There are many factors to consider when designing lighting for an architectural space. One of the most important factors is ease of seeing. Ease of seeing varies greatly, but generally speaking older people need more light to see the same details than younger people can see with less light. Eyes over 40 years old are older eyes for this this discussion. People who wear eyeglasses are also susceptible to having issues as well. Age effects vision in a number of ways including depth perception, peripheral vision, glare, and visual acuity.
The photo at the left shows a room that has a lot of daylight as well as artificial light from many sources. It is a comfortable, inviting space with a relaxing color pallet. The lighting in this large room is one of the most important factors in how the room feels and how easy it is to navigate through the space. Furthermore there is adequate light for the tasks that are performed there. This room is comfortable for both young and old eyes. There is no glare, there is plenty of light and the walls are well defined. The lighting designer provided many layers of light without overpowering the space. A great balance.
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It is crucial for a lighting designer to know how humans react to different colors of light and to the contrast between light and dark. This knowledge combined with knowing what tasks are performed enable the designer to effectively illuminate an interior space.
The eye functions almost like a camera sending images to the brain. Cones in the eye provide color vision in bright environments and rods in the eye provide shades of gray in dark environments. Brightness defines luminance which is the intensity of light entering the eye. Light meters measure this as lumens. The variations in the brightness of objects is defined as contrast. Colors in the middle of the visible spectrum appear brighter than colors at outside edges of the spectrum.
People react differently to different colors and have likes and dislikes for colors. Light and color influence our mood and feeling and affect our biorhythm and circadian rhythm. Red light is psychologically stimulating and can even raise blood pressure and heart rates. Red objects appear closer that they actually are. Blue is the opposite of red. It has a calming effect and appears further away that it is. Green is the most restful color for human vision.
In addition to color the amount of contrast determines how one perceives an architectural space. Environments that are complex, asymmetrical, unfamiliar or unorganized cause a sensory overload. In such situations complex tasks are avoided because people are distracted, annoyed or frustrated. Therefore attention to color, contrast and the activities that occur will enable a lighting designer to match the lighting to the tasks and create an inviting space.
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