Shining a light on photometric studies for hotels

NATIONAL REPORT—With continuing advancements in software technology, architects and designers can now easily see what a completed hotel project will look like in three dimensions.

These three-dimensional drawings can provide designers the opportunity to show clients just how a proposal will look for those who have trouble visualizing a completed project based on two-dimensional paper drawings alone.

Through the use of a photometric study, these three-dimensional simulations can show how much light will be given off by the lighting design chosen for the project.

“Our lighting designers use advanced photometric software to digitally simulate proposed interior and exterior lighting designs,” said Blair Hildahl, principal and founding member of Base4, an architecture and engineering firm. “Our team imports floor plans and elevations created by our architecture and interiors teams into the software and then uses photometric studies to replicate the position, intensity and color of any lighting design. Material surface properties, such as color, reflectance and textured glass, are all easily assigned to show a realistic light and shadow distribution across the space.”

Base4 uses a software program called AGi32 as its primary photometrics calculation tool. “We use these to compute illuminance for different design situations and assist in fixture selection and placement,” he said.

The process allows designers the ability to easily make changes to the lighting design until it meets the exact needs of the project. “In addition, our in-house lighting designers can work in unison with our interior design team to digitally model different lighting schemes and select one that meets the desired mood and ambiance,” he said. “The placement of light fixtures, the fixture selected and the corresponding fixture intensity all can be adjusted to meet the overall project design goals.”

A photometric study can also make it easy for developers to meet local regulations. “City officials often require hoteliers to show proposed exterior project lighting in order to analyze how new lighting will affect surrounding areas,” said Hildahl.

The exterior lighting analysis can also improve safety. “Photometric studies identify dark zones, which enables lighting designers to improve indoor and outdoor safety,” he said. “This is especially important for parking lots, walkways and indoor pools.”

The studies can also add to the guest experience. “By identifying the location, fixture type and intensity of light, interior designers can set the ambiance and mood of the space,” said Hildahl.

Energy efficiency is another benefit of conducting a study, sine it allows for the minimum light needed in a project. The software will also adjust the natural light according to the time of day. “Architects and lighting designers can analyze lighting layouts and offer the best alternative to be as energy efficient as possible,” he said.

Before the use of digital photometric studies, the calculations were often done by hand. “Prior to powerful modeling software like AGi32, photometric calculations were either only completed very roughly by basic hand calculations or modeled in a built-up mock-up room, which was expensive and time-consuming,” said Hildahl. “Advanced photometric software has revolutionized the lighting industry and has allowed us to visualize different lighting packages in real space with the click of a mouse.”

Jay Bhakta, managing partner of JR Hospitality in Bloomington, MN, has used photometric studies in some of the projects his company has developed, many of them in cities that require them. “It is something that has happened in the last couple of years,” he said. “A lot of cities have now developed standards regarding photometrics at buildings within their cities. They have asked for photometric studies. I know that a few cities are updating their codes as we speak. I think they will be a little more stringent going forward.”

Bhakta said that the studies allow his company to be more precise with their lighting placement in projects. “We can have more precision now that we can model out and see how the lighting is going to be displayed throughout the property,” he said. “We can model out all of our fixtures and make sure they are in the optimal position. It helps improve efficiency, and as each city gets higher requirements, we will see some additional lighting in place as well.”

The studies have been something that are very easy to understand and use in projects, according to Bhakta. “Groups like Base4 do it pretty quickly and efficiently, so it hasn’t been a big ordeal that has caused a lot of heartburn,” he said. “We have pretty much been able to seamlessly integrate it within our development process. It has worked out well. It hasn’t added any more difficulty to our development process.” HB