Fitting Lighting in the Build It House

We fit the internal and external lighting at the Education House in Gravenhill
Chris Bates, Editor of Build It magazine
by Chris Batesmith
20th October 2019

Now most of the house has been mist-coated, Moss Technical can get on with their second fix work.

As I write, they’ve been on site for the last four days and aim to get everything completely wrapped up tomorrow.

This is all about wiring in sockets, switches, detectors, light fittings, the media rack and – of course – the Niko controller: the brains that will transform the Education House into a smart home.

Core fit-out

Our Niko hub will give intuitive control over lighting, heating, ventilation, shading and audio-visual to make running the house simpler.

Installing electrics

The Niko smart video entry system will pause our sound system when someone rings the doorbell. It even allows you to answer the door from the garden (or anywhere else in the world) via your smartphone

For instance, the system can be programmed with a range of moods to suit different tasks and activities, all available at the touch of a button.

You can even set holiday modes with clever light sequences to give the impression you’re in the house when you’re not (eg if outdoor PIR movement detectors are triggered).

One clever aspect of the setup is that the controllers are hugely versatile. So if you want to change what a button does, you can. You can even do things like swap a light switch faceplate for a movement detector – so it can help your home to adapt to your changing needs in the future.

Installing electrics

Moss Technical’s on-site team have been working feverishly to install all the sockets, switches and light fittings

With sockets and switches, the rule is more is better. So if you’re not sure you’ve got enough outlets in the kitchen, just put an extra one in. You’ll regret it if you need to cut channels into your freshly painted walls three months down the line.

We’ve predominantly specified double sockets – with some strategically placed versions offering a direct USB port for charging phones etc. All of these are now wired in, and currently hanging off the walls waiting for the final finishes.

One interesting benefit you get with a smart home is that the control cables are all low-voltage. So you can actually have your light switches on the inside of the bathroom – which you can’t do with standard wiring any more.

Lighting decisions

Good lighting can transform the atmosphere of a room, add wow factor and improve how you interact with your home.

Trouble is, most of us aren’t lighting specialists. So how do we decide on the size, output and colour temperature of our illumination – let alone the number and style of fittings?

Installing electrics

You could splash the cash on a professional lighting designer, and no doubt get excellent results, but that tends to be out of reach of a typical self builder’s budget. So the only option is to try to visualise how you want your home to work, try to make things as flexible as possible, and to take advice from your architect, lighting supplier and electrician.

Across the Education House our lighting spec is a little different to the average homeowner. We’ll have a significant number of information panels to highlight, for example (a little bit like showing off a favourite piece of art).

Installing electrics

So we’re including a number of wall washing downlighters, as well as track lighting in the basement. We’ve primarily bought KSR Lighting for the spots, tracks and other functional elements, via Swindon-based wholesaler 3Line Electrical. Their rep, Cai Watkins, has been very helpful and visited site several times.

We’re also mixing and matching for the feature fittings with pendants from Ikea, John Lewis and Wayfair.

In the vaulted hall, we’ve even gone a bit DIY by 3D printing our own simple chandelier that will cascade three giant bulbs down from the narrow glulam beam at the ridge.

As the tech gets cheaper (and the material options grow), this may become an increasingly more realistic option for self builders wanting something a little out of the ordinary.

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