Lighting control for open plan living

Andrew Wilson at Varilight identifies an opportunity to utilise new lighting control technology to add much-needed flexibility to the poorly planned lighting schemes found in many open plan living spaces.


or several decades open plan living spaces have dominated designs of both new build and refurbished

homes. Inspired by the light-filled, interconnected living spaces featured on popular television shows such as Grand Designs, property developers and home owners have bought into the concept of multi-purpose rooms and open plan living. House price inflation has also played a role in

furthering this trend with eye-watering build costs per square metre increasingly leading architects to turn to multi-use rooms in order to fit fully-functioning homes into ever- smaller footprints. Despite their prevalence, open plan living spaces are often poorly-served by the lighting options available. The lighting schemes found in most open plan spaces do not mirror the flexibility of the living spaces themselves and, until recently, the technology required to introduce that flexibility has been prohibitively expensive for the majority of installations. However, the arrival of a variety of lower cost options present wholesalers with an opportunity to develop the market by offering a range of systems with different levels of flexibility.

Inflexible lighting Many householders have learned to settle for inflexible lighting schemes where only one or two lighting circuits are provided to light an entire living space. As a result, when spaces are required to have multiple purposes, priority is often given to task lighting (especially in rooms with open plan kitchens), which can often result in harshly-lit living spaces. Traditional dimmer switches may be specified or installed retrospectively to inject some much-needed subtlety to lighting schemes by reducing the glare of overhead

New, lower cost lighting control options give wholesalers the opportunity to develop the market by offering a range of systems with different levels of flexibility.

lighting, enabling, for example, a transition from task lighting suitable for cooking to a more intimate feel better suited to dining. The use of some strategically placed standard or table lamps can also provide some much- needed ambience.

Multi-way dimming Open plan living spaces are usually characterised by having several entry (and exit) points and are wired with multi-way circuits that enable the lights to be turned on and off at each point but, because only one traditional dimmer switch can be used in each circuit, full control is only available at the switch point where the dimmer itself is located.

For a relatively low cost, this particular

problem can be solved by using a multi-way dimmer switch. Typically, multi-way dimmer switch systems comprise a master dimmer which can be used with a number of dimming slave units, enabling dimming at any entry point. An example is the Varilight V-Pro MultiPoint Dimmer Series. In addition to the standard tactile touch control version, Varilight MultiPoint Remote also provides the option, where more than one lighting circuit is provided, for lighting scenes to be set, saved and recalled at the touch of a button on the Varilight LightScene remote control handset.

The various systems available in the market take numerous different approaches to internal communication, with some

utilising a hard-wired network such as Dali or power-over-ethernet, while others use wireless communication, including various proprietary protocols such as Z-Wave or Zigbee.

36 | electrical wholesalerMarch 2018

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