—By: Julie Riddle – Article for Church Business—
Professional advice for getting light that’s right
According to Joseph Miller, a consultant with Discovering Life Ministries, adequate lighting is an indispensable tool in reaching the congregation. In a recent E-TIPS newsletter published by the organization, Miller tells of a congregation dramatically affected by a lighting change. A move from a “dark, paneled worship center” to one that’s more well lit and aesthetically pleasing lifted the congregation’s spirits.
“All we did was verify the electrical capacity and increased the bulb size in the chandeliers,” Miller says. He offers further advice, including:
• Light direction must include a combination of direct downlighting and indirect uplighting. At one church he evaluated recently, Miller says the lighting was more appropriate for a “candlelight dinner” than it was for a sanctuary. With no indirect lighting reflected from the ceiling, the room was “dismal,” he says, “and the cathedral ceiling seemed to be coming down on me, even though there was adequate height for the room.” In this instance, Miller recommends fixtures providing a combination of direct and indirect light placed over the congregation seating area in a pattern providing uniform light distribution for every worshiper. The uplight gives the effect of lifting the ceiling for an “uplifting” atmosphere. Light levels for the choir and platform should be double the level of light for the congregation, he adds, and this light should also be evenly distributed rather than “glaring spots of blinding light.”
Classrooms and fellowship halls should follow this same pattern. Specifically:
• Intensity should follow the church standard. Miller recommends about 20 footcandles (a unit of illumination) of direct light and 15 footcandles of indirect light: in all, about 35 footcandles of light distributed evenly throughout the room. Platform lighting should be 40 or more footcandles, plus uplighting. Accent lighting should range from 60-90 footcandles.
• Make it clear what type of church you have. Is your church traditional or contemporary? And what purpose does the lighting serve? Drama? Worship?
“The lighting can contribute to worship with adequate light levels for reading, appropriate aesthetics to lift the spirits, and accurate placement of lights to avoid discomforting glare,” Miller advises.
Lighting a path
To avoid lighting that is uninspirational or distracting, heed the advice of Marty Peck, L.C., IALD, IESNA, of Creative Lighting Design & Engineering, a full-service lighting consultant company. Peck says he has a formula for determining the lighting needs at a particular church.
When working with churches, Peck says he usually discusses four aspects: functionality, architectural emphasis, theatrical mood and decorative accent.
“Functionality is having light of sufficient quality and quantity to provide for elderly parishioners, low glare and shadow, and good visual communication with the celebrant,” he explains. Architectural emphasis refers to modeling or “dressing” the architectural details, focusing on liturgical details (uplighting for a spiritual mood and so on). Theatrical mood provides theatrical focus on a specific activity, emphasizing the “mood of the moment” and the dramatic flow of attention, such as light scene changes. Decorative accent is using decorative light fixtures to create visual centers, spiritual details and more.
Dimming your prospects
“Perhaps the biggest general mistake is that the lighting design is left to the electrical contractor, equipment supplier or ‘designer’ who is also selling the product,” Peck warns. “While it’s important to get input from a manufacturer, don’t rely on them for design direction and sole source supply unless you’ve engaged a professional. We’ve seen so many churches where the lighting has been cut short, and the aesthetics suffer, energy costs may be high, and people can’t see well due to disability glare, shadows or low light levels.”
The second mistake, he says, is placing more importance on cost-effectiveness than functionality. “Lighting is often considered a ‘functional commodity,’ like HVAC, and is cost-reduced because its expense can be easily measured,” he adds. “There are a lot of ways to produce a certain quantity of light, but the quality is often overlooked because it can’t be measured.”
Help to light your world
To ensure that your new lighting fits your vision, Peck recommends hiring a specialist. Ideally, this individual would be a member of the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IESNA), and possess a Lighting Certification. “If working with an engineering firm, make sure the individual has design experience (as many engineers are preoccupied with footcandles), and the better architectural firms will go outside for lighting expertise,” Peck adds. To locate a qualified company or person, he suggests logging on to the IALD Web site at www.iald.org.
Miller agrees with Peck and recommends consulting with a church architect who understands these principles of design. “Or, give plans for your worship center to a company that will provide a lighting plan,” he says. In some instances, a local lighting contractor can provide plans for appropriate solutions in classrooms and fellowship halls.