Illumination Creation

January 5, 2011
By Marla Cimini

The art of lighting today combines cutting-edge technology with sophisticated design, allowing for unlimited possibilities that can achieve just about any desired ambiance within a hotel.
With the recent advent of the mixed-use lobby, along with enhanced guestroom configuration, cosmic-inspired meeting spaces, and state-of-the-art entertainment facilities, lighting has become a vital, yet complex, component in elevating design to a higher level throughout the industry. Hotel companies are learning to navigate through intricate lighting issues, as each space within a hotel requires different types of illumination.

Stunning intensity and subtle nuanced colors create moods and transform atmospheres for hotels around the world. And guests are taking notice of how light enhances the essence or vibe of a hotel. Equipped with numerous illumination technologies, professional lighting designers possess an arsenal of viable options in their toolboxes that are changing the way travelers think about the simple act of flipping a switch upon entering a guestroom.

Randolph Gerner, principal of architectural firm Gerner Kronick + Valcarel, explains, “I believe ‘surprise and delight’ is a trend that we’ve been trying to achieve in hotels, in a wide variety of spaces. Light that emanates from behind a drapery or shines up from the floor or even glows around the top of headboards adds interest to a room. The guest can begin to expect the unexpected. We look for innovative ways to not only brighten, but create moods and characters with lighting.”

An example of tranquil mood creation is the spa room Gerner’s firm designed for the Park Hyatt Maçka Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, where color therapy is featured. In these distinctive rooms, the light source comes from spotlights in the floor that shine vertically from behind the free-standing bathtub to create a multi-colored, oasis-like environment.

In addition to the appealing aesthetics of lighting design and creative ambiance, sustainability—and how it relates to lighting—is also a hot topic in the hotel industry. With lighting designers raising awareness about the energy guzzling incandescent bulb, and recommending new advancements in florescent lighting, hotels are finding ways to be energy efficient, within a budget.

“There is a large push for sustainability today. Hotel companies are realizing that when you reduce the amount of electricity, which is directly associated with lighting, you reduce the bottom line,” says Avraham Mendall Mor, partner at Lightswitch Architectural. “The hospitality industry is finding efficiencies within different uses of technology that show them savings in electricity.”

As the designers of TheWIT Hotel in Chicago, Ill., Lightswitch carefully incorporated a number of sustainable elements into the property’s lighting systems. The hotel features nearly 300 rooms, a two-story lobby, a spa, a rooftop bar, meeting and entertainment spaces, as well as a state of the art theater. “TheWIT hotel has 1.1 watts of electricity per square foot for the entire hotel, not including the restaurant,” Mor explains. “The key metric is that with all the energy efficiencies in the building, they were
expecting $15,000 monthly electric bills. Instead, their bill is $4,000. That is a major savings.”

Many designers agree that achieving a balance of sustainability while maintaining dramatic design is often an industry-wide challenge, although this has recently been made easier through technological advancements.

“Because technology has come so far, and LED lighting is so efficient, flexible, full of color, and glows so nicely, we are finding that we are able to produce many more lighting effects with a lower cost,” Gerner says.

Numerous hotel companies use professional lighting experts to ensure cohesiveness between décor and architecture, especially since the nature of quality illumination can be quite complex. It can also require a great deal of time to simply acquire the knowledge of new emerging technologies.

“The beauty of a lighting designer is that they mix the right and left brain. Lighting is very creative and artistic, but it’s also extremely technical,” Mor says. “A professional understands all of these different technologies and the price points, and can be sure that the client receives a project that is affordable and maintainable.”

“For example, you can have the most beautiful marble in the world in your lobby, but if your lighting is bad, you really won’t see how gorgeous it is,” he continues.

Bathing in Light
The topic of hotel lighting can’t be discussed without mentioning the bathroom. All too often guests are faced with ghastly shadows that turn shaving or make-up
application into a dreaded task. In addition, the wrong lighting volume, color or intensity can give skin tone a pale, greenish, or “washed out” look.

Mor says emphatically, “Women putting on make-up in their guestroom is the most important thing in a hotel. Energy efficiency is directly connected to the color of those light sources. It’s important to use a professional grade product CFL (compact florescent lamps). We recommend to our clients to choose the large manufacturers and stick with the same model number so they get the same results every time.”

“For bathrooms, you have to choose the light fixture and color that renders the skin handsomely. The next step is that you have to make sure the lighting comes from multiple directions,” Gerner adds.

To further enhance the experience of the female guest, Wyndham Worldwide’s program, “Women on their Way,” takes a close look at lighting. As a result of this, Wyndham is introducing prototypes within several of its brands that feature bright backlit mirrors in bathrooms, along with vertical, warm lighting that eliminates shadowing.

George Scammell, vice president of global interior design at Wyndham Worldwide, explains, “Wherever guests see their reflection at a hotel or resort, they should look good and feel good. Our consumers are better educated about lighting, and their expectation is to have quality lighting in their hotel room.

“We are studying natural light and its impact on the public spaces and guest-rooms,” he continues. “At Wyndham, our goal is to be the “best lit” brand, and we are incorporating ways to augment natural light. We pay close attention to the details that enhance lighting by anticipating and providing for our guests’ needs.”

“Hotel lighting is important to me because when I’m on vacation I want to look in the mirror and feel refreshed,” says East Coast-based traveler Sandy Perilli. “I recently visited the Portofino Resort in Florida, and when I peeked into the bathroom mirror, the amazing lighting convinced me that I already looked relaxed, even though my vacation hadn’t even started.” 

Often challenging to lighting pros, introducing efficient fixtures and seductive lighting concepts to the mid-range and budget hotels can be tricky, and they are working to bring higher-end options to the mainstream.

Scammell explains, “Educating the public and hotel staff about new types of lighting is always beneficial, especially with budgetary concerns. In reality, the quality of florescent light has been evolving. There are some really good florescents out there with warmer tones and temperature. We are starting to see enhancements in the marketplace.”

Intuitive lighting
“Intuitive lighting controls will play a key role in the future of the hospitality industry,” Gerner says,  “In addition to being energy-efficient, this type of lighting system will anticipate a guest’s requirements while in the room, and brighten or diminish as necessary. The technology is nearly here, and will eventually be incorporated into hotels around the world.”

According to Gerner, guests will soon have the luxury of room lighting following their path, not in a harsh on or off pattern, but a gentle brightening as the guest moves about the room. For example, stepping into the bathroom automatically brightens that area. In addition, guests will be able to adjust light fixtures with the wave of a hand.
Mor says, “Some of the newer hotels are starting to integrate different kinds of control technologies, so a variety of moods can be set. This technology also allows a hotel the control to turn guestroom lights on or off after a certain period of time.”  

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