Hotel and restaurant operators strive to differentiate themselves from their competitors, so it pays to be aware of the trends that are influencing lighting design in hospitality venue.
1. Inefficiency is in
The more the lighting industry forges ahead with new technologies, the more designers fetishise the old stuff. Incandescent lamps may be out of favour with governments and manufacturers, but they’re massively in fashion in swanky bars, cafes and hotels – particularly ‘squirrel cage’ lamps with the zig-zag filaments. They’re supposed to have been phased out, but in reality you can still get them, supposedly for ‘industrial’ or decorative use. They look nice if you like that sort of thing, but they’re eating up bags of energy.
2. Energy-saving LED retrofits
Decorative incandescent may be in, but for a lot of venues, halogen is out. Big hotel chains, pub owners and cafes are replacing their GU10 and MR16 halogen lamps with LEDs as a quick and easy way to save on energy and maintenance. Today’s LED lamps offer good light quality and quick paybacks, often with the reassurance of robust warranties or maintenance contracts, so it’s a fairly safe decision to make.
OUTLOOK: Loads of venues have already gone LED but there are plenty left – this trend will continue
3. Light for health
It is increasingly widely understood that the right light helps us work, rest and play by influencing our circadian rhythms – our body clocks. And nowhere is this more important than in hospitality settings. But for all the talk about circadian lighting in hotels, there are precious few examples of it really happening. London’s Hotel Rafayel has some suites with dynamic lighting to alleviate jetlag. Or, if you’ve got £50,000 ($76,000) to spare, there’s the CoeLux skylight (see page 95), which simulates the sun. This trend has yet to go mainstream, although the cost barrier to such technologies is coming down. But beware: some systems are more circadian than others. Changing colour temperature doesn’t necessarily mean the light has been properly tuned to provide the right amount of blue that our body clocks look out for.
OUTLOOK: Biodynamic lighting is a long way from being the norm. But it will get there
Controls are the next big thing in lighting after LEDs, and the potential to create smart, connected lighting is only just being realised. Not only can you slash your electricity costs by turning lights off when the sun is shining or there’s nobody there, controls can add atmosphere to your venues, and even add pizzazz to events venues with a splash of colour. But, my goodness, are controls confusing. Manufacturers would have you believe they’re going to make your life incredibly simple, but be prepared to be bombarded with confusing acronyms and clunky interfaces. The light switch is not dead yet.
OUTLOOK: Controls is already booming, but to go bigger, they need to get simpler
5. Integrating light into design
Lighting designers are desperate for light to be considered at an earlier stage and integrated into architecture and interior design. New technology makes this easier to do – and the effects ever more striking. London’s Ham Yard Hotel (see page 39), shortlisted for a Lux Award in 2014, has interspersed book-shaped lights with the books on its bookshelves.
OUTLOOK: Lighting are finally starting to get their way on this one
6. Colour – apply with care
Coloured lighting has always divided opinion – especially if it actually changes colour. It’s here to stay, but we’re learning to use it in subtler and more sophisticated ways. It’s not so common to light stuff in colour-changing garish hues just because you can, and venue operators are starting to use it better. That’s not to say there aren’t still examples of colour used badly.
OUTLOOK: We’ll still be enamoured with colour-changey LEDs for a while. Then we’ll calm down
7. Lights where they never used to be
Ever heard of the Jevons paradox? It’s the idea that, as we learn to use a resource more efficiently, we end up using more of it instead of less. So, because LEDs cost less and less to buy and run, we just find new ways of using them. In France, where efforts are underway to cut energy use, dark sky advocates have pointed out that the number of light points in the country, and the amount of light being emitted, continues to grow. Where will we put light next?
OUTLOOK: Expect to see lots more lights in unexpected places
8. Branding with light
With stiff competition in the hotel business and the fast-growing casual dining sectors, clients are using branded interiors to make themselves stand out from the crowd. And they’re learning to use light as one of the most effective ways to be unique and recognisable – Pizza Express has been doing it for years with its spotlit tables (more about that on page 22).
OUTLOOK: This is a trend the lighting business is well placed to cash in on
9. LED: the second wave
We’ve all seen heartbreaking examples of bad quality LEDs in hospitality. A well-meaning facilities manager has tried to save money on energy and maintenance, but now the space is dim, glarey and everybody looks like a zombie. Those days are coming to an end: the wild west of the LED market is being tamed, and even those buyers who had their fingers burned (literally or figuratively) in the early days are trying again, with a renewed focus on look and feel.
OUTLOOK: Some scepticism remains, but LED is winning new friends daily
10. Beyond light
Now that lights are based on electronic chips, they can do all sorts of clever things. Visible light communication is a way of transmitting data in the light from LEDs. It’s done by modulating light in a way the human eye can’t see, but a mobile phone can. This can be used to create indoor positioning systems, tracking your location to within 10cm. Imagine what this could mean for navigating a stadium or trade exhibition, or sending offers to customers based on what they’re looking at in a shop. Philips demonstrated one such system at Light + Building last year, and EldoLED won a Lux Award for its own system, which it is installing at retail sites in the US.
OUTLOOK: We’ve yet to see it in a real-life application, but we’re very excited about it