27 Mar A Landscape Lighting designer brings creativity and technical know how to your project
By Mike Gambino
Lighting is a critical aspect of daily life. Good lighting can bring warmth to a space, highlight architectural features, help set a certain mood and provide appropriate illumination for doing tasks. If you haven’t considered adding a landscape lighting designer to your landscape team, you might want to think about hiring one if it’s within your budget.
What do lighting professionals do? They create lighting-design plans for the property and exterior architecture of your home, suggest and order the most appropriate products, assist with the code-compliance process and ensure that all the correct products are properly installed. Here are seven reasons these professionals could benefit your home renovation project.
- Landscape Lighting Designers Know How to Make Spaces Beautiful and FunctionalGood lighting can enhance landscape design and highlight a home’s architectural features. Lighting designers use a variety of tools — from in grade recessed lights and hanging pendants to wall sconces, task lighting and directional lights that highlight trees, shrubs, artwork, water features and more to get the desired effect in a landscape. Their work goes well beyond just simple up lighting lighting and involves building an entire layered lighting scheme for a space. Experienced and good landscape lighting designers use an array of tools much like an artist does a palette to create a harmonious and practical lighting design.
Lighting designers can also help you avoid common mistakes that steal the beauty or usefulness from a space. For instance, have you ever been in a yard where the motion sensor lights keep triggering causing obnoxious glare or common wall or post mounted lights where the lamp (bulb) is visible and in your direct sightline? Landscape Lighting designers know how to prevent these problems.
When searching for a lighting designer, the most important thing to look for is one with experience and a portfolio of work. These professionals are not licensed in the U.S. and there is not a widely adopted certification process. However, some may have extensive experience with landscape lighting design or architectural lighting design which will be apparent in the quantity and quality of their portfolios.
2. Lighting Designers Get Personal
Lighting designers work closely with you to find out how you use your home. Where do you primarily view the landscape lighting from? Do you spend all your time in the kitchen, family room, bedroom and view from interior spaces? Like to host dinner parties outside during fair weather? A lighting designer can make sure you can see what you’re doing as you prepare the food and entertain your friends around the outside kitchen, BBQ and patio dining table. In other words, it’s a lighting designer’s job to tailor your home’s exterior lighting scheme to your specific needs and lifestyle.
3. Lighting Designers Understand Today’s Technology
The offering of lamps (bulbs) and systems on the market has changed dramatically even in the last five years. Landscape Lighting designers stay abreast of the newest products and can make decisions about your home’s lighting a lot less confusing. These professionals tend to be more knowledgeable about a wider range of outdoor lighting specific products than many electricians and non landscape lighting specialized trades. They also keep up on lighting by spending a good amount of their time installing lights as well as studying, testing and observing and experimenting with the latest landscape lighting options.
Bulbs and dimmers.As just one example of the expertise a lighting designer can offer, consider today’s LEDs, or light-emitting diodes. These bulbs and fixtures have taken over the industry, offering longevity and energy efficiency. But they also create certain design challenges. For instance, when incandescent light bulbs were the standard, there was really only one type of dimmer. With LEDs, there can be six distinctly different dimming methods and separate dimmers for each method. Getting the match between an LED and dimmer wrong can lead to flickering, poor dimming or in the worst case a potential for fire. Lighting designers can help you avoid these problems.
Color temperature. Lighting can range in color from a warm amber candle-like tone to a crisp, cool blue-white. Most retail light bulbs are sold with what looks like a “nutrition facts” label printed on their boxes indicating how much light they provide and its color, which is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). As the K number goes higher, the light color gets more blue. Anything 3000K or lower is considered warm, while anything above 4000 is considered cool. A rating of 3500K is neutral and can look either cool or warm, depending on what it’s illuminating. Lighting designers can help you choose the right color based on the type of plants or objects being lighted and to suit your personal taste.
Fixtures. There are many varieties of fixtures available on the market. For instance, a recessed in grade accent light that will be buried in the ground may be rated for direct contact with soil but may not be suitable for wet locations if your soil type doesn’t drain well. The same fixture could have a variety of options for trim (the part of the fixture that shields the bulb or light-producing part of the light) and may be offered with different beam angles or different light color temperatures. Lighting designers know about these details and help you get the right fixtures and lamps, saving you from ordering the wrong products.
4. Lighting Designers Know Controls
Lighting designers can plan for an elegant installation that avoids huge banks of switches that may be unsightly or confusing to use. And if you’re interested in a sophisticated software-based lighting-control system that makes it possible to program your lights on timers or operate your lights from your computer or phone, a good lighting designer can help. Lighting designers can program these computerized lighting-control systems and integrate them with an audio-visual, home security, pool or master system for all the home’s controls.
5. Lighting Designers Know Energy Codes
In California, Title 24 dictates what types of lights can be used in certain spaces, and many other states and municipalities have adopted the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) or strict local codes. Some projects also look for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification, and some cities have Dark Sky ordinances seeking to reduce light pollution. These codes and ordinances are an important part of reducing the energy impact (and related bills), but following them requires careful attention. Lighting designers can ensure that your products and specifications meet the local code and ordinances, helping to avoid regulatory problems.
- Lighting Designers Could Save You MoneyUltimately, hiring a landscape lighting design specialist will add to your project’s cost but by how much can greatly vary depending on the work you hire them for as well as their business model. Among the services that lighting designers offer are lighting design plans, product ordering and managing and overseeing installation. These professionals may offer installation in which they would be considered Design/Build contractors. Gambino landscape Lighting is a design/build contractor that handles every aspect of your project and after care as well.
There are two different business models for lighting designers: those who don’t sell products themselves and those who do. Those who don’t sell products themselves acts as an advocate for the client and order products directly from distributors, adding a 15-20% commission on what is ordered. Generally, they make their money by charging an hourly or project fee plus a materials markup. Designers who sell products and do the installation (Like Gambino landscape Lighting) may offer their design work at a discount or for no cost if you purchase product from them. Be sure you understand your chosen professional’s business model and the incentives it creates in terms of suggesting products.
Check with your designer to see how they can help manage lighting costs and purchasing. There are many steps in getting a light from a factory to a job site, with potential cost markups along the way. Lighting designers can track the process to ensure there are not excessive markups, long delays or substitutions without approval. Because they perform the installation, these professionals can also potentially save you money by making sure the most efficient installation method is used, saving labor time.
Follow a Project Through to Completion
Lighting designer/Builders work with the owner during the construction process when those inevitable changes come up, and they can be a valuable advocate in ensuring these changes don’t derail the lighting plan. Then, after landscaping is complete, the trees and plants are in and before lawn , flowers and ground cover, the landscape lighting designer finalizes the lighting scheme. They aim and adjust the lights onto art, task surfaces, landscape elements and so on. If you’ve chosen a lighting-control system, they’ll also program it. They work from planning stage to completion to ensure the lighting part of the project is successfully completed.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 30 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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