This isn’t your standard smart lighting blog

Feb. 5, 2021
The last day of the Department of Energy Lighting R&D Workshop offered insights about the relationship between lighting design, automation, and efficient facilities.

You saw the headline. This isn’t a blog about smart lighting…but it is a blog about smart approaches to lighting backed by data.

Day 4 of the US Department of Energy (DOE) Lighting R&D Workshop reached across the divide of the “here and now” of lighting manufacturing and design implementation to the potential of what it can be going forward. And I found it pretty invigorating.

Concentrating here on the session titled “Data’s Role in the Future of Building Design and Operation,” speakers with computer programming, lighting design, and building systems experience described a compelling roadmap of lighting design, implementation, and monitoring that relies upon a combination of intelligent software tools, analysis, and human ingenuity to achieve smart, healthy, productive environments that utilize resources efficiently and provide a framework for the move toward zero energy.

Lighting design and engineering consultant Star Davis described engineering as the process of applying known solutions to unique problems; design as developing a unique solution to a known problem; and innovation as “the sweet spot” where the two processes meet.

How does that happen in a built environment, with so many architectural, operational, and behavioral factors involved? According to Leland Curtis, co-lead of computation design at architecture and planning firm SmithGroup, the future of design requires embracing new computer-based tools and leveraging data. He advised seeking out user-friendly visual scripting tools that can be utilized as building blocks by anyone in the design and implementation process, without a computer science background – particularly highlighting the Grasshopper visual programming language and interface for the Rhinoceros CAD application.

Davis concurred, saying that a focus on minutiae and “trivial tweaks” wastes time that could be spent on creative ideas that can’t be handled by algorithms. These perspectives hearken back to what Innovative Lighting Consultants’ Michael Kershner proposed during our own virtual event in September that creating operational efficiency by applying data and automation would not only help to quantify project outcomes for clients but also would free up product developers, lighting designers, and consultants to expand to problem-solving approaches that go beyond replacing traditional light sources with LEDs that mimic the exact same form factors and perpetuate the advance toward a stagnated and commoditized LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) market.

Related article: Picture the future of SSL within the mirror world

Speaker Cindy Zhu of Prescriptive Data brought a holistic building operations viewpoint to the mix. The company engineered a technology-agnostic building operating system (OS), Nantum, to centralize, analyze, and manage all datapoints and functions in a building. She demonstrated how a seemingly overwhelming amount of disparate information can be distilled into various values in a central dashboard. In the “cockpit,” as Zhu called it, 3-D models and real-time floorplans enable live monitoring of occupancy and operations, notifying building engineers and facilities managers of opportunities for maintenance, improved efficiencies, and space optimization based on learning the building’s typical usage and functions over time. This is obviously a deep dive beyond lighting alone, but as Zhu noted, “siloes create complexity” for building engineers. Zooming out on this, it’s in the best interest of the entire project team to ensure the end result is functional and comfortable for the building occupants, as well as cost-effective and manageable for the end user responsible for the facility.

Look for more on the DOE workshop next week.

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Background courtesy of FOLIO | Image courtesy of Alana Shepherd
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Photo by Alana Shepherd | Design background courtesy of FOLIO
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