The rise in innovative lighting technologies is pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved in hotel interiors, both aesthetically and in terms of energy efficiency. Ian Drinkwater, managing director of trade lighting supplier Applelec, explores how the latest developments are changing the face of lighting in boutique establishments.
Lighting plays an integral role in any interior design scheme. Recent advances in technology – and in LED in particular – have enabled outlets to look to schemes that are far more than functional but can also play a key part in offering outstanding customer experience.
Crucially, innovative lighting can also be used to create a centrepiece that provides the ‘wow’ factor that sets an establishment apart from its peers while remaining both human-friendly and environmentally sustainable.
The advent of LED brought a major breakthrough in the lighting sector as a whole. A longer lifespan, significantly lower energy consumption and reduced maintenance costs compared with their fluorescent equivalents saw a marked shift away from traditional luminaires. Improved safety, lower carbon emissions and controllability have made LEDs immensely popular with designers, specifiers and hoteliers alike.
However, LED innovation is constantly evolving. Despite having been around for a number of years, largely within screens for television and mobile devices, in a lighting application, OLED is still a relatively young development.
OLED – organic light emitting diode – technology provides similar benefits to LED lighting but with significant additional attractions that are especially propitious for hotel lighting designers.
‘O’ is for organic
As the name suggests, the light from OLED modules has spectral power distribution that is very close to natural daylight, with lower blue light levels than non-organic LEDs.
Softer and more comfortable than that of regular modules, the light produced by OLED panels is virtually free from glare or shadow.
People feel comfortable in OLED light, making it perfect for creating a relaxing and cosy atmosphere, both in guest bedrooms and communal areas, or indeed in rooms where access to sunlight is limited.
In addition, the modules are constructed using a glass substrate which leaves them cool to the touch, making them safe and easy to handle.
A slim ‘n’ tonic
For lighting designers and specifiers, the advent of OLED has opened up a myriad of possibilities. Available in both rigid and flexible formats, the flexible modules are exceptionally slim with an impressive bending radius of 20mm, allowing the panels to be curved or manipulated into waves to create a visually stunning centrepiece for a lobby or dining room.
This slim, lightweight profile of just 0.41mm adds virtually no depth to a design, therefore panels can be incorporated into a huge variety of designs, into textiles and furniture or even clothing.
OLED can be used with 3D printing techniques to create stunning examples of decorative lighting or art.
London-based lighting designer Min Sang CHO successfully combined OLED and 3D print technology to create The Ribbon, a stunning centrepiece hand-painted in gold leaf that was originally unveiled at the 2016 London Design Festival before being transported to its permanent home in the VIP area of the Genting Highland Casino in Malaysia.
Happily, even the most elaborate sculptural installations need not cost the earth to power. As with regular LED modules, OLED panels draw a fraction of the power that incandescent luminaires require.
According to the Carbon Trust, lighting accounts for around a quarter of the average hotel’s electricity bill. Money saved on energy goes directly to the bottom line – a factor rendered more important than ever in the face of constantly spiralling electricity costs.
In addition to financial benefits, reducing energy consumption minimises an outlet’s carbon emissions, a fact that can be used to enhance a business’s reputation as an environmentally aware destination.