A New Lighting Design Paradigm

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

Relative to lighting, biophilic design can be addressed in three specific areas:

  1. Analogous reference,

  2. Repeating biomorphic forms or shapes,

  3. Diffuse ambient luminance.

Analogous references and biomorphic forms relate to images that can be printed on SoftForm Lighting's fabric luminaire fronts. But it's diffuse ambient luminance where the lighting design paradigm shifts.

When we experience light in the outdoors, the experience is completely different than what we experience indoors. For example, on a sunny day, around noon, we can experience illumination in excess of 10,000 Fc (footcandles). We may wear sunglasses and possibly a hat to help shade our eyes from the sun's intensity.


When we move into the shade of a tree, most would agree that it's a more comfortable environment. It's very likely we'd remove our sunglasses and hat and continue to enjoy our time within the shade. If we were to measure the illuminance of the shade we're enjoying, it is likely to be in excess of 300 Fc. If we achieved 300 Fc indoors, using conventional lighting products and practices, we would find that environment very uncomfortable indeed. Why is that?


The difference is that outdoors, the light is highly diffuse and is coming from everywhere. Our entire visual environment is bathed in light. Inside, however, we generate light from a symmetrical array of luminaires located in the ceiling. Design goals, over the years, have been to increase system efficacies and thereby energy efficiencies by generating lots of light within each luminaire and then trying our best to distribute that light, as evenly as possible, into the building's interior. While we can create functional illumination (the footcandles needed for the tasks in the space) we have had to accept very bright, non-diffuse sources. And if we tried to use this technology and design practices to replicate the illumination (300 Fc) found in the shade of a tree, our interior environments would become unbearably bright indeed.

The paradigm shift is to design using the same amount of luminance but spreading the light generation over a much larger area. In a perfect interior world, all surfaces would glow lightly (pun intended) with soft, diffuse luminance thus creating an environment more akin to sitting outdoors in the shade of a tree. Using SoftForm Lighting's low brightness, fabric light forms in clustered arrays rather than the traditional lighting design practice of symmetrical arrays of high brightness lighting fixtures, can help achieve the biophilic design goal of soft, diffuse luminance. Try it, your clients will love the results.