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Why good lighting design makes a difference

As we celebrate Prism’s Senior Electrical Designer Andrew Munro’s 25th year at Prism, we sit down with him to reflect on some of his favourite projects, and why good lighting makes a difference.

Lighting is often something that many of us take for granted day to day, but Andrew emphasizes that it’s not just about seeing what’s in front of you. “With good lighting you can make a space more comfortable and welcoming, and really impact how people feel in and about the space,” he explains.

While there has been a surge of interest in LED lighting upgrades, Andrew cautions that there are many factors to consider before implementing an upgrade, “You need to ask questions like: What’s the application? Where do you want to use it? What type of tasks are carried out in the space? What’s in the space?”

“There are many instances where lighting is chosen based on price, with performance being secondary.  While the price-based product might work on basic level, what people don’t always realize is how much better it could be by using an engineered approach,” he says.

Balancing cost and quality

“For any lighting problem, there are multiple possible solutions of which a few are more viable than the rest. We’ll narrow it down in conversation with the client and give them options of good, better, best,” says Andrew.

With many characteristics to consider, he adds, “Cost is one factor but quality and performance need to be considered. Higher-priced quality products will typically require less frequent replacement than ‘value priced’ products.' If not designed properly, projects can end up with issues of glare, degrading faster than claimed in supplier literature, or cause occupant discomfort.

“In a building environment there can be so many variables that impact how light interacts within the area; wood surfaces, light colours, dark colours, highly reflective electronic devices, fenestration impacts, et cetera. A multitude of factors can influence the lighting and you might not get the effect you want. These is no ‘one system or source fits all applications’ in lighting; you need to experiment and try various options,” he explains, “our team will always look at multiple scenarios, especially for LED upgrades, and we encourage including mock-up installations and evaluations in the design process.”

Working collaboratively as a team

“Our electrical team is highly collaborative. We discuss projects in our team meetings, meet with manufacturers, and discuss things that we’re learning from webinars, articles and trainings,” he says, “we bounce things off each other and it always helps to have differing opinions.”

For Andrew, working as a team often leads to opportunities for mentoring other designers. “Recently one of my colleagues was working on localized controls and sensors on a hospital project, and had questions related to wiring of these systems, so we hopped into a meeting room and drew out all the different scenarios on the whiteboard,” he says. “After 30+ years of electrical industry experience, to have the opportunity to train the younger generation and impart past knowledge onto those who may use some of the information given over to solve current and future situations is a pleasure and responsibility of my role at Prism”.

“Through collaboration you get to see things you might not otherwise see,” he says, “with our team, no one is afraid to ask for help or to offer opinions.”

Designing world-class lighting

Prism was recently awarded an Illuminating Engineering Society Vision Award for work on the Richmond Olympic Oval lighting upgrade, as well as a BC Hydro Power Smart Lighting Redesign Award for work on the Vancouver Convention Centre exhibition areas lighting upgrade.

Andrew says for both projects, the clients recognized the uniqueness of the buildings, the need for lighting to be world-class, and the value of engineered solutions. This was a challenge Prism was more than happy to accept, “they gave us room to play, experiment and do mock-ups to find the best options for their sites.” 

Click on the thumbnails below to read about both awards.

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