(This post was prompted by the following question from Craig Smith on LinkedIn : "How many professional landscape designers implement lighting into design plans?")
I wonder how many interior architects/designers would draw up plans without any mention of lighting and power fixtures. Well, the answer is none. They wouldn't dream of building, plastering, decorating, carpeting and furnishing an interior, only to then think about channelling cables into walls and through ceilings. And yet, the equivalent still happens all too often in landscape and garden design.
An opportunity missed
This is not trying to suggest that those involved in the landscape side are being remiss in any way. Far from it. Many landscape designers are extremely adept at assessing the effects of changing daylight, and incorporating these into their designs. However, it does seem a great pity, when modern lifestyles are spread over so many more hours of the day and night, and when new technologies are constantly providing better methods of illumination, that many designers are failing to see the real benefit of outdoor spaces that are both useable and enjoyable during the hours of natural darkness, as well as during the day.
Yes, incorporating lighting adds yet another layer of complexity to the already complex work of the landscape designer, and proper lighting design is a combined art form and science that requires much knowledge and experience. That is why working with a professional lighting designer from the outset is both a time saver and a very shrewd investment for the landscape designer. Proper landscape lighting professionals will open up new insights in the landscaper’s design, bringing out additional aspects of the landscaping and planting in a way that is only possible with well crafted artificial light. This can give the proposal to the client a powerful new unique selling point. Moreover, a landscape lighting designer will ensure that electrical safety is made a top priority throughout, that all national and local regulations concerning power and lighting are strictly adhered to, that efficiency is maximised and life of system running costs are minimised, and that light pollution and light nuisance are given the utmost attention. The two design disciplines complement each other perfectly and, in our experience, the working relationship is a stimulating and enjoyable one for both parties.
A stitch in time
However, one can imagine that that relationship might become very strained if the owner of a newly installed designer garden suddenly decides that it would now be nice to have it lit at night. Retrofitting lighting in a garden, so that it is unobtrusive and yet effective, is a difficult and painstaking process (we know, because we do it regularly with heritage gardens) and all that extra bother can be obviated in a new garden if the lighting is taken into consideration from the outset of the design project.
Choice of lighting designer is important. Domestic electricians often pass themselves off as designers because they are qualified to install outdoor lights but the results are usually very disappointing and expensive to rectify. Lighting engineers may be great at the functional lighting but might lack the artistic flair to create appropriate effect lighting, or the required horticultural knowledge to really draw out the very best from the landscape at night.
Including lighting design at the landscape design stage will save money and time in the long run, will provide a more attractive sales proposition, and will produce a better end result than will be achieved if it is added as an afterthought.