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Choosing a Lighting Design for Your Church
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The Future of Steel Buildings in Commercial Construction
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  Choosing a Lighting Design for Your Church
The Bible is replete with references to light. David sang about light. Jesus taught about light. Light, like music, is capable of stirring the soul. And yet, light is probably one of the most overlooked and misunderstood design elements in any church facility. Not long ago lighting design options were limited. Windows were narrow because of the limited span borne by stone lintels. Stained glass diffused light and reduced the painful contrast between the window and the dark interior of the church.

Today we have an endless, if mind-numbing, variety of lighting options. And the consideration of lighting fixtures goes beyond cost, into the areas of heat and sound generation, maintenance, operating costs, light color, and more. Some churches have eliminated natural lighting entirely and are able to control every sparkle, every shade, for its peak effect. This is particularly useful for churches that videotape services, use projection screens, or offer dramatic presentations. And the lighting considerations are not limited to ceilings. Lighting can be used for dramatic effect in stair risers, under bathroom vanities, or above wall niches. Furthermore, some of the most beautiful lighting designs are employed on the exterior of the building to highlight architectural features, landscaping, and walkways.

Since it is a daunting task, the church may want to seek help from their architect, builder, and lighting supply contractors to explore the many possibilities offered by today's "exciting lighting" products.

The most common lighting types for church use are incandescent, fluorescent, high pressure sodium (HPS), and metal halide (MH).

Incandescent lamps offer the advantages of low initial cost, compactness, instant light, and lumen control through dimming. However, they are relatively inefficient, limited to low light output, can generate significant heat, and have a short life span.

Fluorescent lighting offers low brightness and a relatively large surface area so it is good for diffuse, non-directed lighting. It operates more economically than incandescent lighting. Fluorescent lamps work best indoors and prefer a temperature of about 70 degrees. They don't generate much heat but can produce significant noise.

High pressure sodium lamps have been used for many years in parking lots, warehouses, and along roadways where the yellow color of the light and the long start-up time are not critical.

Compared to incandescent lamps, metal halide lamps are more costly initially, yet are 3-5 times more efficient. A 100 watt MH lamp provides 5 times the lumen output of a 100 watt incandescent bulb, and the bulb has 15-20 times the lifespan. Metal halide light can be directed, but is not dimmable. It may take 5 to 20 minutes for MH lamps to reach full output. A major advantage of MH is the white color of the light which most closely simulates sunlight.

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