Categories
Lighting Commentary

Sustainability Part 2 – Can Lighting Be Sustainable?

Photo by Jordan Hyde on Pexels.com

If like me, you always check out trend predictions, wherever and from whomever they emerge, you are seeing a reoccurring mention of sustainable products. I am constantly questioned about sustainability. Designers are hearing the request and like a canary in a coalmine, they are often the first to recognize a shift. As I pointed out in the first part of this series [link] there will be changes in our application of light. Nonetheless, the disposable nature of a heretofore endlessly reusable luminaire, continues to trouble designers, users and sustainability proponents. “There has to be a better way!” is a very common comment.

I realized this is not a problem exclusive to lighting as I read about Golden Goose, a Milan-based manufacturer of high-end casual footwear. [The New York Times (August 7, 2022) “Don’t Toss Those Old Sneakers” by Laura Rysman. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/09/style/golden-goose-sneaker-repair.html?smid=url-share ] Like lighting, once a pair of sneakers is “worn out” they are unceremoniously tossed and replaced. In an effort to extend the life of the sneaker, they are offering bespoke repairs. The problem, as few as five years ago, is that there was no such thing as sneaker repair. Because of the typical manufacturing process, the sole could not be removed from the top, so an entirely different methodology was required. By considering the classic construction method of formal shoes, a new sneaker assembly process was created that allows for the teardown and repair. While not inexpensive, their sneakers can now be repaired and reused, almost endlessly.

LED longevity makes them the perfect light source for new sustainability demand, but they sit on the edge of some shaky foundations, much like the typical vulcanized rubber sole that encases a sneaker top and precluded disassembly. We discussed aesthetic trends in the previous post. There are three additional problems that must be addressed to increase the sustainability of LED lighting.

Driver Longevity

When a LED luminaire fails, it is most likely because of driver malfunction or some sort of circuit interruption. In the industry’s quest to achieve lower costs, corners have been cut in this all-important, albeit hidden, component. Quite simply, to have a more sustainable product, better built drivers and circuitry components are required.

Proof of Longevity

LED longevity is a predicted “guess” based on calculated performance characteristics. Basically, if the system lasts for X hours, testers feel comfortable projecting that it will last 6X hours. Tests of 10,000 hours (maximum) will allow a manufacture to promise the product will last 60,000 hours. One of the reasons we cannot go much farther is because 10,000 hours is a long time! After 14 months of testing, there is a very good likelihood that a newer, better model of LED is on the market and the cycle must be started anew. Most manufactures test for 6000 hours, allowing a promise of 36,000 hour lifespan and consuming only 8 ½ months of time, still a considerable length. Some sort of accelerated testing and performance affirmation is needed.

Repair

Incandescent luminaires are like a pair of leather brogues, we can change light bulbs as easily as shoelaces. Resoling is however another thing entirely and must be completed by a cobbler. A repair professional is usually needed to replace sockets or broken chandelier arms. LED lighting becomes closer to the conventional sneaker, nearly impossible to rebuild, even by a pro, unless you rethink the entire process. That, I believe is where the luminaire manufactures are today. To meet the sustainability expectations of the near future, they must plot out a path to luminaire repair.

This might be realized in a number of different ways. Perhaps some companies can easily adapt their business to include a repair service. We might also see LED luminaire repair shops popping up around the country. We could also see lighting retailers adding LED repairs to their list of luminaire services. Only real demand will tell the tale.

“It’s Gotta Be the Shoes!”*

To meet the needs of a sustainable future, electronic repairs will need to be more common. We might see the return of TV repairmen, small appliance repairs and people who specialize in fixing our much more technological environment.

By their own admission, Golden Goose is not seeing a positive ROI on repairs. Knowing repairs are possible is however, turning out to be a substantial selling point for this expensive footwear. I think that might turn out to be the case with lighting, too. The lighting will last longer than most people expected. There will be fewer breakdowns than anticipated. The newness of LED will wear-off and failure expectations will be reduced because it is an effortless product. When needed, there will be some avenues available for resolution, even if they are not ultimately used. That may satiate the consumer.

In a 1988 Nike commercial, Mars Blackmon (a comedic avatar of Spike Lee) tried to explain the god-like moves of Michael Jordan on a basketball court. Discounting every other conceivable option, he reached the conclusion, “It’s gotta be the shoes!” despite the objections of Mr. Jordan. (If you’re not a basketball fan, Michael Jordan was an excellent player, probably even in bare feet.) Offering repairs when they might be of minimal real value, just might be the sustainable aspect we’ve convinced ourselves we need, just like the illusion worked for Mars.

