Energy + Environment, Lighting Design

Trends Impacting Residential Lighting

Trends Impacting Residential Lighting

By Jeffrey R. Dross, Principal, Lighting by Jeffrey

Change occurs in every industry. Social and aesthetic trends drive much of it. Consumers are always looking for something “different;” the architecture changes, related interior industries (furniture, floor covering, window dressing and appliances) shift and society reacts to the needs of the community and its people. Trends in residential lighting are typically reactive. Those adjustments in the building space and the items placed inside mean a different lighting solution is required. Societal twists mean alternate lighting answers. It happens regularly. To stay current with consumer demand, the following are a few trends that will impact the residential lighting industry.

Bathrooms

“Wet Bath” is a term used for open shower bathrooms. No walls or curtains, or a very minimal shield divides the shower from the rest of the space. To accommodate the free-flowing water, perimeter surfaces are covered in tile, stone, marble, etc. from ceiling to floor and large grates allow for quick drainage. Wet baths are finding favor in many new homes, but the increased demand from seniors for a “no-step,” easy access shower means they are popping-up everywhere. This of course leads to questions of lighting. Are there adequate options in wet-location product? How will we safely illuminate these spaces where water can be everywhere and anywhere?

Equally transformative is the shift from classic bath/vanity lighting to lighted mirror products. It was bound to happen. The typical vanity light hasn’t changed in over sixty years, while kitchens no longer use big fluorescent boxes, hallways have shifted from mushroom glass diffusers and bedrooms have transitioned away from a bent piece of flat glass, bathrooms have stayed stubbornly the same. No more. Look for mirrors to bring new and desirable options into the bathroom, such as touchscreen tablet screens imbedded into the surface, color changing options and much needed connectivity. We are on the cusp of a seismic shift in the way we light our bathrooms. Are we ready to help customers use them?

Living Outdoors

Some experts thought that once the pandemic had passed, people’s propensity to live outside might wane. All research now indicates that a change is not happening. Exterior living is either as strong, or stronger than during the shutdown. We are decorating our exterior living spaces with a higher level of aesthetics and lighting must follow. The folding aluminum chairs are gone, so too must the early attempts at clunky exterior lighting. Floor lamps, chandeliers, pendants and table lamps resembling that which you might find inside are now expected to be built to wet safety standards. The industry must be ready for this increase in demand.

Sustainability

The demand for sustainable products could be the tsunami that overwhelms many industries. Lighting is vulnerable particularly because of its heavy reliance on China as a manufacturing center. While we may not be able to do much about that specific point immediately, there are other aspect of lighting that can aid in a more sustainable world.

Expect to see more demand for “Dark Sky” compliant lighting. Lighting with solid tops and light aimed down using reduced lumen amounts in warm color temperatures will be expected. There is likely to be growing rejection to clear glass and exposed lamping on most surface mounted exterior luminaires.

The WELL Building Standard has been growing in importance as people’s desire for healthier living environments increases. It includes nine different ways lighting can be improved to assist in providing healthier spaces. Are the lighting products currently sold ready to meet these demands?

The Living Building Challenge is perhaps less well known, but two elements of their program are gaining traction. The “Declare Label” is helping consumers understand the product “ingredients,” where the product came from, how it was made and what happens to it when it is no longer of use. The “Red List” is an annually created list of dangerous materials and chemicals. Claiming a product is “Red List Free” helps the consumer buy products that are believed to be safe. Neither of these labels can be found on anything other than a handful of lighting products. This could be a problem.

Design for Disassembly (DfD) is a movement urging manufactures to create products that can more easily be broken down into their recyclable parts when no longer wanted. Glues are used at a minimum and fasteners are replaced with snap-fits in an effort to maintain material purity, which aids in this breakdown.

As LED has matured into the primary light source of our time, their functional longevity is in conflict with the length of average design trends. Trends typically live between eight and twelve years. LED are viable at about 35,000 to 60,000 hours. The technology will continue long after the fashion fades. That means we can expect a slight shift in the way we light residential/decorative spaces. We will see fewer decorative pieces and more functional lighting. Chandeliers will not disappear, island pendants won’t be replaced, but they may be some of the only decorative units found in most homes. Lighting in ceilings, in walls, over cabinets, under things and inside areas are likely to increase. Regardless if the home is decorated in Mid-Century Modern or Nouveau Victorian, this type of lighting will not interfere with the style.

Tech

The connected home is inevitable. It may be taking longer to find its footing, but it is around the corner. That means homes will feature more sensors and probably the elimination of a bank of switches on the wall. That then means, more digital connections. Are electricians ready? They may not be. We need to plan for a world where a Home Technology Integrator, someone comfortable with connecting all the digital elements of a home, will be as crucial to the success of a new structure as an electrician. Working side-by-side, the new connected home will function seamlessly. Many people link a “Smart Home” with the ability to turn lights on and off automatically. Lighting professionals are becoming inextricably bonded to integrated homes. We will need to embrace that to best assist clients in the future.

Trends can sometimes be scary. Some folks dislike change, but changes will always occur. They always have. The question we must ask is whether the lighting industry is ready to respond to the emerging trends.

About the author:

Jeffrey is entering his 50th year of involvement in residential lighting and currently spends his time teaching and lecturing to design professionals on a wide variety of lighting topics. He occasionally consults on the creation of new lighting products and works with design professionals on residential lighting jobs. His writings on different aspects of lighting trends, applications and advances can be found and subscribed to at: www.LightingByJeffrey.com.

Image: Pexels.com

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