The Business Times // Seeing the Light

Once a neglected area in the interior design process, lighting is now getting more attention as homeowners realise that it has a role beyond the functional

The next time you go for a walk in your neighbourhood in the evening, take a look at the houses or apartments around you.

Which ones do you find aesthetically pleasing? Whatever your answer, chances are that it has something to do with the way the home is lit.

While many Singaporeans regard lighting as a practical necessity, a growing number are starting to realise that functionality is not all there is to it.

This home in Watten View is lit entirely by LED lights, which can be used in a wide range of design applications as well as in places where they couldn’t be used before, such as under shelves and stairs (above).

Ong Wei Ping, executive director of Ecolight Design Consultants, says: “Attitudes are changing because people are going for better aesthetics and they are a lot more well-informed. People now realise they know a lot less about lighting than they thought they did.”

It is not just about buying the right kind of light. There is also the matter of knowing where to place your lights so that the features of a home – its interior furnishings or an art collection – are showcased to their best effect.

Mr Ong says: “Homeowners now want to have things that are a bit different, such as undulating finishes on their walls and rustic granite stones. You can put these up but if you don’t put the light in the right place to show off their textures, then all that is wasted. You pay a lot of money but you’re not maximising the effects.”

And lights also play a role in safety, as in the case of step lighting, marker lighting or night lighting.

Homeowners who are aware of the importance of lighting are looking at lighting needs at an earlier stage of doing up their homes. And rather than leaving it to their architect or interior designer, some are engaging lighting-design specialists to replicate design features that they may have seen on their travels.

For example, a residential project in Sentosa Cove with a spiral staircase wrapped around a perforated metal grille has had this design feature transformed into a tower of light. To create a flickering candlelight effect, fibre optics were tucked into the pockets of the grille.

And since the lights within the grille were going to be on for long periods, amber LED lights were chosen for their even coverage and energy-efficiency.

LED has proven a popular option for homeowners who want to dress up their homes with lighting effects. Getting the electricity bill halved as a result is a great bonus.

Advancements in LED technology have markedly improved the quality of such lights since their introduction to the market. Where early generations of LEDs were criticised for being too cold in colour temperature, they are now increasingly comparable to halogen lights for colour rendition.

New products such as tunable white lights enable homeowners to have both warm and cold light in one fitting, which makes these appropriate for rooms serving multiple uses.

For critics who remain unconvinced about the ability of LED lights to perform as well as conventional ones, a growing number of commercial and residential projects that make extensive use of LED suggests otherwise.

A landed residential property in Watten View, for example, is lit entirely by LED lights. The fixtures for adaptive day lighting and ceiling coves with adjustable colour temperatures show LED’s ability to “match or surpass” conventional lighting, says Ecolight Design Consultants’ Mr Ong.

Dorsett Regency, a hotel in Singapore that uses more than 95% LED lights.

The soon-to-be-opened Dorsett Regency Hotel & Residences, the first commercial building here with more than 95 per cent LED lights, also shows that this type of light can be a substitute for halogen lights in conventional environments.

That said, LED isn’t the only sustainable alternative to conventional halogen lights. Singaporeans, stung by rising electricity tariffs, are on the lookout for other energy-efficient solutions.

“They want to know what other light technology can save as much energy and last just as long,” says Mr Ong.

For properties with expansive facades or ceiling heights of above three metres, he has been recommending induction lighting, which costs half of what LEDs cost, lasts longer and saves just as much energy.

Ultimately, whether homeowners decide to engage the services of an interior designer or lighting specialist or choose to undertake the task of lighting their homes themselves, industry professionals have some words of advice: Don’t be swayed by low prices, because the transformers in cheap lighting fixtures, for example, aren’t as durable.



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