To dim or not to dim
Singapore, 6th September 2012
Deciding whether to incorporate dimming as a lighting feature is always a tough question, at least for me. Most people may not even loose a night sleep about it because if you always incorporate dimming the only thing you have to do on commissioning is adjust the levels to suit. You don’t really have to think too much. Never mind if you put in too much light, you can always dim down later and you can always weave a story around why you planned (or “conceptualised”) that much light in the first place. Getting it right from concept without dimming is far more difficult! Incorporating dimming systems is not cheap. A regular hotel dimming system can easily add up to $100,000 so considerate thoughts towards the extent of dimming are a responsible part of the design process if you care about your client’s budget!
The whole process of getting the lighting levels and ambience right is a matter of experience. Lighting layouts, circuit looping, lumens per watt, light distribution, brightness and intensities… all this contributes to the overall lighting result. There is a school of thoughts that by cleverly looping and “lay-outing” lights together you can achieve lighting levels and ambiances by just switching groups of lights on and off, rather than just hitting the dimming controls, in other words getting it just right with the “perfect” lights. But is infinitely harder to do and achieve specifically in an environment that has so many variables such as material finishes, colours, transparency of materials, architectural configurations. Add to that the daily brightness variations of sun versus cloudy or bad weather when you deal with day time illumination or the environmental spill light if you deal with night time illumination.
Most of my day was absorbed by issues concerning dimming, more or less revolving around how to deal with the lighting level settings with dimming reduced to practically nothing in one project and totally taken out in another project. The first requiring some re-zoning and re-arranging of circuits to allow partial switching, the latter finding solutions to reduce the lighting level physically by controlling the light distribution. I will get there, but it requires all my experience to find the right solutions.
Light Watch 3-135: I went through some of my projects to look for some examples where we ended up with no or limited dimming, either consciously or through budget restrictions. Lighting levels and ambiences achieved through partial switching.