7 minute read

The Pillars of Dynamic Lighting


By Amy D. Lux, Dynamic Strategist at sixteen5hundred

Dynamic lighting has come into play in multiple arenas, no longer just concerts and theatre. While dynamic lighting has been alive and well in the entertainment industry for over 35 years, it is now spreading roots in the built environment in a number of ways. The term dynamic is characterized by “constant change, activity, or progress”. When paired with lighting, this “activity” is defined by color tuning, warm dimming, and saturated color shifts. These shifts can be fast and obvious, or imperceptibly slow and subtle.

Center Garage, Berkeley, CA

Center Garage, Berkeley, CA

The term dynamic is characterized by “constant change, activity, or progress”. When paired with lighting, this “activity” is defined by color tuning, warm dimming, and saturated color shifts.

Naturally, the first step of bringing dynamic lighting to the built environment was to repeat what we saw in entertainment by bringing saturated light to facades, fountains, and feature pieces throughout a building. This is Pillar 1, the natural progression from stage to structure. Saturated light as a permanent installation has been embraced across the globe, but it doesn’t end there.

The Alterverse Colonnade Lighting provided by sixteen5hundred

The Alterverse Colonnade Lighting provided by sixteen5hundred

Photo courtesy of sixteen5hundred by Mike Murphy

As LED technology has progressed, it has allowed for advances in circadian lighting, or tunable white, as well. The functionality required for this is twofold. The first advancement came from LEDs being able to create multiple temperatures within a diode or diode set in order to create a spectrum of white that is as close to the black body curve as possible. At the early stages of LED, the market only offered “cool” or “warm” options in separate fixtures. As the technology progressed, diodes gained better accuracy as well as decreasing in size, allowing different methods to achieve a specific color. Improved color rendering allowed white light to become virtually equal to classic incandescent sources. The next function that improved in LED technology was dimming. Steppiness was decreased so that the lighting would have a smooth fade that is unnoticeable to the eye. Without these two factors, it would not be possible to create circadian lighting.

The second pillar is Circadian lighting, which goes by many names, is in essence the ability to mimic natural light. Humans are predisposed to natural light, and our biorhythms depend upon these patterns for health and wellness, as well as cues for sleeping and waking. As LED technology was improving, research on the impact of natural light was also ramping up. Today’s elder population is among the first to be exposed to artificial light for their entire lifetimes. The research has studied the cause and effect of long hours of exposure to older technologies of artificial light, such as fluorescent or HID. Typically, these would be set at a single color temperature for the course of the day, as opposed to the sun which arcs on a curve from a warm, low intensity, to a cool, high intensity and back again. This natural pattern is embedded in our circadian cycles and highly impacts our health. The studies show an unfortunate range of negative side effects caused by exposure to unnatural lighting environments. Luckily, through the advancements in technology, natural light can be recreated indoors and has shown many benefits for the health and wellness of occupants.

Spin, 690 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA

Spin, 690 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA

Photo Courtesy of sixteen5hundred by Taka Taira

Circadian lighting is not the only healthy light grabbing attention. The third pillar of dynamic lighting is the heightened need to have a clean, germ-free environment and can be accomplished with germicidal UV lighting. Like circadian lighting, a UV system also requires automated controls to optimize the benefits. UV disinfection technology can limit pathogens in the air and on surfaces by interrupting the reproduction process of viruses and bacteria. The UV spectrum ranges from 100-400 nanometers. Some wavelengths can be unsafe for living occupants; therefore, controls are crucial. Automating the lighting to be responsive to time triggers and occupancy sensors can make this a highly effective system for schools, healthcare, and offices.

The tallest pillar? Funding! To make the dynamic possibilities of any kind become attainable, the funding aspect must be considered. When keeping arts and philanthropy in mind, this opens the doors of possibility even wider. Light as art can work hand in hand with a sculpture, fountain, facade, or simply be the art in and of itself. One great example of available funding for dynamic lighting projects can be seen in cities which have set aside funding to support the arts through a variety of initiatives. In several cities, during the permit process, a percentage of the overall construction budget is allocated to fund the arts. This gives local artists and design teams an opportunity to add a focal point or create an area of interest where there may have not been funding to do so in the past. Whether it is a private sculptural installation in the lobby of a building, a local public garden, or even an interactive public light display, there are many opportunities for artists and designers to get involved and keep the arts alive and thriving. If such a vision comes up for a project, there are a multitude of grant and funding opportunities that could make it feasible. Check with local municipalities for monthly meetings open to interested parties or a newsletter that outlines new opportunities. The true success of a project comes from the collaboration of teams with a result that is beneficial to the local community.

Another great opportunity for funding dynamic lighting projects is through the CARES Act. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, was passed by Congress on March 27th, 2020. This bill allotted $2.2 trillion to provide fast and direct economic aid to the American people negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This was delegated as Federal Stimulus Funding via the Department of Education. For example, California’s Department of Education Spending Allocation is over 2 billion dollars. Each state has a specific allocation, and this relief package provides states with both funding and streamlined waivers to give state educational agencies (SEAs) necessary flexibilities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief package includes $30.75 billion in emergency education funding.

The two main funding sources are the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER I Fund) and the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER I Fund). The ESSER I Fund provides California with $1,647,306,127, and the GEER I Fund accounts for approximately $355,227,235. This funding will provide local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation. Funding is available March 13, 2020 – September 30, 2022.

Lighting is fundamental to learning. Dynamic lighting is expected in “cafetoriums” or “gymnatoriums”, spaces that utilize a classic multifunction design, where a school’s cafeteria or gymnasium doubles as an area to gather students, staff, and guests for assembly, presentations, and theatrical performances. Additionally, when considering schools where gathering warrants consideration of a health and wellness initiative, germicidal UV should also be considered as a vital tool. Finally, research shows that performance is higher in classrooms with tunable white lighting as well, along with general studies indicating many health benefits of circadian lighting. In this atmosphere, there is an argument for the 3 design pillars - classic stage lighting, circadian lighting, and germicidal UV - to be considered, and they would be eligible for funding under the CARES Act.

SoFi Headquarter, Presidio Letterman Complex, San Francisco, CA; lighting provided by sixteen5hundred

SoFi Headquarter, Presidio Letterman Complex, San Francisco, CA; lighting provided by sixteen5hundred

Photo courtesy of sixteen5hundred by Taka Taira

The creative, collaborative renaissance of dynamic light is here, and the tools of the trade are better than ever. It’s time to build a better, brighter future with dynamic lighting.

For more resources, please visit 16500.com/Dynamic, and don’t forget to bring your imagination! ■