First impressions are everything in the hospitality industry, and lighting is a big part of those impressions.

“That can make or break an ambience,” said Doreen Le May Madden, owner and principle designer of Lux Lighting Design, Belmont, Mass. “Lighting dictates the pleasantness of the space and actions within that space.” There are both psychological and physiological elements of lighting. The basic idea of lighting design is soft lighting tends to make people talk softer and move slower. Soft lighting has a calming effect, while bright lighting generates more energy.

Nighttime sunglasses required

For casinos especially, the desire is for high lighting levels that keep people energized and enthusiastic, while hotels and resorts often are using exterior lighting to make a statement and capture the eye. The interior lighting creates a calmer atmosphere. Casinos also need proper—generally high—light levels for security cameras as well as for lighting placement that do not interfere with the camera locations.

A long-life bulb is important for those who use high-volume lighting and want to minimize maintenance. Longer-life lighting sources require considerably less maintenance.

For many of these reasons, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the up-and-coming lighting choice in this market, and even LED recessed lighting is being made in prototype by manufacturers. Le May Madden said she has been using LEDs in her designs for the past five years, but interest from the hospitality industry and others is growing as the technology is improving. According to Madden, lumens per watt are higher today, so while LEDs are still expensive, the return on investment is be-coming a reality. LEDs are most frequently used for exterior, building facade, pathways, step and interior decorative lighting.

“LEDs can provide a dramatic accent and color with a beam of light,” she said, rather than the diffused lighting of incan-descent bulbs. “We are attracted to light naturally,” she said.

Control means savings

Control systems also are important to facility owners because they can reduce energy usage and control the light show at any time from one location. Usually, they are programmed by the lighting designer, installed by contractors and require little programming at all by the owners.

From a control perspective, lighting is quickly addressing two concerns at once, according to Maureen Flowers, Lutron Electronics’ strategic account manager of hospitality. Those concerns, of course, are improving operational efficiencies (and thereby reducing energy costs) and increasing guest satisfaction.

In addition to energy-efficient, colorful LED lighting, controls also can improve a lighting experience while saving energy.

“Guest satisfaction has always been at the forefront,” Flowers said, while energy and profitability are growing in connec-tion with the rising cost of energy.

Not only is each casino, resort or hotel different, so are many of the entities within them (e.g., lobby, guest rooms, restaurants, gift shops and conference rooms). Within the lobby, for example, programmable lighting can dim after 10 p.m. or midnight, or the lighting can be reduced to one area and raised in others to attract guests to the proper hotel section. For example, a user could raise the lighting level around the bar during happy hour.

Photo sensors now allow hotels to take advantage of daylighting, reducing incandescent and fluorescent lighting usage and creating a more natural relaxing setting for guests.

In casino gaming rooms, however, there are no windows, so the lighting is active and stimulating to keep the guests alert. Here, reducing energy costs is not as high a concern as keeping the guests playing, and that means using bright, colorful lighting.

Event spaces tend to be large energy consumers, but lighting controls now allow hotels to automatically dim the lights and HVAC when the conference rooms are not in use. This is different when the conference room is rented, however.

“During those hours, it is up to the customer to decide what they need. The customer is in control,” Flowers said. Easy-to-use lighting controls are popularly installed in these areas. When the conference area is unoccupied, they are set to go to an unsold state with dim lighting, with lights that turn up for cleanup crews and then dim again when unoccupied.

Lighting control is being installed in the mid- to higher-end hotel rooms because of the changing nature of the way the rooms are used. For most business travelers, hotel rooms are no longer limited to a place of sleeping. They are now set up to be occu-pied at any hour, by families of the business travelers as well as the travelers themselves who may be hooking up their laptops to the plasma screen TV to get afternoon work done.