*Mars Blackmon – 1988 Nike commercial with Michael Jordan and Spike Lee

Categories
Lighting Commentary

Sustainability Part 1 – More Utilitarian, Less Decorative – The Future of Lighting

2009 SAAB 9-3 Convertible – The original sustainable vehicle?

I drive a 2009 SAAB 9-3 Convertible. This is, without question the best car I have ever owned and despite its age, still looks great. I purchased this car a few months prior to SAAB exiting the automobile business. I never owned a SAAB prior, but I quickly found out that there is a joyful cult surrounding current and former SAAB owners. When the closure of the manufacturer was announced, fellow SAAB owners would pull up next to me, open their window and ask, “What are we going to do?” I learned that many SAAB owners were SAAB owners for life. Like me, they liked the solid, dependable build and the quirky stylings that made the design impervious to trends, fads and the constant waves of the “next best thing.”

For the last few years, I have been predicting a lighting “future world” where fewer decorative lighting products are used and more (much more) functional lighting products will be installed in residential spaces. We will still have centerpiece items featured in dining rooms, over multiple areas in the kitchen and foyers, but the rest of the home will see lighting hidden in, over, behind, inside and below architectural elements in the room. Like recessed cans, lighting will be indirect, easy to use and impervious to the stylistic shifts that are inevitable in the home furnishings industry. Product that forgoes style fads, like my SAAB will maintain relevance farther into the future than flash-in-the-pan ideas.

Why is This Occurring?

Because of the rapid adoption of LED technology, a couple of things have occurred. First, the LED diode is small. Very small. This has allowed for the development of tiny functional light. LED Tape has, in just a few years, become a ubiquitous method of lighting. It is filling trays, coves, toekicks, cabinets and over-cabinet areas. It is very fairly priced, has proven to last for a long time and the lumen output options are many. Versions of LED Tape are also finding their way into integrated luminaires. Designers are taking advantage of the tiny size and reimagining decorative lighting.

LED diodes are expected to last between 40,000 to 50,000 hours. Operating six hours a day, that calculates to somewhere between 18 and 24 years! When the average luminaire is replaced every 7-10 years, it is easy to see that the viability is not matching demand. We can and will use functional products longer, because they have no impact on aesthetics. They will last over three or four home remodels before replacement is needed.

Sustainability is of growing concern to the consumer. It is more important right now to the younger buyer, but those customers will be around for many more years and their peak spending years on home furnishings are starting now and will rise as we move into the future. As this group mature and younger people age into home ownership, it is predicted their demand for sustainability will NOT disappear. Products removed and replaced long before their end of life will not jell with a sustainably conscious consumer. Knowing that 75% to 90% of the lighting could last longer and perhaps only one or two luminaires would need to be replaced due to a dated appearance, will be much more palatable. These new realities will change how designers interact with customers and together how they interact with lighting.

Meanwhile, Back On the Road

A constant question or comment shouted from other drivers to me centers around longevity.

“How many miles does your car have?”

“What year is that?”

“I drove my [fill in the year and/or model of their SAAB] for [fill-in a HUGE quantity of miles]

SAAB owners know that timeless design allows them to ignore trends. They will receive the benefit of great performance and extended years of use because the engineering is solid. LED is earning the same reputation. Early on, people worried about what would happen when the LED “burned out.” They are finding that it just doesn’t happen that often. My “ALL LED” kitchen has been humming along for fourteenth year with nary a problem. It is not an anomaly.

To fully take advantage of this longevity, a shift is occurring. More indirect light, more functional light. More utilitarian light. A greater reliance on recessed lighting. Fewer decorative pieces. This change makes sense for the room, the ecologically sensitive consumer and perhaps more importantly, the planet. As designers, we need to make this work aesthetically. Trust me. That is the easy part. Reducing landfill. That’s the tough one.

143,130 miles…and counting.

