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Barbara J. Huelat: Healing Our Healthcare

Color Kinetic Lighting with Solid Surface Materials
By Barbara J. Huelat, FASID, AAHID, EDAC, IIDA

Lighting in the healthcare environment addresses people's visual and emotional response to the experience of place. Color kinetic lighting can enhance the experience by combining the color of nature with an artificial lighting system. Color Kinetics has been proven to support the human biorhythms. Artificial systems can further be designed for flexibility and to support staff efficiency such as adjustability of staff and patients by providing accurate lighting levels for exam, procedure and diagnostic functions. In addition to the practical side, this lighting can be fun, engaging and produce "positive distractions," further creating a soothing, comforting ambiance. Lighting changes can result in an enhanced healing environment that can help promote patient well-being and recovery, and improve staff satisfaction and performance.

Color Kinetics LED (light emitting diodes) lighting is a fun new toy in the designer's toolbox. What is color kinetic lighting? It is one of the "new kids on the block" in the family of LED lighting, which comes in many forms of products including panels, tubes, and bars. These products have small individual color cells that can be programmed to provide diverse color, light and patterning. Color Kinetics can transform environments through dynamic and innovative uses of light with lighting controllers and custom lighting solutions. Although Color Kinetics have been used for building exteriors like the Empire State Building, site lighting and large-scale light shows, these products have come down in price which now make Color Kinetics possible for small interior projects where special effects can provide real solutions in healthcare.

Because color kinetic lighting is LED lighting, it is sustainable, cost effective and an energy efficient product with great color properties. LEDs reinvent light as a highly efficient, long-lasting, environmentally friendly, and inherently digital source of illumination. In addition, this lighting is adjustable. Programmability of the product allows the designer to achieve changeable output in color, patterning and intensity. The same lighting can appear entirely different throughout the day. Therefore the lighting can impact the mood and emotion of the users in the space.

Studies indicate that controlling artificial light supports a patient's ability to fall asleep faster and sleep longer, which is critical in the healing process. Evidence tells us that color and lighting have an impact on our emotions, health and the healing process. Our circadian rhythm regulates bodily functions and plays an important role in our health and well-being.

Now let's add the magic! Combine color kinetic lighting with translucent solid surface panels. This combination can be used to create special effects for walls, positive distractions or special accents producing a healing environment that is practical, durable, cleanable and beautiful. Solid surfacing with its inherent thermoforming elastic properties can be bent, carved, etched and sculpted to organic shapes and patterns. The structural strength of the product allows it to be used as walls, millwork and even lighted walls. An internally lighted partial wall can be easily constructed by most solid surface fabricators or contractors. (See figure A, wall fabrication detail) A typical wall base plate is constructed to which the linear LED lighting is attached.

Opaque solid surface such as LG opal is paired with LG lucent opal translucent white. The opaque material is used as the base to cover the LED lamp fixture. The translucent material is seamlessly fused to the opaque base to create the wall. The translucent material can be back carved with a design, which is then lighted from within the wall. (See figure B, installed wall at MedStar Emergency Department. Washington, DC). With the assistance of a lighting programmer, the Color Kinetics can be programmed for the desired effect. In this illustrated example, the lighting was programmed in the color range to recreate the natural daylight color from sunrise to evening. This light show was a gradual transition over nine hours. Color kinetic lighting was also used in the bulkhead as a continuing theme in the lighting design.

This solid surface wall with the back carved organic design and internally lighted with color kinetic lighting provides real world solutions in the emergency department. It provides a privacy wall for patients while allowing staff visibility. It is rugged and easily cleaned. The play of light supports the circadian rhythm as well as providing a positive distraction. This installation exemplifies the endless design capabilities of solid surface materials to solve real issues in the healthcare environment as well as taking this creative material to new levels far beyond the "countertop".


Barbara Huelat
Design Principal
Huelat Parimucha Ltd. / Healing Design
635 South Fairfax Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
P: 703.838.8414