Linear Lighting Frenzy

The lighting industry continues to seek inventive ways to make light more efficient and ultimately more appealing to vastly improve the user experience
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Sponsored by Prudential Lighting
By Rob Empfield
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How Does Veiled Ambient Measure Up?

The unique advantages of veiled ambient lighting appeal to each of the various roles involved in the process, from initial specs to end use. Architects appreciate the cleaner ceiling (thanks to fewer fixtures) and the soft essence of natural light. Lighting designers and engineers are thrilled about the excellent distribution of light and energy efficiency. Contractors are relieved to find that the fixtures are easier to install than traditional recessed, especially in hard ceilings—and maintenance teams like knowing there are no lenses to crack, fall out, or get dirty. Building owners welcome the cost savings from the lower fixture count and significantly lower energy usage. And end users are thrilled with the natural-feeling glow veiled ambient produces.

As in nearly every other aspect of life, technology is bringing convenience, control, and anywhere access to lighting—as well as opening up an entire new world of color possibilities.

Integerated Sensors and the Internet of Things (IOT)

The broadly used moniker IoT is used to describe everything from refrigerators that tell you when you’re out of milk to door locks you can activate from anywhere. Essentially, everything you control with buttons, switches, and dials now either has or will soon be accessible via the Internet.

LED has even impacted the advancement of lighting sensors since the fluorescent dimming ballast was exceedingly cost prohibitive. With LED, the capability is built in. Integrated sensors have moved leaps and bounds beyond the basic daylight harvesting and motion sensors of the past. Today’s integrated wall and ceiling sensors can now identify and adjust for both occupancy and daylight harvesting, manage HVAC systems, track employee movement throughout workspaces and far more.

The lighting application translates to more personalized, responsive, connected workspaces, and classrooms, driven by sensor technology and real-time data collection. Lighting is no longer simply on or off. Intelligent sensors are increasingly being embedded in the fixtures to acquire data regarding building use to ultimately be applied in ways that will improve the user experience.

LED and a Whole New World of Whites

As professionals in the design/build industry are acutely aware, white is complex, tricky—maddening even. Whether you’re working with paint or textiles, the nuances in color tone are seemingly endless and appear to change throughout the day as the natural light fluctuates morning to midday, and again in the afternoon and evening. White light has its own unique set of challenges—and now, some pretty incredible possibilities.

What do you picture when you think about white light? Direct sunlight at high noon? A glowing subway station? The warmth of a desk lamp? The truth is, it’s all of the above. White light is a bit of a catch-all for a range that includes a variety of shades, from cooler blue-whites to warmer golden-whites. The technical scale for this range is correlated color temperature (CCT), measured in Kelvin (K). White light’s practical spectrum runs from down around 2,200 K, which aligns with a dimmed incandescent lamp or similar light, to up above 8,000 K, which is comparable to bright noontime daylight.

While most traditional lighting sources emit light in just one color, LED is changing that—and fast.

In the early days of LED, hues were limited, and you simply committed to the warmer or cooler shade you felt best complemented the palette of each space. New fixtures can now emit shades across the full spectrum of white light, and the same fixture is equipped with chips that emit a slightly different hue depending on the model selected: from 2,700 K and 3,500 K all the way to up around 6,000 K.

Color Tuning

Now that the category has expanded to encompass a much broader array of subtleties and variations, designers and even the end users have far more control over color matching and, more importantly, color tuning, a breakthrough in controls made possible with LED. Color tuning is a new concept where multiple LED chips with a variety of color temperatures are combined into a single fixture, giving that fixture the ability to emit different colors of white light. If the warmer chips receive more of the power, the light will reflect that warmer white, and the opposite effect is achieved by directing power to the cooler chips. It’s even possible to adjust percentages to achieve a blended temperature as well.

White Light as Healer

While the aesthetic implications of white light tuning are certainly exciting in terms of design, the potential human physiological impact is even more intriguing. Not all classroom and office environments have access to daylight, and that’s where the beauty of tunable white light comes into play. Recent studies have indicated multiple potential positive implications for physical and mental health. The human body craves structure, relying on systems like the natural 24-hour circadian rhythm for physiological processes. Our bodies take their cues from these predictable patterns, such as changes in color temperature and intensity that happen naturally throughout the day. Separation from that pattern causes a disruption that has been linked to a variety of health concerns, including increased risk for cardiovascular issues, obesity, diabetes, and neurological problems like depression.

Incredibly, the built environment can now mimic the natural outdoor environment’s seasons and patterns, simulating daylight’s 24-hour cycle. As many more shades of white have become available, the hue of light can be adjusted throughout the day to mimic the sun’s typical progression. While still considered a somewhat emerging technology, tunable white light has shown positive indications in its ability to help those within these environments to maintain their healthier circadian rhythms. Practical applications range from keeping night-shift employees healthier to providing a calming influence in the classroom.

White Light in the Natural World

Take a look at how the color temperature of daylight progresses throughout the day. Between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., daylight is often between 3,000 K and 4,000 K. By noon, the temperature of the daylight has increased to a brighter 5,000 K to 6,000 K. Color temperature then returns to the warmer-toned 3,000 K to 4,000 K range by mid to late afternoon. With white color tuning, LED fixtures can emit different shades of white light, mimicking the 24-hour cycle of natural light the human body is accustomed to following.

Full-Spectrum Color Tuning Ahead?

Because LED fixtures have the capacity to be designed to emit any number of different shades (red, blue, green, yellow, purple, etc.), the possibilities are truly astounding. With full color-tuning techniques that are currently in the works, environments have the potential to move from static to dynamic, freeing designers to experiment with an entirely new palette of creative expression. Immediately our minds jump to hospitality and entertainment applications like hotels, theaters, and stadiums; however, the commercial and institutional environments can benefit as well. Designers can visually highlight architectural accents or increase the vibrancy of art or materials, like the colors in a tapestry or painting. Retailers can make merchandise pop visually, and even grocers can make produce displays look more appealing with virtually unlimited degrees of customization.


For lighting designers and engineers, architects, and contractors, illumination is the last blank slate left, and a richly provocative canvas it is. LED innovation is burgeoning on multiple fronts, the potential applications continue to intrigue and inspire, and some of the industry’s greatest minds are intently focused on applying both physics and sheer artistry to reimagine the possibilities for built environments.

End Notes

1“Seven Challenges Lighting Designers Face When Using LEDs.” LEDinside. 20 March 2014. Web. 13 July 2017.

2“Lighting & Productivity.” Lighting Design Lab. Web. 13 July 2017.

3“LED Shelf Light.” Steelcase. Web. 13 July 2017.

4Burns, John. “The focus on efficacy is hurting the lighting industry.” LEDs Magazine. 21 October 2016. Web. 13 July 2017.

Rob Empfield is a marketing professional and continuing education presenter at Prudential Lighting engaged in advancing the specification process for the lighting industry.

Prudential Lighting logo.

Manufacturing in Los Angeles since 1955, Prudential Lighting continues to create a wide range of fixtures, from elegant pendants to innovative LED luminaires, while collaborating with designers in realizing their visions for architectural lighting environments. Light creates life. Create with Prudential Lighting.


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Originally published in Architectural Record