Categories
Lighting Commentary

Another Voice on Good Lighting

Photo by Barnabas Davoti on Pexels.com

I have been talking about the relationship between light and health for a decade. It was probably a lecture at a distant LightFair that set my curiosity running. I started seeking out articles, research reports and other documentation to fill in my information gap. While not a doctor, I eventually developed a continually-evolving lecture on the topic. New information arrives. Science discovers more nuance to its initial findings. Better studies are conducted. More concise data is shared and made available. Ten years (perhaps more) since I sat in a cold conference room at a LightFair convention, science is still not ready to make definitive decrees about rock-solid solutions, but as many posts have indicated, the mounting evidence supports better lighting leads to healthier people.

I thought of my message and my journey and the stones in the road as I read an amazing article in The New York Times Magazine. (July 10, 2022) “The Time of Your Life” (also entitled, “The Quest by Circadian Medicine to Make the Most of Our Body Clocks”) by Kim Tingley. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/06/magazine/circadian-medicine.html?searchResultPosition=1 Initially, I felt this was a very easy to understand description of the internal “clocks” that help our body function. If for no other reason, I suggest reading this article. The author goes a bit deeper than I do, but it still is easy to comprehend.

Farther into the article, we are introduced to a doctor who is attempting to change the medical community because of this unearthed information. The cycles in out body create peaks and low periods over the 24 hour day. For example, we typically have the highest blood pressure at 6:30PM and the lowest blood pressure right before a huge jump at 6:30AM. Our body is warmest at 7:00PM and coolest at 4:30AM. We are most alert at 10:00AM and have the best coordination at 2:30PM. These and other swings are very predictable and they impact about half of the roughly 20,000 genes we have in our body.

Early in the scientific discovery process, this doctor found that medication, when taken in sync with specific aspects of the systemic oscillation delivered optimal results. The drugs were more effective and more impactful when compared with administration at any other time of the day. By simply altering the specific time medication is brought into our bodies, we could enjoy better, perhaps optimal results!

You’d think the medical community would leap onto these findings. Better results with virtually no downside? Even if, after five years of added study, they determined that timing was not the thing that accelerated performance, there is no downside. The patient is still taking the same medicine and the results are the same results. It should have been a win-win. Yet he met with a less than receptive medical community.

I feel his pain. I talk about lighting and have talked about lighting for almost 20 years. I’m not alone. There are many lighting professionals who are trying to help people move toward better lighting. Initially, the goal was better functioning spaces and now, an effort to increase healthy results. Some larger corporations have embraced the idea, but the concept has largely been ignored, even at health care facilities. Because good lighting is “different” than the lighting currently used and because the timing of drug intake is “different” than normal medication distribution, change is a bit like Lloyd Bridges’ command to turn an aircraft carrier around to pick up his blown-off hat in the movie “Hot Shots!,” possible, but unlikely…and very difficult.

In the future, we will be using light that is more sensitive to the circadian (and other) cycles in our body and hospitals and prescription instructions will time the intake of drugs to coincide with the optimal cycle movement. In-hospital med-pass efficiency will likely take a back seat. The reason is the preponderance of evidence. Healthy lighting will probably be more complicated. Some will acquiesce and others will treat it like smoking warnings and COVID immunization shots. The majority will heed the advice, but a percentage will ignore their doctor and lighting pros. You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Categories
Lighting Commentary

More Windows, Better Light, Happier Employees

Google’s New Offices at St. John’s Terminal

A March 2022, The New Yorker article discussed the new Google headquarters in the former St. John’s Terminal building on West Street in lower Manhattan. Nicknamed a “groundscaper,” the architects responsible are defining this as the office space of the future. The concept of horizontal movement as compared with vertical in a city like New York is different, if not controversial. With limited land, up is often the only way to move. If, however, you are Google, money is not the key metric. Employee retention and good, healthy office space is more important. With those parameters, a space can be created with wide stairs for impromptu meeting and “villages” of workers, within close proximity to outdoor, wraparound terraces.

From the perspective of lighting, the walls are all glass. As I have mentioned in a number of past posts, there is growing scientific advantages of better lighting and daylighting in particular. New ideas, such as this one typically start with newer, vibrant companies and often, never get much farther down to where “the rest of us” work. (Raise your hand if your company has a fully-stocked cereal bar next to the coffee pot… Seeing no hands, I’ll continue.)

Things could change now. (Emphasis on “could.”) With more people working from home, a healthy, light-filled office might be just the enticement needed to bring people into a cooperative environment again. A full dose of light will make the work go well and prepare the worker for a great night’s sleep. If return to the office becomes an upcoming corporate desire, good light might be part of the enticement found in new office spaces. Dare I hope for better lighting?

