Axis Lighting CEO discusses the SSL design challenge in advance of SIL presentation

Dec. 11, 2013
The transition to LED-based lighting is a must for energy savings but presents many challenges to optimal lighting specifications, according to Axis CEO Howard Yaphe, who will present on that topic at Strategies in Light, and here answers questions posed by Maury Wright.

Axis Lighting CEO Howard Yaphe will present "Spec-it forward: An integrated design approach for specifiers and manufacturers" on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at the 15th-anniversary Strategies in Light (SIL) conference that will take place in Santa Clara, California. This is the first in a series of articles we will offer up featuring question-and-answer style talks with speakers on the conference slate along with a summary of the planned presentation.

At SIL, Yaphe will describe the requisite for a full transition to LED lighting driven by energy conservation needs, but also the problems that the fast evolution of semiconductor light sources pose. The problem is especially acute when you consider that building construction can take years. Yaphe has some very interesting ideas on how luminaires need to be manufactured going forward, as well as advice for lighting designers and specifiers that suggests the need for specifying lighting with a forward outlook and preparing upfront for the inevitable need for retrofits with even more efficient lighting down the road.

LEDs Magazine: What is the toughest challenge for a lighting manufacturer faced with the semiconductor-industry pace of change in terms of light source technology and advancements? How does the lighting manufacturer mask the volatile LED industry from the lighting designer/specifier?

Howard Yaphe: The lighting manufacturer needs to present complex technologies in simple lighting language. I had a Physics professor in engineering whose final exam was to explain 10 complex concepts to your grandmother. The major challenge for the manufacturer is building a rounded technology team and the right technology partners who together can follow the roadmap and conceptualize next-generation solutions. The manufacturer really needs to understand the lighting needs of its customers to develop lighting solutions that work.

LEDs Magazine:Your company is a known supporter of adaptive control technology. Do you see a need for some standardization to occur in the controls space, especially in terms of identification of a standard network technology that can enable interoperable products from many vendors? Are you a supporter of open standards, or do you believe that the lighting industry can move forward with proprietary controls technologies?

Yaphe: Many controls manufacturers do not appreciate the complexity of fixture integrated controls. We do not recommend combining different manufacturers' controls in one project as it is problematic, especially with LEDs. We no longer use dimming as a term for LEDs but rather say our fixtures are controls-ready by working with each of our controls partners to be sure we both supply a working system. Standards are great but certainly not a necessity.

LEDs Magazine:While controls can clearly save energy, we hear that even when they are installed, they aren't always used to full potential because of the complexity of commissioning. What can the industry do to simplify the use of controls? When will usage of controls become dominant? What about the retrofit space? Can building owners be mandated to add controls to existing building?

Yaphe: The weak point in controls in the application of sensor technologies. There is a real need for a next generation of sensors so we can get beyond passive infrared technologies. The control of LEDs is still art, not science, with issues of color shift at low currents, mismatched controllers and drivers, and the confusion of how to use of pulse-width modulation vs. current control.

LEDs Magazine:Is your company participating in any standards efforts? Is Axis a part of The Connected Lighting Alliance? What about Zhaga?

Yaphe:The response time of most web-type wireless systems is too slow and many owners like governments have difficult issues to solve with wireless systems. Hybrid systems, which combine wired and wireless in local networks connected by Ethernet, are more reliable.

LEDs Magazine:Speaking of the Zhaga Consortium, the organization has been very active in bringing a number of specifications for modular light engines to the industry? Does Axis intend to rely on any of the Zhaga Books in developing products? Your presentation at SIL is focused on the issue of specifying optimal lighting for a building that will not be finished for a year or two. Can Zhaga, or any modular technology, help with that problem? Some Zhaga supporters believe that modules can allow the construction industry to customize lighting on the building site, essentially just becoming another architectural material. Is that a realistic view in your opinion?

Yaphe:Axis is a build-to-order company and we cannot be constrained by Zhaga Book 7 dimensions. Axis has its own Zhaga-type standards, which we have committed to support in future platform upgrades. Axis uses mid-flux LED technology at very low temperatures. Our goal is to provide spec-it-forward lighting reports so that specifiers are able to design with future generations in mind. You cannot customize lighting on site as a change in LEDs requires a change in driver to take advantage of the energy savings.

LEDs Magazine:Moving to lighting design, we are hearing more and more about the need for a layered approach to lighting, and LED-based products can enable that approach while maximizing the energy savings associated with ambient lighting. Do you see layered lighting as a trend? If so, how are you enabling a layered approach? What other lighting design trends are emerging in the SSL industry?

Yaphe:Layered lighting has been around for a very long time. Strategies like ambient accent is one of the main strategies for retail lighting and task ambient one of the main strategies for office lighting. Some of the most creative lighting designers come from theater where layered lighting techniques were developed.