Watch me make a fool of myself – to highlight safety

Gordon Routledge took part in an experiment to experience what it's really like to be plunged into darkness in an unfamiliar environment

DO I mind making a fool of myself to further the aims of good lighting?

Clearly not, if you’ve witnessed the videos I’ve featured in to promote the Lux Awards.

I’m always happy to have a go at this industry in which people start projects with lofty ambitions of great design underpinned by great lighting, only to see the specification picked apart like a corpse devoured by vultures.

The result is a bare-bones design as value engineering and budget challenges come along.

Lighting is an easy target to value engineer as nobody ever went to prison for a badly lit office or flickering lights in reception.

Of course, we have pages of rules, regulations and codes of practice covering the gamut of lighting applications. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t compulsory and the sad reality is that most lighting never gets even a cursory glance of a professional. Those that do apply the standards rigidly never adapt the light to suit specific tasks or groups of people likely to be using the space.

Lighting is an easy target to value engineer as nobody ever went to prison for a badly lit office

The only lighting which can really get you into hot water and attract a potential prison sentence is emergency lighting.

Yet the pages of Lux Review are littered with examples of landlords, hoteliers and factory owners who have learned a painful lesson in the form of a hefty court-imposed fine for breaches on emergency lighting legislation.

Emergency lights are the only lights in a building which are compulsory to install and test on a regular basis.

However, necessity doesn’t drive everyone in the direction of quality and in many instances the bare minimum is the result.

The decision is a trade off between upfront costs and long term costs. It you’re developing a building to sell, then why would you invest in a product with a long battery life and automatic testing when you won’t be responsible for the long term maintenance?

Risk is another factor. If a space has adequate natural light and is usually occupied during the daytime, then the risk from emergency lighting not working is relatively low.  And if you always perform functional tests during the day, how would you know the reality of being suddenly plunged into complete darkness?

To prove this point, UK manufacturer Thorlux Lighting has developed a special demonstration of emergency lighting at its applications centre in Redditch.

During a recent visit I and my colleague Lucille, from our commercial team, agreed to be guinea pigs in an experiment.

Just how easy is it to find away out of a building in complete darkness? This video shows the result, cleverly recorded on Infrared camera for your education and entertainment…

Of course the risk of this ever happening is low. Or is it? Just think about any areas in your building which are windowless: the plant room, the toilets, the conference rooms are just a few I can think of.


  • Emergency lighting and the responsibilities of building owners will be the focus of the conference programme at the Escape Zone at the LuxLive 2018 exhibition taking place at ExCeL London on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. Entry is completely free if you pre-register HERE.