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Illuminated Wellness: lighting for atmosphere at a spa

01.10.2015 /  Uncategorized

Well planned lighting can contribute a lot towards a relaxing and enjoyable spa experience. There are many theories and products that promote different ways how lighting and colours can influence our health and well-being, but before considering the ways we can offer therapeutical attractions for our guests, it is good to revise the general rules that apply to illuminating spas and pool areas.

Our main enemy here, as with most lighting installations, is glare. Spas often come with a lot of shiny surfaces that cause specular reflection: water, mirrors, and tiles in interior design. All of these will multiply the visual discomfort caused by unshielded luminaires or direct sunlight shining into our eyes, radically reducing the comfort of the spa visit. By larger pools, glare can be also dangerous, as direct light can be disorienting for even experienced swimmers and cause accidents.

Direct sunlight should be blocked with window shades or overhangs. All artificial lighting should be directed either through appropriate diffusers, or reflected off special surfaces that will diffuse the light. Of course, this will cause some loss in light intensity and may require higher intensity luminaires to be installed, but one should never let your constructors settle for a solution that reaches illumination standards at the cost of the comfort and safety of the visitors.


Visual comfort

There are many ways to measure the illumination in an interior. Most construction standards are concerned with what is called horizontal illumination, regulating the amount of light we need on countertops and tables. Unfortunately, building codes do not prescribe the requirements for emotional well-being and aesthetics, and this is not always considered in the standard construction package of all electrical engineers.

Psychological research shows that instead of horizontal illumination, we evaluate the pleasantness of a space by vertical illumination. This means that a room with brightly lit walls is considered lighter and brighter than a room with a lot of light hitting the floor. Vertical illumination gives us a feeling of safety as the dimensions of the room are clearly defined. With horizontal lighting only, any space will tend to have a cave-like look with dark walls and ceilings. In order to avoid this, it is essential to plan accent lighting for the walls and interior decor.


Colour temperature

Scientists have shown that different colours of light are perceived as pleasing at different intensities. A phenomena called Kruithof curve explains that warm or reddish lighting is considered more pleasant at lower intensities, whereas cool or blueish lighting is viewed comfortable at higher intensities. This can be directly transferred to design knowledge, specifying cool white luminaires for brighter areas such as poolside; and specifying warm white light for dimly lit spaces such as massage parlours and meditation chambers. Most luminaires come with a choice of either warm or cool colour temperature, so that it is easy to choose the appropriate option for each function.

Electrical safety

Water and electricity can cause trouble when mixed, and most electrical equipment should be kept away from all possible contact with moisture. Luckily, there are ways to isolate the electrical current from coming to contact with water, and this is usually clearly expressed on products meant for wet areas. The international standard for the degree of protection is called the IP code. This is a combination of two numbers showing how well a product is protected from water and small particles such as dust.


Let us look at an electrical device with an IP marking, for example IP68. The first number shows how well it is protected from dust and particles on a scale of 0 to 6. The second number shows how well it is protected from water on a scale of 0 to 8.

Common IP classifications for luminaires:

IP20 – this is a regular protection rating for indoor home lamps. The number 2 means that it is not possible to reach the electrical circuit with large objects so you cannot accidentally touch it with your finger. The number 0 means that there should be no direct contact with any kind of moisture, as the luminaire has no protection against water damage.

IP44 – this is a common protection rating for lamps in more challenging locations. This rating class is often required for bathrooms and covered terraces, where the luminaire does not need to tolerate direct showering or rainfalls, but can occasionally receive a little splash of water or be surrounded  by humid air.

IP65 – this is a common protection rating for outdoor lamps that need to tolerate heavy rainfall. This is also a required rating for luminaires in other types of wet areas such as spas.

IP67 – this extreme rating is required from all luminaires that are placed low enough that they could temporarily be immersed in water. This is good for in-ground outdoor luminaires that could be affected by floods, or floor luminaires near spa pools that will be affected by waves of water

IP68 – these are completely waterproof luminaires that can be installed underwater. Usually, this classification comes with a specific depth limit, how many metres below the water surface it is safe to place the luminaires.


It should not be a surprise that a protection rating comes with an extra price. The need for extreme isolation calls for extreme measures in luminaire construction, and often there is a heartbreaking compromise between looks and budget. High protection ratings can be achieved by simply enclosing the luminaire body in large and bulky containers, often resulting in aesthetically unacceptable installations. Luckily modern engineering is capable of building highly protected luminaires into discreet, sleek casings, although this will usually add its share to the price tag. It is important to plan and budget this in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises and unexpected cuts in the quality of the atmosphere.

Discussing your spa, health, and wellness centre lighting with a specialist such as Neue will allow you to understand your needs and possibilities, and achieve an optimal result that will meet both your requirements and budget.

Neue is a lighting design and supply firm passionate about helping people better understand lighting and rethink how lighting can and should work within their space.