THE SKIRTING FLOOR WASH
It is relatively simple to create a skirting floor wash. It
is a technique that has become more common with the
increasing popularity of dry wall construction – and
with the advent of modern light sources.
Doug James says: ‘A broad description of it is a detail
where, by recessing the foot of the wall by 100-150mm,
you create a gap where you allow the light to flow
down out of the bottom of the wall and then across
the floor.’ The technique is often used to create drama
and mood where a low ambient light level is needed.
It is often seen in high-end architectural or hospitality
projects such as hotels, health clubs and spas. It is less
likely to appear in residential or retail spaces.
The primary function of the technique is to delineate
space, be it a corridor or a more open area. But it can
also supply ambient light.
For a curving corridor in the core building at the
Eden Project, Mindseye devised a skirting floor wash
installation as the sole light source, allowing people
to navigate the space. At the Barbican Arts Centre, the
skirting floor wash acts as a guide for visitors, but on a
more subconscious level.
Unusually for an architectural lighting detail, the
skirting floor wash also has a safety role. For the
entrance to the Barbican Arts Centre, Mindseye
specified a skirting floor wash opposite a light feature
that supplied the bulk of the ambient light in the space.
‘We were able to use the skirting floor wash to deliver
the emergency requirements,’ says James.
Designers keen to use the technique should beware of
a trio of potential gotchas.
The first is that the underlying structure of the
building may prevent continuous illumination of the
skirting. On a refurbishment project, old masonry and
steelwork may not be uncovered until a late stage.
Second, designers should beware of reflected or
indirect lighting. ‘You’ve got to think about the surface
that you’re reflecting from,’ says James, ‘and it’s not
unusual to have some kind of polished floor.’
Finally, the gap between the floor and the bottom
must be big enough for a human hand to enter to pull
out and re-fix equipment. Typically, the gap would be
about 150mm high.
The space needed for luminaires and wiring can vary.
‘If you have a 50mm-wide fitting, don’t try to create a
50mm void for it to fit in,’ cautions James, ‘you’ve got
construction tolerances and you will have to get other
things in there.’
James says the skirting floor wash is an effective tool
for shaping the perception of a space while delivering
useful light and, potentially, emergency lighting.
Above: At the Eden Project,
skirting light has a dual role – as
the sole light source in the space
and as a way-finding guide
Opposite: T5 fluorescent, cold
cathode and LED sources, and
the popularity of dry wall
construction, have made the
skirting floor wash popular