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Architectural Plant Lighting

Architectural Plant Lighting

The global population is expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, with approximately 7 out of 10 people residing in cities. This substantial growth in population and constant urban development will likely change the lives of people worldwide. Climate change and inevitable human migration will present humankind with countless new challenges. Forced to spend more and more time indoors between moving to urban areas and the increase in remote employment, humanity’s connection to nature, or “biophilia” will see a significant shift. But if history is any indicator, the resiliency of human nature will rise to the challenge. Technological advancement has the potential to sustain and support our ways of life as they constantly progress. One such advancement includes lighting that accurately mimics the outdoor environment for the growth and nourishment of plants indoors. The importance of technology to mimic nature indoors is expected to rise significantly as the physical and mental health benefits of keeping plants in living and workspaces are well documented. Interior designers and architects have long used foliage and living plants as focal points of design. Consequently, constructing buildings incorporating specialized lighting that supports the growth of plant life has the potential to vastly alter the international architectural landscape.

A Brief History of Plants and Design

According to the authors Descottes and Ramos, architectural lighting design is a discipline cultivated from a myriad of fields, including architecture, art, and engineering. Interestingly, plants and architecture have a longstanding, symbiotic history.

Vegetation and Aesthetic Value

A study about including plant life in cultural and historical monuments found that vegetation plays a principal role in aesthetic value and perceived attractiveness, as the natural features that plants provide enhance the appeal of art and architecture. The point of intersection between these elements is where the potential of timeless, architectural plant lighting begins.

Photo of a plant-filled living space powered by the LED Highland track growing light, by @mrossmark via Instagram.

Gardening in Architectural Design

Gardening, architecture, and lighting all have individual histories of vastly recognized beauty, but their development intersects as tools for creating unique environments. Gardening has traditionally served as a means to grow food as well as supplement one’s landscape. Architectural design, which began originally from the need to create shelter, has developed into a means of aesthetic appeal. History is saturated with famous examples of architecture enhancing the lives of past civilizations; for instance, Machu Picchu is seen as the symbol of Incan life and it still stands today. Just as humans need shelter, they also need light. Man-made lighting was invented out of necessity. After the discovery of electricity, humans could finally bring light into their homes and workspaces whenever needed. Today, these three aspects can be combined to spark even greater aesthetic value in architectural design by helping to bring the beauty of nature indoors.

Population Growth and Urban Development

A growing global population means that urban expansion must adapt to new constraints on resources, indicating a major lifestyle change. Many theorists have considered the potential implications of these changes in creating population theories. Thomas Malthus proposed one of the best-known population theories. This theory states that population growth is exponential while food supply is linear, meaning that the population will eventually exceed food supply. While the Malthusian view of population growth is quite fatalistic, it does not account for technological progress, which could and should make a substantial difference. As the world population migrates to urban areas, the demand for green spaces is predicted to increase. Similarly, environmentalism is increasingly decisive to consumer preferences as humans respond to news of climate change. Today, the average urban environment and indoor living spaces are far from being plant-friendly. Luckily, this creates ample opportunity for innovation. It will take teams of architects, interior designers, city planners, and product designers to meet this demand.

architectural plant lighting

An example of green landscaping in an urban environment. Photographed by Ricardo Gomez Angel.

The Power of Technology in Securing a Greener Future

As pollution levels rise and the world’s population increases, innovative development will be our salvation. Some of the world’s most beneficial technological advancements have been inspired by nature.

For example:

  • The discovery of the resilience and strength of plant cellulose has proved useful for construction and building applications. Humans have harnessed the nanocrystals of this cellulose for man-made materials. These nanocrystals have a high tolerance to heat and can be customized for various settings.
  • Vertical farming is a practice that is transforming the way we produce food by producing it in a monitored indoor environment. These crops are stacked on shelves and water. CO2 and lighting are artificially controlled in sustainable manners. The practice of vertical farming will increase food production by greatly expanding agricultural output. Using vertical farming properly has massive potential to adequately address issues of food security.
  • The resilience of self-sustaining wild plant life. Unfortunately, normal indoor lighting does not provide the kind of light that plants need. In order to grow indoors, plants must be positioned to get the sunlight they need. With the absence of sufficient sunlight, artificial light must emit the correct wavelengths to induce photosynthesis. Plants absorb nearly all wavelengths of light, yet only a narrow range of blue wavelengths, between 440nm – 460nm, and red wavelengths, between 630nm – 680nm, are easily absorbed by chlorophylls and effectively used for photosynthesis.

Using Technology to Cultivate Greener Living Spaces

A crucial method of increasing human exposure to nature in urban areas is the act of bringing plants indoors. In practice, this is not always simple to achieve. When plants are transferred from the outside world to an inside environment, they must be acclimated to new light levels. A newly plant-filled room may also require an adjustment in humidity settings. Grow lights have been created as an efficient solution to provide for the needs of indoor plants. They mimic the sun’s photosynthetic spectrum, essentially providing plants with artificial sunlight. Therefore, plants can be grown from scratch in indoor environments using grow lights, and lighting technology for plant sustenance offers mass potential for advancements in architecture and interior design. After conducting our own research on this topic, Soltech Solutions has been able to contribute to the innovation of grow lights by using a balanced spectrum of blue, green and red. Our lights have a focused 1:4 ratio of blue to red light, which promotes healthy root and stem development. (An unbalanced spectrum will cause deformation, elongation, or a weak root system.) Our lights also provide enough far-red light (680+ nm) to enhance the photosynthetic efficiency of other wavelengths using a process called the Emerson effect.

The Aspect Plant Light’s photosynthetic spectrum

Our Offerings

Soltech Solutions has been navigating these new and uncharted waters, pursuing lighting products to meet the needs of the future. Our goal is to seamlessly integrate plants with architectural design. Featuring a modern and minimalist look, our lights are available in matte white or black. The three different styles we currently offer include:
  • The Aspect Grow Light, a sleek pendant style light capable of growing everything from seedlings to small indoor trees.
  • The Highland, a track style light or lighting system perfect for living walls or vertical gardens with a beam angle of 30 or 60 degrees.
  • The Vita Grow Light Bulb, a dimmable grow bulb compatible with standard fixtures to suit every design style and need.
We tailor a lighting spectrum specifically for growing plants indoors, without harsh colors or strong UV rays. Our lights not only add drama to interior design, but they are useful for the cultivation of living plants. We also offer our clients our expertise in plant styling, lighting placement, and design.

architectural plant lighting

Photo of the Calienna Plant Bar in Vienna, Austria. Photo provided by Calienna.

References Descottes, Hervé and Cecilia E. Ramos. Architectural Lighting: Designing with Light And Space. Princeton Architectural Press. New York, 2011. Federman, Sarah, and Paul M. Zankowski. “Vertical Farming for the Future.” USDA, 2018, Galev, Emil, Maria Gurkova and Nikolay Galev. “The role of plants on the impact of cultural and historical monuments.” University of Forestry, Department of Landscape Architecture, 2016. Lee, Patina. “The History of Architecture in a Nutshell.” Widewalls, 2016. NanoCrystalline Cellulose | Products. Celluforce, 2016. Peacock, Alan T. “Theory of Population and Modern Economic Analysis. I.” Population Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 114–122. JSTOR, 1952. Pliska, Shane. “Planterra Lighting Guide.” Planterra, 2019. Rogers, Kara. “Biophilia Hypothesis.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019. “Urban Development Overview.” World Bank, 2019. “World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights.” United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2019.