“We must take joint responsibility for sustainability”

Lighting plays a major role in society from an ecological, social and economic sustainability perspective. Caroline Zima is a lighting designer at Sweco Architects and Sweden’s ambassador for Women in Lighting. “It is important to include thoughts and knowledge about lighting early on in a project, as the decisions made then have a major impact on the conditions surrounding design, experience and maintenance,” Caroline says.

Sustainability is an issue that is increasingly high on the agenda in all parts of society. Something Caroline and her colleagues have long been calling for.

– I work in a sector where price has historically been the most important issue. As lighting designers, we have tried to put forward the case for the important role light plays in society. It shouldn’t just be the price of the lighting fixture that matters. Light is so much more than price. Lighting should be sustainable over time, looking at the whole picture and considering all aspects; the social, economic and ecological. All elements should be weighed together and not compete against each other.

The role of light in building communities

Most people know that lighting is important. It is an enabler for doing many of the things needed to keep a society running, from doing homework to performing surgery in a hospital or daring to go out at night. But it also has many other properties that affect us and our environment.

– If we start by talking about indoor environments, lighting can do so much more than just providing a source of light. Light affects how we perceive and understand our surroundings, but also our mood, concentration and circadian rhythms. A good lighting environment, with both daylight and artificial light, contributes to increased well-being and performance. When light is not properly designed, such as flickering, dim or dazzling light, it can contribute to headaches, tension in the body and stress reactions.

Outdoor lighting also has a multifaceted role.

– When choosing outdoor lighting, there are several parameters that should be considered in that decision. It’s as much about ecological sustainability and the impact on wildlife, which is the focus of much current research, as it is about economic and social sustainability. If a municipality decides to turn off lighting, it will affect who dares to move around in the area after dark. There are studies showing that areas that are not lit and cared for also suffer from more vandalism, for example. Something that in due course also affects costs for the municipality.

Caroline goes on to say that a survey conducted last year by the research company Ipsos on behalf of the lighting industry showed that lighting is considered the single most important measure to increase the feeling of safety in public places. Seventy-nine percent of respondents rank lighting as the most important measure, while the corresponding figure for more police officers and guards is 47%. A comparison with a similar survey exactly 10 years ago shows that more people now feel unsafe out in the evening and at night and that more places are perceived as unsafe because of poor lighting.

– That’s why it’s important to conduct safety walks with all agencies in the city, politicians, community stakeholders, the police and a lighting expert to look at different measures in areas that feel unsafe. Very often, the last person is forgotten.

– Another more topical issue is cities deciding to shut down parts of areas as a result of the current energy crisis. A decision that has been criticised for increasing insecurity. Gothenburg, by contrast, is doing the opposite and understands the consequences of this decision. This is because they have lighting experts and understand the importance of lighting. They choose instead to dim the lights.

“Today, removing mercury is not enough to be considered sustainable”

Historically, price has been the central issue. But it’s far from a simple one. As Caroline states, there are a variety of parameters that should be taken into account when making lighting choices. And this is something that is now becoming more and more evident within the industry.

– From the client side, too, there has been a major development. Sustainability is increasingly in demand, including both the social and ecological aspects. And people are thinking more long-term. Industry has also started to take a lot of responsibility for its lighting fixtures and there has been a big push on sustainability, whereby industry is looking more deeply at how we impact our world and our resources. This could be anything from the way luminaires are produced, whether 3D printing with sustainable materials can be used in production, how they should be maintained, right through to what happens at the end of their life.

At Elfack, Caroline is looking forward to meeting a collective competence base:

– In my job, it’s important to be able to get a view of the overall market in one place: information about new findings, research and standards, and what new technology is available. Trade fairs like Elfack play an important role in this. It’s where both the new technology, and knowledge about what sustainability means in this sector, can be shared between the players who need it. It’s no longer good enough to say we removed the mercury in order to be considered sustainable; we need to look at it in all forms and at all stages. We must take joint responsibility for sustainability, Caroline concludes.

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