Creating Layers of Light with LEDs

Integra Works

Creating Layers of Light with LEDs

In professional landscape lighting, a well-designed outdoor living space usually consists of three layers of lighting: ambient, task and accent.

With this concept in mind, LED lamps have become the perfect solution for landscape lighting designers who understand the importance of interspersing colors and beamspreads throughout a lighting plan to accommodate the different needs and activities of their clients.

The clear, even light field provided by LED lamps also allows the natural textures of plant materials, masonry and architectural elements to stand out, instead of being masked and distorted by the striations emitted by traditional halogen and PAR bulbs.

The main purpose of layering light is to provide a safe, functional and visually interesting lighting design for your clients.

Let’s Begin with Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is the starting point of most outdoor lighting projects. The purpose of ambient lighting is to provide overall illumination within a small area, e.g. a comfortable level of brightness within the patio or outdoor sitting area.

Whether this space is close to the home or at the furthest point of the property, lighting should be bright enough to allow people to interact and socialize within that space. Good ambient lighting sets the overall mood, with dim levels of light that won’t flood the task and accent light in other areas of the property.

Warmer lamp temperatures, such as 2700K, offer a soft glow of light, which is perfect for areas closer to the home and in sitting areas, while crisper hues are used in accent and safety lighting, highlighting pathways and architecture that may be outside the ambient lighting area.

Brighter Lighting for Safety

Before selecting illumination for task lighting, make a list of tasks that your clients will be performing in each area. Often, 3000K LED lamps are the best choice for providing illumination for task lighting.

Typically brighter than ambient lighting, task lighting is designed to help your clients walk down pathways or prepare meals in an outdoor kitchen area.  Additionally, this layer helps you protect your family and visitors from harm by marking the edge of a patio or deck, or a sudden change in elevation.

When designing appropriate path lighting, key sections such as entrance ways, curves, and changes in elevation should be illuminated first. If the lighting level is still not sufficient to provide safe navigation from one area to the next, add additional path lights that follow the curves and lines of the existing landscape to ensure illumination that highlights the shape and flow of the design.

The Final Touch: Accent Lighting

To highlight special objects or architectural features, accent lighting is the layer of lighting that typically benefits most when you use different color temperatures and intensities of light. Accent lighting should always be about three times the general illumination level of your ambient lighting.

Spot lighting techniques add drama to your landscape by bringing attention to large hardscape or focal pieces within the overall design.  By lighting the textured surfaces on the façade of your home, specimen plantings, large trees, outdoor artwork, and water features, you can create shadows and spotlight details of the landscape that are not as clearly visible during the day.

For lighting projects that feature tall trees and shrubs at the property line, high intensity illumination – such as 13 Watt PAR36 lamps installed in well light fixtures – can enclose the space by hiding the property line and darkening the areas beyond it for an overall feeling of privacy.

LED Lamps Designed for Layering

In effective landscape design, the light intensity of each layer of lighting should increase as you move outward from the residence or general outdoor sitting areas. The human eye is drawn to the brightest light, and inappropriate use of layering can ruin the overall effect of your lighting plan by limiting sight lines and creating glare.

With the needs of lighting designers in mind, Illumicare has carefully developed each color temperature and intensity of lamp to accommodate even the most intricate lighting project. From low intensity miniatures for warm ambient and safe path lighting, MR16 spot lamps in four different colors to highlight every plant material, to PAR36 lamps bright enough to accent a tree from trunk to canopy, each LED lamp has a place in a well-layered lighting design.

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