Design and décor are taking center stage in the
hospitality arena and becoming critical facets of every hotel property. Today's
guests are demanding more appealing environments that have all the luxuries of
home and then some, including amenities, technology and design. Lighting schemes
also play a crucial role.
As a result, hotel owners and operators are pushing their designers to the
limit, challenging them to create a comfortable and tranquil residential
environment across all areas of the property. The right or wrong lighting
choices can either enhance this atmosphere or tarnish it.
"There is no question that lighting is critical in terms of creating the
atmosphere and environment of a property," says Dawn Hollingsworth,
managing design principal at Visual Terrain, an international design company.
"It starts with the exterior view and goes all the way through to the
lobby and into the corridors and guestrooms. Lighting is a big part of the
interior design and exterior architecture, and incorporated into the image that
the hotel property is trying to convey to its guests."
One of the biggest challenges facing a designer is to find the right balance
between new and evolving technology and to stay within the budget with regard
to meeting new energy codes, according to Hollingsworth.
"While those energy codes are good for the environment, they involve
technologies that are more expensive," she says, adding this situation is
exacerbated when it comes to lobby lighting.
Form. follows function
Designers agree that the lobby of a hotel poses special challenges with regards
to lighting for many reasons. First and foremost is the fact that most hotel
lobby areas are used for varying functions at different times during the day.
"All lobbies are multipurpose," Hollingsworth says. "There are
usually so many activities going on. Guests are coming in throughout the day,
and visitors are possibly entering for meetings or an event. There are a lot of
different types of users, so the lobby has to convey all those visual signals
where a guest can find information. The lighting in a lobby needs to create the
visual environment to give people cues and clues to find their way."
"I would say the lighting of a property is critical in establishing a
first impression, particularly in the lobby," agrees Julia Neville,
architectural lighting designer for Newcomb & Boyd Lighting Design Group.
"There is a psychological aspect to drawing people into the space."
One of the most important aspects of a lobby lighting design scheme is properly
lighting the area so the finishes are reflected in line with the hotel's décor,
"You can have the most luxurious finishes in a space such as a hotel
lobby, but if the lighting is not well thought out for that space, then the
finishes will appear dull or flat," she says. "Why spend all the
money to make space like that stand out if you are not going to light it
As a result, dimmable fixtures that are timed properly are certainly needed in
a hotel lobby that utilizes the daylight coming in but automatically adjusts
toward evening, according to designers and architects.
"The most challenging part of lighting a hotel is the lobby because of the
height of the ceilings and the daylight penetration," says Melissa
Conchilla, principal owner and senior designer, MAC Design Group. "Hotels
understand they don't necessarily need to have the lighting on when there is a
lot of daylight coming into the space. It then becomes a control issue, with
daylight sensors to make sure the lights are not on when they don't need to
The key is to keep energy efficiency balanced with staying within the design
scheme of the overall property, according to Conchilla.
"Fitting in décor and 'green' is a challenge," she says. "Energy
is always going to be an issue. Incorporating more energy-efficient lighting in
a new hotel is easier than in a remodeling project."
Hotels therefore need a "dynamic, three-dimensional, layered lighting
system in order to have multiple effects," according to Conchilla.
"The lighting controls become such an important part to the project,"
"Probably one of the most current happenings in the hospitality industry,
as well other industries, is the fact that sustainable design has entered the
mainstream, and this has been brought about by issues about global warming and
energy efficiency," says Doug Roby, chief executive and president,
Commercial Interior Décor. "The increased green initiatives during this
last decade have gathered everyone's attention. The increased rising costs and
concerns about the environment bring this awareness into the hospitality
Hotel lighting encompasses a large portion of energy consumption. Some of the
new energy codes are a challenge to the hospitality industry, where accent
lighting has played an important position in the ambiance of public areas, such
as the lobby, in particular, according to Roby.
"There are new energy standards combined with higher energy prices to
encourage investment in energy-efficient equipment," he says.
"Architectural, engineering and lighting design and new lighting
techniques and products all come into play when this sustainable design becomes
a part of the hospitality environment."
But while an energy-efficient lighting system with proper controls that is
attractive and affordable is certainly important, the safety of the guest can
never be compromised— and designers agree that nothing is safer than a well-lit
"Lighting needs great care and attention," Roby says. "Hotels
need to keep their guests comfortable and safe."
Hollingsworth agreed, saying, "A hotel can't have shadowy, dark
places." However, sometimes green efforts are at odds with this because
hotels are feeling pressure to do away with incandescent lighting in favor of
fluorescent lamps, she said.
"There is a move in the [California
state] legislature to ban the use of incandescent lamps," Hollingsworth
says. "But then it becomes a quality and safety issue. Hotels don't want
cold and sterile environments, and fluorescent lighting has been associated
with cold and sterile."