Worship Facilities is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

The Pastor's Guide to Architectural Lighting

The Pastor's Guide to Architectural Lighting

Your facility’s architectural lighting (lighting other than what illuminates your stage/platform areas) probably isn’t the main thing you think about when designing or remodeling your facility. But that lighting affects the first impression that guests have when walking through your atrium and hallways; it affects your utility bills; it affects the security of your facility; and it affects how easily it is to ensure that lights aren’t left burning all night long in the less visible areas of your building.

In this issue of Worship Facilities Magazine, we take a look at what’s fresh and interesting in the area of architectural lighting that can make an impact on your church, its staff, and its community.

What’s New

“LEDs are all the rage,” says Tobin Neis, director of lighting for Barbizon Lighting Co. in New York. “But you still need to pay for quality. As with anything, if it is a bargain-basement price, it probably won’t last.”

But that initial higher investment in LED lighting can pay for itself over time. “Depending on the technology and application, lighting accounts for 30% of the energy consumption in most facilities,” states John Martin, principal at Pro-Tech Energy Solutions in Branchburg, N.J. “With an [LED] upgrade based on technology and hours of operation, paybacks can range from as low as one year to as high as three years depending on the client’s needs.” He also predicts that LED lighting costs will come down as production methods are improved.

Glare and imprecise lighting can be an issue with LED luminaires, though, according to Kathy Greene, marketing manager for Architectural Area Lighting in City of Industry, Calif. “One advancement that designers should look for with LED luminaires is the addition of premium optics used in conjunction with bright LEDs. Precision optics, when used properly, can tightly control the powerful output of LEDs, minimize glare and place the light where it is needed.”

“There are companies like Lightwild making neat LED products that can be embedded in sidewalks,” adds Neis. “I am also a big fan of [outdoor ceramic discharge metal halide] (CDM) lamps for exteriors. They have a long lamp life and a warm quality to the light.”

Likewise, David McCauley, director of design development for Charlotte, N.C.’s Audio Ethics, adds, “The Light Source has developed an LED lighting system that’s amazing for house lighting and general higher-output dimmable lighting. I have seen it in action and it is hard to tell that it is not a standard architectural-style light.” These fixtures draw far less electricity and generate less heat than standard house lighting fixtures.

But LED technology is getting some competition that bridges the gap between long life and cost of ownership. “There is some interesting LIFI technology being used in exterior fixtures,” Neis reports. LIFI lamps generate light without the need for a wire filament, which is the most common point of failure in traditional lamps.

Induction lighting systems are also of interest (see “End Notes” at the end of this issue), with their ability to generate light without fragile filaments. “These systems are rated up to 100,000 hours, or approximately 25 years, which is 100 times more life than average incandescent lamps,” says Greene. “The longevity of the induction lamp makes [it an] ideal source where maintenance accessibility is a difficult and costly consideration, such as in higher mounting heights often found in church vestibules, auditoriums and sanctuaries.”


One thing to consider when selecting lighting is the color content of the light (referred to as color temperature). Different types of lighting have different colors present, and mixing and matching color temperatures in a room can yield less pleasing results.

“Making sure you have the same color temperature fixtures will give a consistent feel in the space,” McCauley says. “When using accent lighting, keep with the same style beam color temp, as this is all part of branding for the church.”

Consistent color temperature in each of a church’s spaces has other benefits, too. Many churches are doing video production throughout their facilities, such as shooting video in different rooms to create video announcements to play back during services. Cameras are very sensitive to mismatched color temperatures in the lighting, which produces inferior video results.


How church staff intends to control architectural lighting is an equally important consideration. Wall switches certainly get the lights turned on, but who is walking through your facility every day to make sure that the lights have been turned back off? Lights that are left on waste electricity and generate heat that must be removed via air conditioning—a double hit on utility bills.

