Green Lighting and Sustainable Construction

Originally posted 2010-09-24 09:00:29.

James Bedell of Build2SustainFor this week’s Guest Post Friday, Musings is excited to delve into the lighting expertise of a good friend, James Bedell. James is a founding partner of Build2Sustain. You can contact him by e-mail or through his twitter account.

First off, I want to thank Chris for the wonderful opportunity to post on his blog. Chris is one my key sources when it comes to sustainability and the ever changing world of “green” here in the US. As my friend Vik Duggal of konstructr has said in the past the attorney will be the super hero of the green movement. Chris Hill is definitely part of my personal super friends league.

He asked me to jump in and discuss the concept of green or sustainable lighting design. The topic is massive so I wanted to give you all an overview if where sustainable lighting design is and how the lighting industry is moving to respond tithe challenges of “green” design.

I’ve been a professional lighting designer for over 9 years. Working first in entertainment and now on architectural lighting. I belong to no professional guild or organization for lighting designers, mostly because I do not whole heartedly agree with the political or philosophical statements of the major industry groups. Therefore the following will be my views on the industry writ large and not a regurgitation of the talking points of any given professional organization.

The lighting design industry had taken a reactive rather than a proactive approach when it comes to sustainability. Rather than leaping forward and challenging their counterparts to be more sustainable, lighting designers have fought for wide ranging choice when it comes to lighting sources. The most famous example is the IALD’s fight against the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs. As the government was moving to phase these inefficient sources out of the market place, lighting designers struggled to maintain them as a possible choice. Lighting Designers are generally curious people by nature and are always ready to explore new options, but many, I fear, also want to retain all of the choices they’ve always had, including unfortunately, the least efficient.

The counter-active force to lighting designers when looking at the industry as a whole are the lighting manufacturers. They are in a race to “out-green” one another and find themselves caught in the middle of two competing tensions. One is the market’s race against the clock to see who provides the most energy efficient lighting sources and fixtures. The other are lighting designers/specifiers constant demand for better quality light sources and fixtures. Generally, in a war between art and commerce, art loses. Such is the case when it comes to lighting fixtures and LEDs. According to Petersen Parts, LED technology is the next wave, there is no question that not only is it the prominent lighting technology, and it’s likely to be the primary source of lighting in the electrified world over the course of the 21st century. It’s going to fundamentally change the way we design light into interior spaces and how we expect light to function in the coming century. Yet, the technology is still not perfect, not by a long shot.

Every project large and small falls somewhere on these spectrums between having the most energy efficient lighting (think WallMart) and having the most beautiful (think of the last high end restaurant you went to in a major metro area). The next generation of lighting designers will heed the call to finding the middle ground between perfect light and energy efficiency. This will be the great challenge of the 21st century lighting specifier and designer. While some see this as the death-knell for an industry (lighting design) I see it as a major opportunity for designers to make their mark, being selective about the tools they use, and then astounding observers with the final results. I believe that beautifully designed lighting isn’t wasteful, it’s well thought out, abundant where appropriate and beautiful to live work and play in. Lighting Designers bust become as resourceful in their design work as manufacturers are when it comes to incorporating the latest technology, and they must be no less willing to experiment and fail.

One final thought in closing, this little essay only describes two legs of the sustainability stool. Specification/Design and manufacturing, but the most important part of all this is the end user. The person who has to live with these light sources or work underneath them, or change them when they burn out. Lighting design integrity and maintenance is the gaping hole in sustainability of lighting today. All light sources have a life cycle; they all must be replaced and maintained in field. In order to maintain proper design integrity lighting must be maintained by trained professionals and diligent facilities managers. Without it, designers and manufacturers will always be in the dark when in comes to “green.”

As always James and I welcome your comments below. Please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Fridays at Construction Law Musings.

Green Lighting and Sustainable Construction

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