Lighting in hotels is turning out to be a crucial design function in order to elevate guest experiences

Hotel insiders say lighting accounts for 10-20 per cent of the property’s energy consumption

Hospitality Lighting, Hotel design, Lighting installations, Hafele, AND Studio, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, Marriott Hotel Whitefield, Bengaluru, Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel, Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, Conrad Pune, The Imperial, New Delhi, Sans Souci, World Bazaar, Hospitality, The Westin Mumbai Garden City, Hyatt Regency Pune

Not many who see the Canopy of Light in person are likely to forget it. This dynamic lighting installation at the Mandarin Oriental Jumeriah, Dubai consists of 14 trees in three sizes, made from hundreds of hand-blown Bohemian crystal leaves. The lights in the trees are specially programmed to produce different effects at different times of the day so whenever guests cross through the lobby, the trees sparkle in a completely different way. As you might have noticed, lighting in hotels has moved from being simply functional to decorative, getting a crucial role in design, often adding the oomph factor that stays in a viewer’s memory. An experiential component, then?

Anil Kumar, director of engineering, The Imperial, New Delhi

In hospitality, creating mood, ambience and experiences are of foremost importance, says Victor Chen, GM, Le Meridien Goa, Calangute. “Lighting installations play a vital role in creating that mood and ambience.” Anil Kumar, director of engineering, The Imperial, New Delhi, says, “In hospitality, lighting technology is currently going through a major transformation with the emergence of LED, colour changing as well as white tuneable lighting and their controls have become a big topic”.

Interior designer Deepa Juneja of Deepa Juneja Designs

Interior architect Payal Kapoor, whose work includes interior design for Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, The Imperial, Delhi, ITC Savoy and Palace on Wheels, contends that there has been huge progression from when she started in 1991. Tracing the progression from tube lights and bulbs, via CFL and ‘cheap’ Chinese lights to LEDs, she says hotels have seen a sea change in the way they approach lighting. As Shalini Joshi, assistant product manager – Lighting, Hafele, points out, “The different areas of your hotel, such as hallways, lobby, outdoor areas and rooms have their own unique needs and require their own lighting system.”

Shalini Joshi, assistant product manager, lighting, Hafele

Hotel and restaurant operators strive to differentiate themselves from their competitors, so it pays to be aware of the trends that are influencing lighting design in hospitality venues, points out Sandeep Kaushik, country head, India and Sri Lanka, Sans Souci, whose lights adorn global resorts such as Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Ws at Dubai and Suzhou and Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur. When considering lighting for hotel applications, creating the right first impression is critical, points out Sujeet Kumar Singh, vice president, projects & engineering, Park Hotels. “When guests first enter a bar, restaurant or hotel they immediately survey the surroundings and are liable to make instant judgment in those first few seconds.”

Sandeep Kaushik, country head, India and Srilanka, Sans Souci

For arguably India’s best-known lighting designer Vibhor Sogani, hotel lighting has become very exciting. “LED lights have been a gamechanger. You can be creative as they are so small, come in so many colours and offer cold lighting.” He says hoteliers are putting the effort and money to stand out and achieve excellence. “Sometimes there is one lighting designer for the hotel and they call in a separate designer for the restaurant or bar because they want to achieve even higher standards.”

Lighting design at the W Dubai, The Palm, Dubai, UAE, by Sans Souci

Designing a hotel's lighting

Lighting wasn’t always considered crucial — witness the once numerous complaints about (usually) inadequate lighting in hotel rooms. Michael Vasku, creative director for Preciosa Lighting, explains, “In the past, lighting was often added to the design once all the other elements had been set. Today, hospitality designers believe lighting is just as important as other aspects of a space’s design, knowing that light doesn’t just serve a functional purpose but can influence the mood and atmosphere of a space. Recently, we’ve even faced situations in which our light installations came first and other parts of the interior were designed around it.” According to Prashant Vaidya, director of engineering, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, while designing to create a lux effect, the aim should be at achieving maximum illumination with minimum energy usage.

With Hafele's seamless solutions, guests can choose the light intensity setting as per their needs and comfort

There are some considerations that need to be kept in mind while designing a hotel’s lighting needs. “Our hotel designs are based on the kind of guests and hotel staff activities planned in public and back of the house spaces for which lighting is to be provided. Also to be taken into consideration is the amount of light required, the colour of the light as it may affect the views of particular objects and the environment within the hotel spaces in its entirety, besides the distribution of light within the hotel space, whether indoor or outdoor and the energy sustainability for the operating hotels.”