Most office lighting is bad. I used to annually visit the editorial staff and writers of shelter magazines scattered all over Manhattan. While the Hearst Tower, the first LEED Gold building in New York, is efficient, well-lit and beautifully, it is an anomaly. Most of the publications occupy offices tucked into old buildings with poor lighting and even worse placement. I was once talking with an editor about energy efficiency under 20 year old magnetic ballast troffers that hadn’t been cleaned in 19. When I pointed out the dichotomy, the staff brushed off the thought and turned it back into reality. “The lighting is controlled by the landlord and they have no incentive to make things better. We pay the electric costs. They don’t care.”

Could this reality change? Will commercial building space be more plentiful? Will landlords compete for tenants? Could improved lighting turn into an enticement?

Perhaps this is just a lighting guy fantasizing over what might be. Finally, all of my speeches, interviews and public comments worked! Unlikely. Something else, this time, tenant and employee retention and acquisition, not Jeff, might actually be the thing that turns the tide. Sorry Jeff…but do keep trying!

Categories
Technical Lighting Help

Shooting Ourselves in the LED Foot

If you have read any number of my blogs posts, you know I am “bullish” on technological advances in the home. I was involved, early-on with adopting LED to residential products. I firmly believe smart home automation is inevitable and self-controlled residential environments are going to be more common than not. That said, the lighting industry has NEVER been a tech-industry and as such, they are wholly unprepared to deal with problems, such as quickly evolving and improving products. This inability has gotten them into trouble with consumers.

A friend called last week. He was trying to re-lamp his dining room and foyer chandeliers with LED retrofit candelabra lamps. In a previous conversation, I suggested he stick with a major brand, buy all the same product at one time and I also gave him color temperature (CCT) recommendations. (This is advice I also give to industry personnel and related design professionals.) He needed 23 lamps, so he “cleaned the shelves” at a local retailer. The ladder was out, the lamps were going in and once he had finished, he noticed a difference.

To create an LED version of a flame-shaped candelabra lamp, the engineers have strung LED into bands to visually replicate the appearance of a filament. Most of the lamps employed two bands of LED, but a handful use four. While the lumen output was equal, the appearance was different.

The packaging was the same. Lumen output was the same. The UPC number was the same, as were two additional sets of numbers. The rub arrived in the sixth number printed on the back of the carton. There lay the difference.

My friend did all of the right thing. He consulted with a lighting expert (me!), bought the same brand product with the same color characteristics, bought them from the same retailer, at the same time and still got burned. Honestly, I wonder if I would have noticed the variation and I have been helping people buy the correct lighting for almost a half-century.

The exact same lumen output, wattage consumption and carton appearance, but inside were decidedly different looking lamps.
The same PC number, the same description code, the same UPC number, but a different Res number, the only indicator that there is something amiss.

The incandescent light bulb you bought in 1985 is exactly the same as the ones on a shelf today. That is how consumers currently relate to light bulbs. It is also, apparently, how major manufacturers treat them. It is time for them to do better so the consumer can easily transition to the new world.

Visit your local Best Buy and ask them for a 2015 Samsung flat-screen and you will be laughed out of the store. There are a ton of iPhone 8 still in use, but you cannot buy a new one. Technology companies, with rapidly changing product know how to get the correct version to their customer. Lighting people do not.

I recently bought a sleeve for my iPad and could not complete the order without including the model and version. A small, one-person, technology support supplier making hand-stitched, felt covers for computers, iPads and phones has adapted her business to the multiple versions of tech products. It is time for the lighting industry to up their game. We are not living in Thomas Edison’s world any longer.

For a long time, I have indicated a preference for new integrated LED luminaires, as opposed to socketed luminaires using retrofit LED lamps. That works for most product, except where the lamp is a part of the aesthetics. Integrated luminaires will not have this problem.

We still live in an incandescent world, we are incandescent-inclined, we are born into a world where lighting fixture maintenance and repair is an innate skill. We feel compelled to change light bulbs. This will be hard habit to break. Dumb missteps by lamp suppliers will make the path harder, not easier.

Categories
Lighting Commentary

Observations on LightFair 2022

While I did attend some extremely informative education sessions this year and the information I took with me will be helpful, my overall experience at LightFair 2022 was lukewarm. Part of the reason was the limited quantity of exhibitors, part was the physical space and the last part was a simple lack of enthusiasm.

