the space, and in doing so, enhance the overall atmosphere and ambience,” says Ziad Milli, lighting designer at Cracknell, an international planning and landscape architecture practice headquartered in Dubai with offices and design centres in London, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. “Every landscape space presents a new challenge and new opportunities to create a unique design. There is no single solution that will fit all designs, so we look for elements within the landscape that will influence and inform the design process and provide that spark of inspiration.”
Lighting is as an integral part of the landscape and serves to enhance and clarify the design, Milli explains. “In large scale landscape projects, lighting designers use a lighting language to express the hierarchy of the spaces, thereby creating logical sequences of lights that improve the orientation of the site and define the structure of the landscape, the paths and plazas.”
While landscape lighting is an efficient way to light up the beautiful features of a garden or lawn at night and keep walkways well-illuminated and safe, it is important at the same time to incorporate the practice of going green when choosing one’s lighting equipment, suggests Prabissh Thomas, founder and group managing director, PTL Solar, a Dubai-based company offering reliable solar energy solutions in the Middle East and Africa.
“The technology for outdoor lighting is improving rapidly,” Milli says. “Solar lights are looking more attractive, shining more brightly, and their run-time is getting longer. Solar will certainly light the path for individuals and companies seeking cost-effective means of providing lighting solutions particularly as they are easier to install and do not add to the power costs.”
An often overlooked but critical factor when deciding which lights to purchase is to first consider your lighting needs, he suggests.
The amount and type of lighting will depend on the function and character of the landscape and the desires of the homeowner. Consider designing and installing an outdoor lighting system only after all of the landscaping elements are installed. This will allow one to see all the aspects of the design and how outdoor lights will accent them.
Performance and style: Illuminating
the strong features
When lighting is overused, often without providing any contrast, the visual interest of the space can be lost, cautions Milli. “A key to lighting gardens, in particular, is to ensure that the strong features within the space are well lit, creating a subtle contrast with less well lit areas.”
When installing the luminaires, Milli says the Cracknell team tries to ensure that light fixtures are concealed as this adds to the atmosphere and avoids the distraction of seeing the light source. “We also use lights to express the textures and three-dimensional qualities, using the positioning or the angle of the beam to achieve the desired effect. Care is also taken to ensure that lights are positioned to avoid creating glare or hot spots from the fixtures as this can be distracting and spoil the enjoyment of the space.”
In the case of solar lights, placement of the solar cells assumes high importance, says Thomas. “For maximum solar gain, the solar cell should face due south and be positioned at an angle so it is perpendicular to the sun. The surface of the solar cell should not be shaded by foliage or structures at any time during the day.”
With a little bit of thought and careful planning, there are plenty of ways to create the right mood with outdoor lighting, and also to ensure one’s safety with the correct amount of it. However, one of the main criticisms leveled against landscape lighting is that the creation of this beautiful experience calls for the consumption of electricity which typically requires the conversion of fossil fuels.
Solar power: Flood lights and street
lights in Abu Dhabi (below)
“From our experience the most effective method for limiting energy consumption is, in combination with the above strategies, the use of well-planned control systems employing any combination of timers, astronomical time switches, motion sensors, and photo-sensors. A good lighting control programme can be created by identifying the minimum number of elements that are essential and therefore to be lit throughout the night. With good use of the control systems, less essential elements can be lit only when required. Motion sensors can also be employed to keep lighting switched off in certain areas so long as no motion is detected,” says Milli.
With the emergence of energy efficiency as a major environmental issue that, this emerging industry is increasingly targeted by both utilities and energy services companies. “Energy is one of the most important resources of the 21st century. It is the bloodline of our economy and in every household; it is one of the major costs you incur. A simple way to therefore become energy efficient is through the use of renewable energies such as outdoor solar lights which enable one to greatly reduce traditional energy consumption,” says Thomas.
He highlights the benefits of GRENLite, a product of PTL Solar, which represents a new era of light source-induction lamp with a super-rated lifetime of up to 100,000 hours. This product uses HLE (High Light Efficacy) technology and one third power in comparison with conventional lighting sources, reduces installation and ownership cost and has the ability to operate in harsh weather environments.
The costs of trenching and installing underground wiring often make a solar lighting system an economically feasible lower cost option. Thomas adds “we hope to see the emergence of much more flexible technologies that will allow for the solar sector to better respond to the needs of building integrated applications and to provide greater cost competition with conventional electricity.”
George Bou Mitri, general manager for Middle East, Africa and Turkey, GE Lighting, says “With the region facing increased demand for power, it is imperative to have lighting solutions that assure energy efficiency, while driving sustainable development through advanced technology. GE Lighting has a total solution approach to address the need for efficient lighting solutions in line with the sustainability considerations for the built environment as well as outdoors.
“GE Lighting is one of the top providers of quality lighting solutions in the region, combining its luminaire and LED expertise to bring unmatched product quality and reliability together in an integrated approach.”