Light is the fourth dimension of living space; it plays a very important role in enhancing your interior spaces, especially furniture lighting. Joshi says that the use of lighting should focus on creating a relaxed environment — warm white lights in furniture and bed covers can effectively create a soothing ambience. The intent of light functionality (ambient, task or accent lighting) is also extremely important as the user interacts a lot more with lighting solutions.” Lighting in the hospitality space is complicated by the fact that different kinds of lights are needed in different areas, points out TPS Padmacharan, director of engineering at the newly opened Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru. He says, “Our hotel has the opportunity to express the concept of luxury as a brand through architecture, design and ambience. We have incorporated flexible and controlled lighting options to create specific atmospheres.”


With increasing focus on sustainability and HLP (Heat Lighting Power) driving costs in hotel, opting for energy efficient solutions is the need of the hour, stresses Chen. “Over time, most hotels have shifted their focus on taking more environment friendly decisions and are working towards LEED Certification for their respective property,” explains Prabhu Balaraman, director of engineering, Marriott Hotel Whitefield Bengaluru. “Since lighting is accountable for a significant percentage of energy consumption in hotels, most properties have been making energy saving changes and replacing LED lights with CFL lamps.” Hotel insiders say lighting accounts for 10-20 per cent of the property’s energy consumption. “It has become critical to ensure hotel’s business is sustainable by reducing the cost of lighting the place,” adds Raghavendra Khot, director of engineering, The Westin Pune Koregaon Park. “It’s very critical in today’s competitive market to ensure one saves even a single penny to make business sustainable in the long term and reduce the burden on nature as well.” Shriram Pandit, chief engineer, Hyatt Regency Pune, concurs, adding, “Changing from conventional lighting to LED lighting has substantially dropped the energy usage and also the heat load in the building envelope.”

The lit-up courtyard at the Hyatt Regency Pune

Certain areas of the office such as the pantry, data centre, storerooms, bathrooms, etc are not required to be lit at all times. Victor Soares, GM, Radisson Blu Resort Goa Cavelossim points out, “Motion sensors come in handy here as they use technology to detect movement in the area. These lights are highly energy efficient and slash the electricity bills effectively.” The Park’s Singh says LEDs last 35 to 50 times longer than incandescent lighting and about two to five times longer than fluorescent lighting, meaning no lamp-replacements, no ladders, no ongoing disposal programme. When it comes to dealing with resources responsibly, guest expectations are constantly rising, says Padmacharan. “Energy-efficient light sources and advanced lighting control systems offer enormous potential for energy savings combined with improved operating convenience.” Kumar adds that in regions where there are no large heating or cooling costs, it can be the greatest use of electricity in a hotel. Manish Monga, chief engineer, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove & Spa says the resort has “introduced dimmers which work on guest moods and scenes of the day/season to adjust the energy consumption, impact and output; timers on outside lighting; infrared thermostats that work on occupancy sensors and welcome mode”.

Innovating with LED

LED lighting is primarily adopted for lighting applications because it is energy efficient, reduces GHG emissions, offers improved safety and finally, return on investment is about two years, says Jayant Kadam, chief engineer, Conrad Pune. “LED lamps are up to 80 per cent more efficient than traditional lighting such as fluorescent and incandescent lights and have a low implementation cost,” adds Balaraman. LED sales are rising fast. “With a penetration rate of 30% of the market, it is expected to reach 60% in the next four years,” says Randip Dhingra, MD, World Bazaar. As Kumar points out, “LED innovation is constantly evolving, largely within screens for television and mobile devices. In a lighting application, OLED is still a relatively young development.” The freedom and range afforded by LED has allowed for multiple experiments, as each hotel aims to make a design statement. Just note the range of lighting used at Conrad Pune — decorative pendant lights with milky acrylic on the beam; elsewhere, hexagonal hollow glass rods hand-blown ribbed glass chandeliers, floor lamps with frosted acrylic diffusers, suspended pendant lights with decorative fabric lamp shades, pendant lamps with frosted ribbed acrylic shades, eight-layered hexagonal hollow crystal glass tube pendant lights — all just in the public spaces.