For long-term operating cost reduction, an integrated architectural lighting control solution should be considered. “Integration of controls for lighting systems allows for smart energy use,” says Dennis Degen, national director of sales and theatrical lighting consultant for Lightronics Inc. in Virginia Beach, Va. Jim Yorgey, technical applications manager for Lutron Electronics Co. in Coopersburg, Pa., notes that automated control systems incorporating occupancy sensors, photo sensors, dimmers and time clocks help ensure that lights are only on when necessary.

“Systems can operate autonomously via time clock and other programmed options, with overrides for special needs,” says Bill Ellis, vice president of engineering for Candela Controls Inc. in Winter Garden, Fla. “[They can also] provide energy management of the lighting loads with occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting interfaces.” The system can be programmed to not turn on lights that are near windows when adequate sunlight is available, as well as to sweep the lights in the facility off at a certain time in the evening.

Also, if you use a theatrical lighting system and controller in your sanctuary, this can be integrated into the architectural system to allow easy push-button control of the stage lighting.

“The theatrical console can take control of the architectural system during performance/presentation times,” as well, enabling house lighting to be controlled by the lighting system operator, Yorgey reports.

Exterior and Parking Lot Options

Of course, interior lighting is only part of the equation—lighting in your parking lot and outdoor gathering/walking areas is an important consideration.

As Greene says, “Too much light or poorly directed light may cause a loss of visibility of the surroundings, making an outdoor area unsafe. Poor lighting, or not enough light for the area, may cause the location to appear unapproachable. Uniform illumination provides even lighting throughout the space, creating a comfortable, safe environment.”

Greene continues, “To achieve uniformity, it is important to select a luminaire that offers precision optical systems, as these systems direct the light to where it is needed. There are luminaires on the market that combine both high performance and beauty into one package. Luminaires can be selected that match or complement the look of the church, as well as meet the strict energy requirements and illumination needs for a public area.”

Getting Help

While all these considerations may seem overwhelming, it’s important to realize that you don’t need to make these decisions on your own. “If I would recommend one single thing, [it’s to] find a systems expert that you trust, and work with them to determine the best fit,” Ellis closes.


Lamp Disposal Alert
To be safe, don’t just toss them out
By Jim Kumorek

This may be a surprise, but many of the bulbs used for lighting a church facility contain toxic waste. And because of this, “spent bulbs need to be disposed of properly in accordance with local and state regulations,” says Vicki Mullin, marketing manager at Farmingdale, N.Y.‘s Bulbtronics (www.bulbtronics.com).

“Fluorescent lamps (straight fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescent lamps-CFLs) are the most common lamp type referred to in discussions of lamp recycling, but high intensity discharge (HID) and other mercury-containing lamps often fall under the same regulations as fluorescents,” reports Jon Svensson, marketing director for Air Cycle Corp. in Lisle, Ill. “When lamps are sent to landfills, or especially when incineration is used as an alternative disposal method, mercury vapors are released into the environment. Mercury is highly toxic to the human nervous system and particularly poisonous to the kidneys. Once absorbed by the body, mercury is distributed by the blood to all tissues of the human body…. parental exposure to mercury can lead to a variety of health problems, including a severe form of cerebral palsy.”

Because of the health hazards, recycling of these bulbs is the proper disposal solution.

“Bulbtronics promotes a product called RecyclePak,” says Mullin, “which is a low-cost compliance solution by Veolia, the largest environmental services company in the world. One price includes everything you need, and you simply fill the container with spent bulbs or batteries, seal it, prepare it for shipping with the label that is included, call the 800 number to arrange for pick up, and afterward you are sent a certificate of compliance.”

Air Cycle has a few solutions for handling used-bulb waste. The company’s EasyPak containers allow shipment of intact bulbs, and also batteries, ballasts and electronic waste, to a recycling center. For larger quantities, Air Cycle has created a device called the Bulb Eater, a safe bulb-crushing device that reportedly reduces waste lamp storage space and lowers recycling costs by as much as 50%. Another option for large facilities is bulk pick up.

Since recycling regulations vary by state, Air Cycle recommends becoming familiar with regulatory concerns. The company offers a URL, www.aircycle.com/regulations, where church staff can find a state-by-state break down to help determine how a facility within a given state is regulated.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.