With that in mind, vendors are offering lighting controls with more flexibility. Many rooms have occupancy sensors and switches at the door to start up lighting and HVAC throughout the room. Others are designed so the registration clerk can re-motely open drapes, switch on lights and turn on the HVAC when they check a guest into a room, so it is ready for the guest when he arrives. Night lights remotely controlled from the bed allow guests to keep enough light on in the bathroom to keep them com-fortable at night.

There also are several solutions to reduce energy costs when guests leave on unused lights. More hotels are moving toward low-energy-using CFLs, fluorescents or dimmable incandescents, Flowers said. If any lights are left on when the guest leaves, occupancy readers in the room automatically turn off the lights.

With the younger generation’s ease with technology, Flowers expects more lighting control to be applied to the hospitality in-dustry in the next few years. For instance, HAI Lighting Control (HLC), New Orleans, offers “smart” switches and room controllers that allow its users to set lighting scenes for each room without the use of software programs. The HLC product line gives hotels the option of saving specific lighting configurations or scenes based on the time of day or occasion.

With all the focus on sustainability, it seems some hotels have taken energy and cost savings to extremes. In some cases, ho-tels and motels have gone too far in their sustainability efforts, and facility managers now are making an effort to remedy a lack of proper light in their guest rooms.

Nick Bleeker, director of business development for Day-Brite, Capri and Omega, Tupelo, Miss., said that while sustainabil-ity is still the hottest issue for hotel owners, in many cases the low-level energy-efficient lighting has irked hotel guests. Bleeker, who is chairman of the IESNA hospitality committee, is working with the committee on recommended practice to identify guidelines for proper lighting. This will help installers maintain the minimum lighting, saving energy without dimming the lights to the point that guests complain. Lighting controls are one solution to this problem.

Lighting as architectural design

Hospitality lighting is all about creating a functional environment while keeping in mind the end aesthetic result, said Jill Cody, IALD, LC, associate, at Flack + Kurtz, Seattle. And in some cases, it becomes part of the architecture, she said.

“The lighting doesn’t just support the overall design. It is an integral part of it,” Cody said. Especially where design creates a setting to evoke a certain feeling in the customer, lighting needs to be integrated into the overall design from the beginning, rather than be added after the architectural and interior design is complete.

In the coming years, Cody also sees shifts to greater energy efficiency.

“Energy code requirements are difficult to meet with incandescent lamps, and substituting screw-base compact fluorescents does not fulfill the code requirements. More fixtures are being designed with this in mind, so they can accommodate pin-base compact fluorescent lamps and still provide the aesthetic that hospitality projects need.” Ultimately, she says, other industries are watching hospitality as a leader in lighting trends.

“Hospitality design is influencing many other project types, including healthcare, education and retail,” Cody said. “This means that the lighting for these project types will require more than just functional lighting and will instead utilize multiple sources and layers of light.”

According to O’Connor, fashion is first and foremost for hospitality. “The challenge then is how to execute it in a cost-effective, energy-efficient manner,” he said.

O’Connor also sees low-wattage, low-output LEDs replacing higher-wattage, low-voltage light strips. For example, O’Connor used LEDs in the pearl necklace chandelier in the Park Hyatt Philadelphia project. LEDs also can provide more glowing panels or walls of light—in color or with graphics.

In addition, more hotels are making an effort to make their facility feel like home, and they are using lighting to accomplish that effect. “Decorating with sconces is an especially easy way to convey a homelike atmosphere,” said Paige Malouche, direc-tor of marketing services for Progress Lighting, Spartanburg, S.C.

While lighting can create a warm, cheerful effect, lighting manufacturers and their end-users also are interested in using fix-tures that offer safety benefits. Using fire-rated applications in hospitality construction can limit the passage of heat and flames to the next floor in the event of a fire.

“This could be the difference between life and death for residents and guests in a hospitality facility,” Malouche said.

O’Connor predicts there will need to be more coordination with other trades as systems and designs begin to merge. Lighting is transforming; it is merging with architecture, he said. And that means it’s becoming more of an art form, migrating from a utilitarian necessity to an enhancing building feature designed to elicit response. EC

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.