In the first installment of this series, we looked at 20 questions you can ask to jumpstart the conversation around creating an effective lighting design for a house of worship. We also reviewed the first set of questions about uses for the space. Next we’ll look at three other key areas: what needs to be seen, training, and maintenance.
What needs to be seen?
That seems obvious, right? Believe it or not, what needs to be seen frequently gets overlooked. I don’t know about you but there have been many times when I opened a hymnal or a program only to discover I had too little light to read.
Q9: Does the congregation need to be able to read texts like hymnals or bibles?
For some uses, reading text may not be needed. In other uses, and in some worship services, it may be critical. If neglected, this can leave attendees annoyed, confused, or even angry. Often, the answer to this question will dramatically impact the overall design.
Q10: Where should the congregation (or the camera) be focused? Does that change during the service or event?
It’s seldom that a simple “proscenium” or even a general lighting approach will work for the modern house of worship. Often there are important elements that need to be seen happening in the congregation or house area, so you’ll need to plan a design for that as well as the “main action.”
Q11: Is there (or will there be) video playback? Is this or will this be accomplished using TVs, LED video wall or projection?
If there are or will be video walls or projection to deal with in the space, this is another factor in creating the design. LED video walls tend to be brighter than projection, so you’ll need to be sure your design doesn’t wash out the projection. And, if projection is used outside of the worship experience, say for meetings, you’ll need to design a base lighting package that allows for that too.
Q12: Do they need (or want) moving lights?
Some modern worship services are like concerts. If so, you’ll want to plan for moving head fixtures to really drive the experience. If the worship service flows with rousing musical moments, fog and moving lights could be just the thing, or they could be over the top. Be sure to find the line when discussing the various uses in the space.
Q13: Is the architectural lighting sufficient? Does the install need to light the building, too?
Observe how the architectural lighting will serve the space and strive to create a design that works hand in hand. For example, if the space already uses lights on columns or on walls within the space, you’ll need to plan for that as well. Determine if the architectural lighting that exists compliments or conflicts with the vision for the space.
Q14: Are there existing ways to hang the lights (e.g. a grid, beams or pipes)? Will the install be a fixed plot or will instruments be moved for different uses?
Within the space, if there are structures already built-in that can be used for the fixtures, this can save money in the budget for more impactful design elements. Be creative with this aspect to reduce the need for additional structural installations. Many times this is a budget buster for a house of worship, and it will impact the overall design quality and effects you can create.
Q15: Who will be running the install and how will they be trained?
If the house of worship already has someone to operate the lighting, that’s a person you’ll want to spend some time with, if possible. If there isn’t an operator in place, it is critical to know if you will be required to train a lighting operator.
Q16: Does the budget include ongoing training?
Training is often an after-thought. Many houses of worship, especially ones that use their space more theatrically, may want a sophisticated lighting design that requires some ability to operate it.
It’s also incredibly important to know this as you are designing the install. You’ll need to factor this in to their overall budget. A fantastic lighting design that nobody knows how to operate day-to-day, is a real buzz-kill.
Also, if they need someone to be on-call to run the lights, address technical issues or to train personnel, this can be an important revenue stream for your business.
If you want happy customers, and who doesn’t, be sure to build in a clear maintenance budget within your proposal. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Consider these questions as you create your bid.
Q17: How many hours per week will the lights be used?
This is an important consideration for several reasons. Most importantly, it will give you a sense of the cost of operation. Depending on the number of services and other uses during an average week, a house of worship could see a significant budget impact, even with the most energy efficient lighting fixtures.
This will also impact the maintenance budget, as all fixtures have a lifespan. LEDs, of course, have extremely long lifespans. For example, our COLORISE™ fixtures have LED lifespans rated at 100,000 hours. That means the LEDs should be able to operate for over 11 years without a noticeable change in output—even in continual operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Fixtures with moving parts, however, shouldn’t be expected to operate as long, regardless of the lifespan rating of the LEDs. Moving parts degrade with use and will require more frequent maintenance. Make sure this is a part of your overall design concept.
Q18: Does the budget include ongoing maintenance and repairs?
As part of your design and install proposal, include a budget for this, even if the house of worship hasn’t specified it, or asked for one. This shows you’re thinking long-term about the best interests of the organization, and that you’ll stand behind the installation over the years.
Q19: Who will be maintaining the install?
You should expect to maintain the install, and offer a plan and a budget as part of your proposal. If this is outside your normal business operations (we just design the thing, we don’t maintain it…) then find a local partner you can work with who will perform this. Ongoing maintenance coverage may determine who gets the bid and who doesn’t.
Q20: Will special equipment be needed for maintenance? Are the hanging locations going to be accessible?
Lots of worship spaces have extra high ceilings. Even contemporary spaces can have 20’ – 30’ high ceilings, so this will need consideration as you prepare your maintenance plan. Renting a scissor lift ranges from about $100 - $300 per day, depending on your location and height needs. You will also need to alert the facility in order to protect flooring from damage or staining.
Show that you’re prepared for as many contingencies as possible, to compete and win the bid. Your lighting design proposal for a house of worship will have the best chance of being accepted when you ask and answer all 20 questions! Good luck out there...