You can’t flick through more than a handful of lighting companies’ mission statements or promotional blurbs these days without stumbling across the phrase ‘Architectural Integration’. But what does this term really mean? And is it really much more than a buzz-phrase in most cases?

The origins of the concept are sincere and meaningful. Although the terminology is perhaps overused, the industry trend cannot be ignored. It has certainly been welcomed by interior designers, architects and lighting specifiers who have long chanted the mantra of ‘light; not light fittings’.

For decades those in the know have found clever ways to conceal standard lighting equipment within carefully crafted details to achieve the best available lighting effects without revealing too much about the nature and type of light source employed.

Specifiers can now select products and systems which achieve this without the need to resort to heavy detailing. The hard work is done with cleverly designed ‘Knife Edge’ profiles, and with the advent of powerful and efficient linear LED light sources, it is possible to achieve seamless runs of linear light.

Plaster in (or ‘Mud in’ or ‘spackle flange’)

A critical principle of integrated lighting systems is the ability to physically integrate with surfaces within the architecture. When required to integrate with gypsum board construction it is important that the product has a tried and tested design which allows the contractor to create a perfect finish.

Avoid products which simply give a hard edge against the cut board which needs to be back filled. This will likely result in cracking due to the natural movement resulting from heating and cooling of the luminaire.

With linear products, typically based on an aluminum extruded profile, there needs to be a well-designed detail allowing the board to nestle into the extrusion and be fixed, prior to applying jointing tape and compound. The extrusion should have deep grooves which fill with the jointing compound, allowing a considerable key for the plaster, creating a solid bond between all three materials. This ensures that the junction between the metalwork, the plaster and the gypsum board is smooth and robust, and eliminates possible cracking.

Knife edge

In this type of application, ‘knife edge’ profiles have become popular. This type of system has a sharp leading edge and a top surface which rakes back away from the front edge, minimizing the appearance of any upstand required to conceal the light source behind. The fact that the leading edge of the profile creates the finished edge of the surface ensures perfectly crisp detail, something almost impossible to achieve with traditional techniques. A great example (and the original of the type) is the Whitegoods Edgeless Cove system, which was specified to deliver an exceptionally long (over 100 foot) coffer in the ceiling of the BMW showroom on Park Lane in London’s Mayfair. The effect creates a luminous raised section of ceiling, deliberately designed to reflect in the bodywork of the vehicles below, accentuating their curves and form.

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