“We must understand that we are building for a changing world”

Johan Röklander has been working with lighting for the past 20 years. As a municipal lighting planner, an educator at the School of Lighting Design in Jönköping, and a self-employed outdoor lighting designer, Johan is pursuing his passion, which is to represent lighting in society. “We have a high level of expertise in terms of technical and design know-how, but now we need to step up in terms of environmental and sustainability issues. I look forward to seeing this collaboration take place at Elfack 2023,” Johan Röklander says.

Sweden’s future lighting designers are trained at the School of Lighting Design in Jönköping. According to Johan, the role and responsibility of a lighting designer is to be a bridge between the architect and the installer.

– None of us should work in isolation; working together, we will create the best solutions. A lighting designer has a great responsibility to monitor what is biologically and ecologically sustainable and how light affects the world around them in different ways, and then to pass on that knowledge and act as a focal point.

A lot is happening in lighting design right now, both in terms of design and sustainability. And it’s an important topic, to say the least.

– Right now, energy savings are high on the agenda. But here too we need to be careful not to panic. We need to be smart. For example, in the case of outdoor lighting, when we turn it off we increase the sense of insecurity in the community. We cannot always create security, but we can create a feeling of security. A perception of security in turn creates a more secure society. That’s why this discussion is too complex to be just about energy savings. We need to have an environmental as well as a social sustainability perspective on this issue.

There’s  a lot of experimentation going on in outdoor lighting right now with different control systems and technologies and trying to find standards.

– We see many borders dissolving. For example, does cycle path lighting have to be that, and only that? Or can it also be art? We have the opportunity to create an experience and increase safety at the same time. Then we also see a focus on light pollution. How can we deal with that? And how does it affect us and wildlife?

Lighting, as mentioned, is an important and complex topic and there are many opportunities for further development. But despite this, we in Sweden have historically been quite conservative when it comes to light.

– This is where lighting designers have an important job to answer how we can improve and why lighting looks the way it does today. There are many ways to do things, someone needs to question why we have 3×3 fluorescent fixtures for example, is it really the best? Why do we put a lamp in the middle of the ceiling? If we don’t question things like this we just do things the way we have always done them, and the same principle is applied to every aspect of building a society.

A complex discussion that needs nuance

Johan also believes that the discussion on energy saving needs to be more nuanced.

– We need to start by looking at what is meant by savings. Saving costs and saving energy are not the same thing. When it comes to costs, the biggest cost of outdoor lighting is operation and maintenance. Therefore, before installing outdoor lighting, you need to know how it can be operated. Will we have to close a bridge to maintain this lighting? It’s important to understand that we are building for a changing world. If I put light on this surface, it’s not the same in April as it is in December, conditions change.

Lighting design is an important topic and therefore also has a big place at Elfack. It is increasingly important to discuss the complexities and needs of lighting to enable the best way forward.

– You don’t have to choose between social, economic or environmental sustainability. We can work on all parameters simultaneously. If we put in electric lighting where there was none before, we will use energy, but we can do it in a good way so that we minimise the use. For example, you can reduce the brightness by 50% at night. The lighting will still be perceived as strong because of the darkness around, but it will require much less energy.

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