John Bullock Lighting Design
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Lighting control in the home


I've just joined the connected 21st century - I can now control my home lighting via my phone. How did that happen??

The options to control one's home lighting, beyond a switch by the door, have grown like topsy as computing technology has migrated from the desktop computer into the light fitting itself. Mind you, I suspect most of us are still living somewhere around 1950 with the odd bit of 1970s dimming for the occasional (Habitat-flavoured) dinner party thrown in for that extra panache.

Let's take a quick look at what's available, and what's worth the effort.

1. The switch on the wall.
We all know where we are with a switch on the wall (or pull-cord in the ceiling) and we're not going to get rid of it anytime soon, although I hear about the occasional mad scheme where homes are given over entirely to computerised mayhem, and where the computer knows about your very presence in the under-stairs cupboard and will automatically turn on the light , whether you like it or not.
The lighting designer says: we'll never do without the switch on the wall, but do try to break things up a bit and give yourself a bit of flexibility, if only for the sake of making life seem a bit more interesting.

2. Replacing the switch with a dimmer.
For many of us, this is still the height of sophistication, but it comes from a history of room lighting based on the single, universally loathed, central light (courtesy of Parker Morris Housing Standards 1961 - of blessed memory). We all know how this works; dim the light in the middle of the room and switch on the table and standard lamps to bring an 'agreeable ambiance' to your living space.
The lighting designer says: Adjusting light levels is a Good Thing, but you really need more than one, obviously. Like I already said.

3. Multiple dimming.
You will occasionally visit a friend who has read what I just wrote and has a dimmer switch by the door with MORE THAN ONE dimmer on it. This is progress indeed, because . . .  rooms are better served when there's more than one lighting circuit. Lighting designers have always relied on this simple understanding of light-in-space in promoting the concept of good home lighting.
The lighting designer says: this is the ideal 'hands-on' solution for the unfulfilled theatre designer with not much of a budget and a penchant for micro-management.

4. Programmed lighting.
And then there came micro-processors and life-enhancing scene-setting became available at the push of a button; or at least, that's what it said on the box. For the first time, electricians needed to find a space in a cupboard to hide the main dimmer unit, which used to be the size of coffin, before shriking down to the size of . . . a switch on the wall.
The lighting desirner says: for those with limited imagination, pre-set programmable lighting is de rigeur. For those of us with a bit too much imagination, we need a pre-set control plate with about a hundred buttons on it.

5. Wireless control.
A very useful addition to the pre-set dimming facility, especially in those houses where digging out walls for more cabling is not an option. Its a control plate on the wall with a few buttons on it and comes with a long-life battery (hurrah!). And because it doesn't have any cables attached to it, it can be lost down the back of the sofa just the same as any other remote.
The lighting designer says: doing away with cables can be the answer to many a tricky situation, particularly in listed buildings, rented houses, buildings with stone walls or even a yurt.

6. Wi-Fi:
Yes - the ultimate boy's toy, and I've got it too. I can now control my home lighting from the dining table at a friend's house and even though there's no one back home, I can smugly claim that whatever I say is happening, really is happening. Now all I need is the video link-up to prove it.
And that IS what the lighting designer says.  




RIBA CPD in 2015

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John Bullock Lighting Design
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