Letter: Lighting up public places

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Sir: Jonathan Glancey hits a few targets but also misses some in his piece about the widespread use of fluorescent lighting in out-buildings and public places (Architecture, 11 April).

The range of light sources available to the lighting designer today is greater than at any previous time. That we encounter so many fluorescent types - tubes, circular, compact etc - is due largely to three factors: economic running costs (much cheaper than tungsten light bulbs), a range of colours and colour-rendering properties that make the lamps suitable for so many applications, and a useful life of up to 18,000 hours, compared with a mere 1,000 hours for the familiar light bulb. The introduction in recent years of the hi-frequency tube and control gear has made the fluorescent option the most popular, and currently there is little challenge to its dominance in areas suited to it.

Lighting design is another matter entirely. This Institution leads the way in Britain in providing the best technical and design guidance available to the lighting engineer/designer, through its code for interior lighting and a range of lighting guides. These promote visual variety but counsel the use of even lighting where it is appropriate. The products exist, the guidance exists, but so often it is the economic consideration that dictates what products will be used, not the aesthetic.

In transport lighting you will find that London Transport is now employing leading lighting designers for its new stations on the Jubilee Line extension and for other station refurbishments. As to blotting out the stars, I can only say that again there is the right equipment available but while many local authorities continue to employ civil engineers to design street lighting, it is unlikely to be used appropriately.

We have the design guidance and the products to achieve good lighting, tailored to our needs and sympathetic to our sensibilities. All we have to do is use them, or employ those who know how to.



Lighting Division

The Chartered Institution of

Building Services Engineers

London SW12