Sallaudin Shaikh, director of engineering, The Westin Mumbai Garden City

“Whether you want to enhance interior finishes or drag attention to the finest architectural details, a concealed fixture provides interest and glows without the harsh glare of an exposed solution,” says interior designer Deepa Juneja of Deepa Juneja Designs. “While designing a hotel project, we need recessed lights, spot lights, chandeliers, outdoor lights, task lights, dimmers, pendants lights, wall sconces, floor lamps, under cabinet and vanity lights, track lights, and so on.” Soares points that some examples of innovative lighting at his resort include uplighters, wall washers, cove lights, underwater lights, led strip lighting and floodlights. Mood lighting has opened up a world of possibilities. In a conference space, we have about seven different moods and can be used according to the occasion, says Sallaudin Shaikh, director of engineering, The Westin Mumbai Garden City. “The lux level has to be considered as per the requirement of the area. Conferences and exhibitions demand the maximum amount of lights.

Planning a hotel’s light and energy needs

Architect Love Choudhary from AND Designs

Not everyone may be as high profile as Sogani, but the tribe of light planners is a rapidly rising one. “Earlier architects would do the job. Now lighting designers can offer evolved inputs.” Without involving professionals, at the end there may be no cost savings, not to mention a high-quality result is almost unachievable, points out Vasku. “If lighting is going to be an important design element, an experienced consultant is a must.” Khot says it is helpful to have light planners in place for a hotel. Lighting can project and enhance the character of a venue or mould itself to the needs of an individual. It is important to plan the lighting structure of a hotel, adds Balaraman. The right light affords a hotel a bright and friendly atmosphere, while the wrong light can ruin a nicely decorated property, says architect Love Choudhary of AND Studio. “The traditional format of a separate foyer, restaurant, bar and check-in area is increasingly being replaced by free-flowing spaces where different functions take place in one room. Lighting, therefore, needs to be adjustable in order to fit the changing primary use of the space throughout the day.” Agrees Kumar, who says it is important to use a light planner for various reasons; they can define the appearance of the lighting in public areas, rooms and at back of the house. “They can adapt the lighting to changing layout of the hotel to maintain the concept, even as they continue to be a design feature in themselves. They can use lights to highlight architectural or decorative aspects that give a hotel its individual flair or define its concept, maintain good lighting in all the areas to keep the room lighting flexible and utilisation of the day light in better ways. All this is essential to avoid negative impression of lighting.”

In-room lighting

Kumar notes that the lighting of the room can either facilitate productivity or be a hindrance. “Most of our rooms use natural light as much as possible, use what is there in nature,” says Shaikh. “We have focus lights. If someone wants to read, there is a dedicated reading light. The writing table has its own lamp.” Just note the range of lights a hotel room now offers. Conrad Pune has ceiling mounted down lights, reading (task) lamps, decorative arm lighting fixture with fabric lamp shades, pendant lights with fabric lamp  shades and night lamps. The lighting control circuit at the hotel has six modes to control the lux intensity in various zones of the room! At Sofitel Mumbai, dimmers and the latest KNX system have been installed with a variation of 0 to 100 lumens, as per need.

Bathroom lighting concepts have transformed, says Kapoor. For example, “Instead of night lights, there is soft diffused light below the bathroom counter. There can be drama — you need a light for shaving so concave mirror lighting is an essential, or in the basin area, there are two lights behind the mirror to give an enhanced experience. There are lights in different parts of the bathroom, even for the art above the WC! Even mirror needs are evolving. Hafele’s Aquasys Mirror is versatile and offers dimmable lighting and soft on-off control systems. Guests can choose the light intensity setting as per their needs and comfort.

Well-lit future

Randip Dhingra, MD, World Bazaar

“When hotel lighting is done well you don’t necessarily notice it, “but when it isn’t, you most certainly do!,” says Singh. His observation is increasingly true as technology helps address the concerns. A technology that is being developed is the solar light functionality, as hotels adapt sustainable options, points out Randip Dhingra, MD, World Bazaar.

Kaushik stresses that it is widely accepted that the right light helps us work, rest and play by influencing our circadian rhythms. “Nowhere is this more important than in hospitality settings. But for all the talk about circadian lighting in hotels, there are precious few examples of it really happening. London’s Hotel Rafayel has some suites with dynamic lighting to alleviate jetlag. Biodynamic lighting is a long way from being the norm. But it will get there.” For Vasku, lighting is moving into a more experiential realm. “Lighting is also a very technologically advanced field, and good designers will take advantage of the possibilities that are now available to demand lighting installations that inspire emotions and make a statement.” Just about everyone can look ahead to that part of our shared future.

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