27 OF April 2015 Aesthetic Lighting For Healthcare Facility Environment

By Blaine Engle

Task lighting is essential in every healthcare facility, but the importance of aesthetic lighting should not be overlooked. Many administrators believe there is a strong and direct link between environmental and health quality.  Improving the overall patient experience by creating a more pleasant environment can positively influence patient satisfaction and well-being, which is a critical metric for healthcare management.  


Aesthetic lighting can help attract patients, as well as recruit and maintain medical staff.  Lighting helps regulate the rhythm of day and night; create a visually appealing, emotionally relaxing atmosphere for patients, families and staff; and efficiently and effortlessly guide pedestrian traffic through central areas in healthcare facilities. 


Unfortunately, many healthcare administrators based in both rural and intercity areas around the country are faced with outdated, inefficient facilities.  They have to renovate their buildings to continuing operating in a very competitive environment.  Renovations include a variety of spaces ranging from soaring atrium lobbies to common spaces and hallways, which lead to more private areas such as surgery suites or patient rooms.


 These renovation projects must also take into account an overall mandate to reduce medical costs, along with U.S. federal government-sponsored initiatives to reduce facility energy costs.  As a result, lighting has to fit into energy management programs.  Lighting typically comprises about 8 to 10 percent of the total energy use in a healthcare facility. With tight margins, any lighting energy savings is significant.  Thus, aesthetic lighting should not drive up energy cost, but should contribute to the health and well being of the staff, which accounts for approximately 60 percent of a healthcare facility’s total cost.


As a result, healthcare facility renovations often include architectural luminaires to increase visual appeal and efficiency as well as control technologies, such as sensors with  smart capabilities, to adjust to real-life occupancy patterns and the amount of sunlight needed in spaces. 


Use aesthetic to complement, not interfere with, task lighting

A key element in how to use aesthetic and task light is where to place the fixtures. It is especially important to avoid glare and reflections. A determining factor is whether a surface texture is to be emphasized or minimized. Accent lighting directs extra light and thus extra attention to selected objects and surfaces whether it is highlighting walls or ceilings. Properly placed aesthetic lighting attracts the eye, provides dramatic interest and adds excitement.  It should not interfere with task lighting where work is performed. 


Obtaining the desired light distribution depends on the choice of both the light source and the fixture.  The lighting fixture should not only support the source, but redirect its output into the desired zones and shield it to prevent glare. 


Whether the purpose is ambient, accent or task lighting, the required light distribution may range from broad and widely diffused to narrow and focused. Healthcare facilities can now utilize compact LED RGB nodes, such as AL Dome DMX, to light ceilings. Using multiple fixtures and dynamic matrix displays adds visual effects to enhance any indoor space.


Latest fixtures are simple to install and maintain

New lighting fixtures feature clear transparent and high-light plastic cases with compact profiles and slim designs. They can be mounted on fixed stands or wall-mounted, allowing for quick installation that minimizes staff interruptions and patient inconvenience.  New strip lighting fixtures, such as the X-Stick with 12 SMD RGB LEDs, or the Flex II interior RGB tape are controlled by DMX technology, and easy to install. With the latest SMD technology, both luminaires can be easily programmed and set to offer as many as 16,000,000 color effects and color-changing modes.  


Just as important as easy installation is a maintenance-free system. Maintenance staffs are often overloaded at healthcare facilities.  They don’t have time to switch out lamps and ballasts. Aesthetic lighting should not create additional maintenance tasks.  Fortunately, LED lamps and controllers last for more than five years.  New lighting controllers, such as the Art SSC, are designed for permanent installations as they are completely solid-state, with no moving parts.  The controllers are extremely secure and provide a low-maintenance control solution with only minimal power consumption. To ease operation, all operating and programming for this controller is performed through its dynamic web 2.0 interface.


The basic concept of controllers is that any cue, DMX/Art-Net recording or scene setting can be triggered internally or externally. Examples of external triggers are a DMX input signal, contact closure or UDP or OSC messages. Internal (unattended) triggers can be generated by the built-in real-time clock using day/date schedule or daily sunset/sunrise.


Another plus: With the progression of LED lighting, healthcare facilities can expect longer lamp life.  LED dome lights and light sticks will perform for more than 50,000 hours. Even controllers are warranted to perform for at least five years.


Match controls to lighting

Controls should be used to match the lighting to the activity of the area in a healthcare facility.  Controls also are necessary to save energy.  Lighting controls, switches, dimmers and programmable systems can:


• Change the lighting scene to suit the activity (programmable)

• Change the lighting level automatically according to the time of day (photocell)

• Change the lighting scene at your will to set a mood or create an atmosphere (manual)

• Turn off the lights automatically when no one is present, to save energy (occupancy-sensing”)


For instance, multi-function DMX controllers, such as the AL-Control 1 Pro, are designed for RGB LED fixtures.  The controllers feature 12 programmable scenes, seven built in effects and an internal time clock for triggering.  Ambient light and proximity sensors allow the controller to adapt to its environment. It is a simple, yet powerful solution for wall-mounted DMX control.


Properly designed and specified, aesthetic lighting can improve the environment and emotional comfort of patients; recruiting of healthcare professionals; well-being and motivation of the medical staff; and patient families and visitor hospitality.  By combining the latest LED developments with state-of-the-art controller technology, existing healthcare facilities can be transformed the entire healthcare experience for patients and healthcare professionals.


About the Author

Blaine Engle is the national sales manager for Acclaim Lighting, Los Angeles California.  Acclaim Lighting is dedicated to innovative and advanced lighting technology, including high-performance controller units developed for architectural lighting demands.