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LIGHTING Mathijs Sommeijer – Lighting Designer, Deerns Nederland

Using light as a design tool

This article looks at the role that lighting can play in improving the health care environment for patients, visitors and staff. It suggests that changes to the traditional approach to lighting design are necessary to achieve these benefits.

In many projects lighting is still considered as a technical system in the same way as ventilation or acoustics – simply specify the right parameters and a suitable solution can be found. This approach results in lighting designs that only meet the requirements such as lux-levels based on standards, NEN for example. Lighting does not have any relation with the architecture or specific set of users in the building. Next to that, lighting is often static during daytime and night-time and does not adapt to the changing environment. In areas such as retail or hospitality light

is used to present products in an optimal way, or to enhance the ambience. It is used as a tool to create the right atmosphere. No standard or norm is used by lighting designers here. All aspects of light (intensity, contrast, shadows colour etc.) are used to create the maximum effect. Such an approach makes it possible to create any ambience which can even change dynamically from daytime to night-time. What would happen if we apply this

approach to health care? And what benefits could that offer in terms of patient well- being? For many reasons health care is an interesting segment, with regard to lighting design. Patients, visitors and personnel are present at the same time within health care buildings, yet each will have their own goal and preferences. This mix, combined with its 24/7 use requires sustainable architecture, of which lighting design should be an important part for several reasons. First of all light could help visitors in finding their way through the building by contributing to natural way finding. Highlighting areas that require attention will guide people and let them remember the next time they visit the building. Good lighting design in this area is strongly connected with the architecture. Light can also create intimacy and the feeling of privacy for patients in an unknown


Architectural design

User scenario’s

Lighting design

Fixture typology Figure 1: The simplified lighting design process.

‘In areas such as retail or hospitality light is used to present products in an optimal way, or to enhance the ambiance. It is used as a tool to create the right atmosphere.’

environment, which can help to create a healing environment. Research indicates that patients associate an attractive environment with high quality care.1

Light can contribute

substantially to a pleasant looking environment. Light could also assist personnel that work during nightshifts to support their circadian rhythm and minimise mistakes.2

Other research points out that

patients sleep better under dynamic lighting, which improves their recovery.3

All use light

as a design tool, instead of focusing just on the minimum required standard.

New directions To explore this direction in the future design of new hospitals and other health care segments the parties involved in lighting design should be reconsidered. The most important question is obvious – who is commissioned for the lighting design? The architect? The consultant in electrical engineering? Should it be done by a manufacturer of lighting fixtures? Or should an external lighting designer join the team? As the lighting design should start from the architecture and the user, the process might look similarly to that displayed in Figure 1.

This approach incorporates both

the architecture and the end-user. It is not necessary to fully specify the fixtures, as the typology will be enough the secure the lighting design. Therefore, the lighting design should be made by someone who has a strong affinity with the architecture and who understands the workflow of the building. The design of the architect should be

strengthened by the lighting design while still supporting the process. In the end, the lighting design has also been realised according to the design to have full impact. In the journey from design to realisation many aspects are often changed, resulting in a different outcome. So, preserving the lighting design itself during the complete building process, is essential. Often both the architect and the consulting engineer – as partners in the design team – are involved and responsible

Mathijs Sommeijer

Mathijs Sommeijer has over 10 years experience, and is currently a creative lighting designer at Deerns, supporting project teams as a specialist. With his background as an interaction designer he focusses on ambience, well-being and aesthetics. Besides his work at Deerns, Mathijs promotes the importance of lighting design via lectures, presentations and workshops – both internally and externally.


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