WEB EXCLUSIVE: Architects benefit from professional education on LEDs

May 23, 2008
Architects were enlightened by input from the solid-state lighting community at their annual convention, writes Brian Owen.
Last week, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) held its annual convention in Boston. MA. It was interesting to see the convention program included speakers such as Kevin Dowling from Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions who was discussing LED lighting advancements and general illumination application opportunities. Of further interest was the number of LED product manufacturers who were participating in AIA Expo2008 in conjunction with the conference.

In the process of commercialization and market transformation it is fundamentally important to collaborate with the vertical markets that can influence the process. Architects play a key role in the specification of design elements and the application of technology in their projects.

In order to assist in this process, there must be a concerted effort to provide awareness and education through outreach initiatives and programs. In the US, the Department of Energy plays and active role and in Canada, the Office of Energy Efficiency of Natural Resources Canada is the counterpart in the process, as along with the many state and province energy boards, regulator and electric utilities. Manufacturers can also play an active role and it is great to see this happening at events such as the AIA convention and expo.

Overcoming the apprehension barriers is also part of the critical path. Interior designers, lighting consultants and designers are all also part of the community that requires knowledge transfer and support as well as reliable information and how to assess the information. Energy Star will play a key role in this endeavour.

At a January 2008 DOE SSL workshop in Atlanta, Lighting designer Samantha LaFleur of AtelierTen of Baltimore, MA commented about the positives and negatives of LED. Asked what was the best thing about LEDs, she responded, “The opportunity to expand the designers’ toolbox” and when asked what was the worst thing, she responded "Liability! The risk is both financial and to reputation.”

Both polarizations are consistent with architects as well. LaFleur recently further emphasised concerns at a DOE sponsored roundtable on solid state lighting for lighting designers in Chicago on March 19, 2008, commenting about the need for "specify-ability" including knowledge and support, and asking the question, “What happens when the system fails? We are basically buying a company more than a product and manufacturers do not always follow through. This increases designers’ risks exponentially in choosing to specify SSL products.” This roundtable meeting is discussed in depth in an article in the May/June issue of LEDs Magazine.

It is hoped that Energy Star will satisfy the need for standards, however warranty is likely foremost in the long run and that is only as good a company behind it. You have to ask if the warranty is 3 years as specified by Energy Star, does the company have a good history and will they be around 3 years to fulfill or support the warranty?

At the Boston AIA Expo, a number new LED products and advancements in same were shown to the architectural community including the new outdoor products from both beta LED, a division of Ruud Lighting and Lumec a Philips group brand. Beta LED displayed their new edge round series and Lumec released their new LEONIS that can accommodate either LED or HID as an intermediary step to LED.

Both companies have to be praised for their efforts and roles in education to the end-user. Beta/Ruud released an excellent publication for procurers and specifiers, entitled "LED Lighting in Sustainable Building Design." This guide explains the role of LED in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and offers a well thought-out series of questions to ask when specifying an LED lighting system. It is always a pleasure to see these questions. Albeit that correct answers are important, asking the right questions may be more so, for if you don’t have the questions you will likely not get the answers!

Lumec released their new educational video on outdoor lighting systems, LED and their Leonis product. It is a very well done production and a good watch. Lumec has also solidified a relationship with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) another body of architects with a primary focus on landscape planning including lighting. The landscape architect plays a major role in municipal street planning and Lumec is commended for this strategic relationship as well as making inroads with the US Council of Mayors. Also released were the new Gardco Lighting, a Philips group brand, XLP LED area, garage and wall mount luminaires.

In the indoor applications market, Renaissance Lighting displayed their downlight series with patented integrating optic dome and hidden lamp source that uniformly combines the light produced by a circular array of LEDs. Nexxus Lighting exhibited their SAVI high performance architectural Linear Lighting System which will deliver up to 319 lumens per foot for coves, wall washing and general illumination applications. Other LED manufacturers exhibiting indoor product included Edison Price Lighting, Kim Lighting, Lucifer Lighting Company, and Prescolite, a Hubbell company.

Commercialization and market transformation is dependant upon awareness, and education, capacity building and knowledge as well as technology transfer. The task is to employ the strategic alliances with the design and specification communities to impart this, considering their influence in shaping the market and the usage of innovative products and new technology, especially with the ever increasing green interest or mandate.

Energy efficiency organizations, government, manufacturers, media and standards organizations all play significant roles in establishing the overall educational outreach process to ensure quality product is embraced and less than "falls off the truck." With no shortage of inferior product and overstated claims, the dissemination of ‘correct’ information is required. LED is application-specific as it can be said that it is not a case of if, simply a case of when and ‘where’ it is practically employed. It is not a product or technology to be purchased or specified on price point. These as well as other best practices and lessons learned are most valuable to the development of the industry and the further development of the technology. An effective education and outreach process will provide the necessary tools to conscientiously and diligently make the correct decision that is self-evident rather than relying on subjective claims.

Next week, Lightfair opens in Las Vegas. Attendees can expect a comprehensive educational seminar and workshop program that will include some very interesting topics relating to SSL. One seminar of note is entitled "100,000 Hours of Life and other LED Fairy Tales" on Wednesday, May 28 at 2:00 pm. Not intended to be negative towards the technology, the purpose of the presentation is to dispel the myths and tell the truths, a very valuable message.

When it comes to the media, Marshall McLuhan was historically quoted as saying that “The medium is the message.” Today Kevin Dowling further states, “The system is the product”. To combine the best of both, we must all realize that the successful advancement of the "product" may rest in the "message."