Foundations of a Worship Space : Houselight

The Bargeheights crew has been hard at work in meetings and pounding out drawing packages for a slew of church worship space renovations. In project meetings, we’ve observed some major disconnects between descriptive ministry vision statements and the nuts and bolts foundation required to bring a production system to life. It appears that many production-minded folks are stuck navigating in the void between expectations and resources. It’s by no fault of the churches’ leadership. Their vision is great! However, without the experience and knowledge of a qualified designer, costs, timelines and trade coordination to lay the foundation for a vision-filled worship space falls to the side.  So, we’ve decided to dedicate a regular blog topic to highlighting some of our thoughts on the foundational elements for worship spaces.

Foundations: House Light

I’m sure we talk about house light on this blog statistically more than any other sub-system of light. That’s because it’s the largest, and ironically the most often overlooked. The term “house light” refers to a group of lighting fixtures that provide general-purpose illumination for the “house” (main seating area) of a performance space. House Light is CRITICAL! People attending church services — from your grandmother to a sixteen year-old kid unfamiliar with church – all need adequate illumination to find their seat, read important information on paper, and determine that they are in a room filled with other people. In other words, their participation in the service will be a shared, community, corporate in nature experience. Moreover, every room, worship space or not, needs sufficient illumination for essential tasks: cleaning, working, reading.

House light needs to be dimmable. Modern church services are dynamic in method of presentation (spoken word, to music with full band) and lighting within the worship space should follow the same dynamics. Just as churches desire dimmable stage lighting fixtures, houselight fixtures should be dimmable to enable church lighting designers to follow the dynamics of a worship service.

Especially in the current day and age of energy-efficiency and tightening code restrictions on energy use, churches are presented with an array of choices for house light; LED, fluorescent, HID, and tungsten to name a few. Even more confusing, when project managers and other trades describe a lighting fixture as “dimmable,” one cannot assume this is fully dimmable. Many commercial fixtures, common in larger non-residential buildings dim within a range, say 25% to 100%. While better than no dimming, the modern church demands full dimming, without limitation.  So, always examine the fixture’s specification to verify that “dimmable” means 0-100% dimming.

Check back on the blog for another dose of the Foundations series. Next up- house light color temperature.

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