John Bullock Lighting Design
John Bullock Lighting Design
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My Lighting Design

How a lighting designer works:

I work as an independent lighting designer; and that means that my income is derived entirely from fee-based appointments. I don't sell light fittings and I don't install them. That means that my sole focus is in producing the best possible design for my client.

Ideally, my design contract would be directly with the client, though there are occasions when it's deemed preferable for me to 'belong' to an existing part of the design team - the architect or consulting engineers, for example.

Although I have an hourly fee rate, I prefer to agree a set fee at the beginning of my work. Once we've established the 'deliverables' - what's expected of me - and the time frame for the design work - then I think that a set fee is the fairest way of operating. Everyone knows what's going on and there should be no hidden costs anywhere to suprise the client further along the process.

I work closely with the architects and interior designers, though I do prefer to involve the client as much as possible. This is particularly important on residential projects, where the quality of the lighting design will have a huge impact on the people living there.

Usually, the lighting design plans are built up over the architect's plans. I use AutoCad for layouts and EXCEL worksheets for creating schedules of light fittings and circuit/dimming details. Recently, we've all come to enjoy the ease with which virtual rooms can be created using Google Sketch and that's become a regualr feature of my design work.

I produce detailed schedules of lighting fittings, including manufacturer's technical data and costs. I also make a point of detailing all of the switching and dimming arrangements. The control of a lighting installation is just as important as the light fittings themselves - so I think its only right that I should bear that responsibility. 

Because I have no loyalty or commitment to any manufacturer or supplier, I am free to specify the best lighting equipment for the project. And although there is no contractual or financial connection with the manufacturers, I've been around long enough to have a very good relationship with many companies and can call on their support in the development of a lighting scheme - for on-site lighting trials, for example.


My Lighting Design Philosophy

The lighting palette of light sources and fittings has grown amazingly over the past decade, and mostly for the good - which I find heartening in these challenging times. And even though the way that we make light may be changing, it shouldn't make the final result any less exciting or any more boring.  Because lighting is about people, and that can't be a boring thing - now can it?.

Lighting is about people.

Every second of every day we process light information - through our eyes, our skin, through every cell in our body.  This information tells us about our surroundings; are we safe; do we like what we see; do we understand what we see? So lighting design is all about the person-person interaction and between people and the built environment.

Do we understand what we see?

Some very clever people have written about vision and perception, and I don't intend to compete with any of those guys. Suffice to say that John Berger put it like this: 'Seeing comes before words.' We might be able to describe our surroundings in words, but the seeing goes beyond the power of words, to a place that much deeper within us. So its not just about the simple act of seeing with our eyes, it's about being Conscious of what it is that we're seeing.

The lighting designer helps us to make sense of the space around us.

Making it Green - sustainable lighting design

Lighting design needs to change. Bigger than that, the entire way that we deisgn - make - use - dispose of lighting has to change!

The 'greening' of lighting design can play a hugely positive role in the development of new ideas about how we do things.With the introduction of LED lighting, the lighting palette is changing, growing and maturing - and is opening up new ways of creating good lighting.


The lighting industry has done fantastically well in shifting to a 'low energy - high efficiency' environment. But this is only the starting point in a shift towards Sustainable production. This will mean us taking care of the way that we extract materials from the earth and how we deal with the waste that we put back into it; its about stopping our reliance on practices that damage our own ecology, such as dumping stuff into landfill where toxic materials can leach into underground water; its about dealing fairly with parts of the world that are far away from where we live - where what we don't see doesn't harm us, or so we prefer to imagine.


A word about Codes of Practice:

There are Codes of Practice that deal with lighting design, and there are Codes of Practice that deal with Sustainability

The published Lighting Codes of Practice and Lighting Guides are there as useful points of reference, but they are not books about DESIGN. They have their uses, but they don't tell me anything about what my client is looking for. I want to know how the client sees the building. I ask them to imagine how a building or a room or a desk works throughout the day; a kind of day in the life script. From there, we can appreciate how the lighting design needs to develop. Then we can take a look at Codes of Practice; see how they fit in with our plans. Why do I do it this way? Because lighting isn't for buildings, it's for people it's as simple as that.

The Sustainability Codes (BREEAM etc) are more people-friendly. They don't really refer to lighting as a discreet subject. Lighting gets rolled up into a building's energy usage. But where lighting design does get a mention, is under headings like 'Health and Well-being' - which suits me down to the ground.


A footnote to Lighting Design:

Fire-fighting design is always a house of fun. Every now and again I'm asked to review a lighting proposal or installation that has what shall I say not come up to expectations. It often happens with projects where the lighting hasn't been thought through and has been left to the last minute. But design surgery is always painful. Fire-fighting design can be fun and profitable for the lighting designer, but rarely for the client.

And lighting design that is taking Sustainability seriously really needs to be incorporated into the building design process at an early stage - and the earlier the better.

And a very final design note:

I'm a lighting designer, not an electrical designer. Although I speak 'electricalese' like a native, I am not properly qualfied to produce electrical designs. In electrical terms, what I produce is only a 'specification'. A competent person needs to translate that specification into an electrical design. This is the job of electrical consulting engineer, or the electrical contractor (if the installer has taken on design responsibility as well as installation responsibility).


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John Bullock Lighting Design
4 Miller Way

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