What You'll Learn

  1. Introduction
  2. Lamps
  3. Fixtures
The most successful green buildings must also be comfortable and attractive, and the right lighting can make all the difference in getting them to feel this way. But good lighting and sustainable design are not mutually exclusive, as we showed recently at This Old House TV's Austin project, the green model of a 1926 Craftsman bungalow.

As an architectural lighting designer specializing in sustainable buildings, I was invited to join the team working on the TOH project. Although my New York and New Haven-based firm most often consults on large-scale commercial and institutional buildings in the Northeast, I jumped at the chance to work on a wonderful renovation in my old Hyde Park neighborhood in my hometown of Austin.

Homeowners Michele Grieshaber and Michael Klug had very clear ideas about what they thought their new lighting should be like. They wanted their 1926 Craftsman bungalow to glow warmly, but be technologically sophisticated, well-lighted, energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible. Sounds like a tall order, but it turns out that wasn't hard to do, as long as we applied some thoughtful design while keeping in mind what was actually available in the current technology. To do that, we used certain techniques that can be applied to green lighting in any home.

Sustainable lighting design means making sure the visual environment is excellent, but at the same time minimizing the impact on the natural environment. Different situations will require different approaches, so there is no single prescription for quality lighting. But the first step is always understanding how a space will use a balance of ambient, task, and accent lighting. Once that is decided, there are many ways to achieve the design using environmentally friendly light bulbs, fixtures, and controls.

Lighting's biggest environmental impact is energy consumption. I always start with the light source, known as lamps in the lighting industry, but commonly called light bulbs. Knowing the right type and amount of light needed, then selecting the most efficient source provides the most sustainable and energy-effective solution.

Ratings
Although the wall of blister-packed lamps at your local home improvement store may seem a little intimidating, there are some simple metrics you can check to choose what's best for your design. Lamp performance is measured in five basic ways:
1. Lumens, which indicates light output.
2. Lumens per watt, which indicates how much light is produced for the energy used. This measurement shows how efficientl the different types of lamps are.
3. Color temperature (measured in Kelvin degrees), typically going from 2700K warm white to 4100 cool white.
4. Color rendering index, expressed in a number from 0 to 100, with a 100 CRI rating indicating a full-spectrum light source.
Lamp life, rated in hours of average expected life before burn-out.

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