Lighting: The road forward


Public lighting has always been a practical matter, but now it has the potential to define and redefine urban spaces. Steve Arthur reports.


In recent years the role of public lighting has changed dramatically.

Technological advances have brought about change, but so has a shift in the mindset of councils and designers when it comes to the application of light and its effect on the urban environment.

Susanne Seittinger, global sub-segment manager for professional systems at Philips Lighting, is researching the effect of light in public spaces. Susanne is exploring the economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects of lighting – all of which will inform approaches to this aspect of urban design for lighting professionals.

Light is used in several ways, with an emphasis on its relationship with a city and its population in addition to its technical characteristics. As the landscape around lighting continues to evolve due to urbanisation, so too will the role light has to play in public spaces – from parks to roads, and footpaths to public squares.

We already see this in forward-thinking municipalities. One of the main trends has been a shift away from lighting for cars towards lighting for people – more than that, a shift away from street lighting specifically.

Public lighting has generally been synonymous with street lighting, its main function inadvertently defined as providing visibility for drivers. This resulted in a uniform approach.

Now there’s a trend towards accommodating pedestrians and cyclists alongside drivers, an approach that achieves better lighting outcomes for the public and local governments.

Although it has yet to gain widespread acceptance, particularly in Australia, this modern approach to lighting presents an opportunity for electrical professionals. The public sector is starting to take note of digital lighting, and there’s potential for an overhaul of legacy lighting in public spaces.


Digital lighting benefits

Bespoke lighting aids CO2 emission reduction targets by replacing a uniform approach with tailored lighting that is fit for use and cuts unnecessary energy output.

Programmable lighting systems give local governments better control over the use of light across their municipalities. This allows flexibility in lighting that has not previously been achievable. With a programmable lighting system local governments are able to adapt lighting in the event of an emergency or accident, to assist in a swift resolution.

Contemporary pedestrian nightlife is affecting the design of lighting, allowing it to embrace, mirror and encourage a vibrant urban atmosphere.


How it is achieved

The new wave of lighting designers have different views about lighting a public space, and they are equipped with the technology to better realise their visions.

The introduction of light-emitting diodes has made it possible to be more precise in lighting design, abandoning the method of ‘bathing’ areas in light in favour of focused lighting for specific areas and users.

Digital technologies in lighting allow for user-centric, responsive and adaptable designs in the public realm and offer a chance to engage the public in new ways.


Light forms

Ambient lighting doesn’t often operate in the foreground of an environment, but is rather a supportive infrastructure.

The light naturally present in the environment should inform the lighting technology applied to a space.

A wealth of research is now highlighting the detrimental implications of light pollution on natural cycles. As more of this research is conducted, the role of ambient light will probably become more integrated with public lighting design.

Dynamic lighting, which features integrated data, allows for predetermined patterns or effects to fill public spaces.

This allows lighting to assimilate to the space, whether based on the specific site or seasonal changes. It offers a chance for engagement with the public and an improved user experience. This form of lighting can also create place-based story-telling spaces.

Responsive lighting can evoke a visual experience using movement, colour and timing without intervention by users. It takes cues from the environment, and how the public is using it, to adapt the provision of light. These systems allow for long-term and short-term feedback, so that public spaces become intrinsically linked to the life of the city.

Interactive light lets users affect the output with direct input mechanisms. The public can modify their urban environment by controlling the light installation via sensors, mobile devices or other interfaces.


The opportunity

The applications of digital lighting technologies are far-reaching, from social engagement to energy efficiency.

They affect all lighting specialists, from planners and urban designers to electrical professionals. All can make substantial contributions to the future of urban lighting and make public spaces adaptable and interactive.

With the rapid technological evolution of lighting and the prospects these advances present, local government will look for continued efficiency when it comes to lighting.

Also, we expect to see more dynamic, responsive and interactive solutions applied across cities, as municipalities realise the full potential of lighting. This new era looks like producing a more user-centric public lighting experience than ever before.

Digital lighting is in a strong position to deliver on both fronts.

The best results from the age of digital lighting will be gained via a collaborative approach to design and implementation across all facets of public lighting design.

About Steve Arthur

Steve Arthur

Steve Arthur has been involved in the electronic component and lighting industry for more than 15 years in Australia and internationally. Steve has previously led the OEM business for Philips Lighting in Australia and is now bringing his expertise and passion for lighting and energy efficient LED lighting solutions to the Trade Channel.

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