Dimming or switching
Shanghai 13th July 2010
Today was site coordination day so I spent most of my day on site in Hangzhou, a city about 1 ½ hours by speed train from Shanghai. We have several projects there that are nearing design completion and going into site installation works, hence site coordination becomes crucial. It is always amazing to find out how many versions behind the site team is! Regardless how often and how up to date drawings you issue to them somehow they always seem to be several drawing issues behind when you discuss with the contractors on site!!
Anyhow clients always look at ways to save money (a good principle…) and one of the most frequent requests we get is whether we can do without the dimming system. The alternative being to have just basic on/off lighting controls. As in wall switches that is… Today’s client request centered on a luxurious club house, part of an up market service apartment complex. Whether we could do with ordinary switching and not specify any dimming equipment.
Now the thing with lighting is that it react and interacts very much with its environment. Spatial layout, material finishes and color schemes, daylight impact, amount of people, type of activities, etc. In a “fixed” environment such as an office space, public circulation areas, sports, roadways, etc, the amount of lighting is predictable and fairly constant with maybe only a different setting between day and night time or use and no use. But in many public spaces and social environments, activities and needs change constantly during a day, hence requiring various settings according to need. To me a clubhouse with hotel lobby like entrances, lounges and dining facilities is such multi functional area with varying needs throughout the day.
The question arises whether that can be achieved purely by switching arrangements. It takes a hell of a lighting designer (confidence and experience) to design to exactly the right quantity of light and lighting effects. It is not for nothing that most lighting designers resort to dimming controls, allowing fine tuning afterwards without having to worry upfront. It is my experience that most clients later regret not having installed dimming controls as it is a big step from light to no light. However once again I will take up the challenge and look into designing with no or minimal dimming…at least I shared my concerns with the client.