It has always seemed a supreme irony that an element as elusive and mercurial as light
should be subject to so many strictures and standards. It’s like nailing down a butterfly.
How on earth did this life-giving essence become reduced to lux levels and lumen counts?
What’s more, some of the prescribed wisdom handed down over the years has become
so shrouded in the mists of the past that no one can even recall why certain figures and
targets were arrived at in the first place. A common example is 500 lux on the working
plane, which still seems to persist despite the best efforts of professionals to chip away at
this now redundant, energy-wasteful and ill-conceived target.
One of the arguments for codes and diktats is that an awful lot of lighting is not designed
or specified by professionals. The hope is that some sort of framework will somehow
check the worst efforts of the amateur and insecure, who fret if they haven’t got a specific
metric or percentage to gun for.
It is why lighting design pioneer Howard Brandston is the proverbial breath of fresh
air (see p18). One might expect someone of the old guard, as it were, to become more
conservative in this respect as the years go by but not a bit of it. He’s always advocated
that the human visual system is far more effective than a light meter and that regulations
stultify thought and creativity.
‘In architecture and engineering there are countless rules,’ he says. ‘I ignored them all. I
said that rules were a substitute for thinking. No one was going to stop me from thinking.’
Jill Entwistle, Editor
17 COMMENT LIGHTING MAGAZINE
VOLUME 48 • ISSUE 04 2016