RE: Lighting for Common House
From: Douglas G. Larson (
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2006 07:41:07 -0700 (PDT)
Our common house doesn't have a vaulted ceiling so I don't have any
direct advise in that situation. But we just added new lighting a year
ago and we got professional help with the design. There is a Lighting
Design Lab in Seattle that we went to and learned a great deal about
choosing lights for a variety of spaces. They are a non-profit
organization and it didn't cost us anything. We used the information we
learned there in our chosen design, which we did ourselves. The most
important factor I think I learned is that in nearly all situations
having multiple sources of light, i.e. at least 2 and sometimes even 3,
is better than a single source. By source I don't necessarily mean one
fixture but one type of fixture. You may choose one type or set of
lights for general ambient light and another type and set for
highlighting and fill-in and yet another type and set for spot or
specific task lighting. 

The Lighting Design Lab has a web site with helpful information but I
would caution you not to rely on just reading about design concepts.
Reading about lighting situations and seeing different lighting
configurations are quite different experiences. At the Lighting Design
Lab we saw first hand different examples in different rooms. 

The lighting professional there told us to start with a list of all the
uses we intended for the common house. For each use we estimated what
percentage each was and also gave details about each use. So we came up
with the following:

Meals - 80% - Uniform ambient light with additional light over each
Meetings, Working - 15% - Adequate light for seeing white-board and
people sitting reading papers.
Celebrations - 5% - Generally more intimate but is highly variable.
Flexibility is important. 

You may have more uses than this. Be as specific as possible in your
description of uses. 

One of our residents is an electrical engineer and so with his help we
did all the work ourselves, once we had the design down. We even
purchased a few lights and put them up temporarily as a mock-up so
people could experience what they were like. If your common house isn't
built yet then that obviously isn't an option for you. 

Since Ashland and Medford are small towns you may not have anything like
the Design Lab we have in Seattle but its worth looking into. Perhaps
Eugene would have such a resource. You can always hire a professional to
do a design for you and that may be your best alternative but his or her
design will only be as good as the input you give them. They will ask
you what your intended uses are. Some lighting equipment suppliers give
free seminars on lighting because they know most attendees will purchase
products from them. Seattle Lighting does this and also hires out
designers. Check your local resources. 

I would be happy to answer questions about our experience off-line if
you wish (Doug [at] 

Douglas Larson,
Songaia Cohousing,
Bothell, Washington

--As we research lighting choices for our common house, which will have

--a vaulted ceiling, our building committee has asked for feedback from

--this list.

--What kinds of lighting solutions do you use in vaulted ceiling common

--houses?  What you like or dislike about them?

--Thanks for all the valuable information and thoughtful conversations  
--shared freely,

--Karen Scheer
--Fordyce Street Cohousing Community, Ashland, OR
--Where we are putting together the specs for our construction bid for  
--13 units & a common house.

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