Education

I attended educational sessions covering Turtle Protection Lighting, Visual Complexity, Resilient Lighting, Built Environment Lighting, Sustainability, Custom Luminaires, Replicating GUV lighting with existing software packages and the dynamic lighting effects available with the use of DMX512. My challenge now is to sieve through the data and determine how that will realize itself in residential lighting. Look for future posts on these topics.

Products

Only a few things on the show floor piqued my interest. Here’s a quick rundown.

The Glint Lighting Hero track-head is different than most. The head stays in place and direction of light is regulated with the use of a small “joystick” that can be fixed, once placement has been established. This is great for two reasons. Visually, you don’t have competing heads bent in varied directions along a ceiling. Secondly, the light will stay where the designer wants it. Once fixed, errant lights, loosened joints and drooping cans are a thing of the past. This is a nice simple solution.

LightFair 2022 – Glint – Fixed track head with fully adjustable direction via internal mechanics.

https://www.glintlighting.com/products/hero-track

Beelite, a company I have only know as providing ammonia resistant poultry lighting, showed a cute little collection of rechargeable patio lights. Nothing on their website as yet, but keep an eye out for these!

https://www.beelitebulb.com/

I know there have been a lot of variations on the theme of flexible LED filled tubing, but the Tivoli Flexile could be a nice addition to a space. To prove my point, right down the aisle was LumoTubo with very much the same thing. This proves again how much LED has changed our approach to lighting.

LightFair 2022 – Tivoli – Flexible tube lighting
LightFair 2022 – LumoTubo – flexible tube lighting

Have I missed the Modern Forms Juliet sconce, or is it new? Never mind. It is a stunner!

LightFair 2022 – Modern Forms – Juliet sconce

https://www.modernforms.com/

Within their architectural systems category, Wagner Architectural Products includes Lumenrail, lighting solutions for railing. I was especially drawn to the lighted post, a dot of light tucked up inside a wrap, rather than on the rail portion. I thought this was a nice idea.

LightFair 2022 – Wagner Architectural Products lighted post cuff.

I was reminded of this product while talking to a friend on the show floor. Concealite hides fire alarms and emergency lighting behind revolving panels. GUV lighting options are recently available. They also provide emergency “Exit” signs that disappear into the drywall for a much more aesthetically sensitive result. If you’re involved in a commercial buildings, this is a nice resource.

LightFair 2022 – Concealite – Fire alarm hidden within the joist space of a wall.

https://www.concealite.com/

Both Pure Edge and Klus showed customizable LED solutions using aluminum extrusions. The Pure Edge TruCirque allows for the creation of drywall deep circles from 3’-0” to 18’-0” in diameter. The LED Tape is applied to the edge(s) of the extrusion and a snap-in lens is then provided. Klus MIFOR70 invites custom designed curved form luminaires (within some pretty broad parameters) to be imagined. Both clearly indicate how LED is changing the concept of lighting and decorative luminaires.

https://www.pureedgelighting.com/pure/products/trucirque.php?bc=Products%7CRecessed%7CRecessed%20Curved

https://klusdesign.com/product/1973

The Show Floor

Try as I might, I could not seem to navigate my way effectively around the show floor. Aisles seemed to “dead-end” and booths were placed pell-mell around the floor. Right before I left, I figured I’d cruise once more around the show. Amazingly, I saw some things I had not noticed before. Trade shows often have a few aisles that do not conform to the “x-y” grid, but when the bulk of the show is like that, it becomes an issue.

To get inside the show, everyone was funneled through a single opening. That opening led everyone to a divider-protected “pen” with two, even smaller openings to enter and exit the show floor. I think Temple Grande designed this entrance, assuming we were all cattle in need of guidance, on our way to slaughter.

The Las Vegas Convention Center West Hall Building

As you might expect, the new hall is modern and pleasant. The three older halls have become dated and in need of a clean-up, so it was nice to be in a new space. Unfortunately, little thought was given to the visitors arriving at the hall.

The Monorail, simply the best way to get to the old halls now drops attendees over a mile away from the new hall doors. After exiting the Monorail, it travels directly alongside the new building. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have coordinated with the city and add a stop at the West Hall? Taking the SDX strip express bus would seem to be a perfect alternative, but unfortunately, the RTC has suspended that express service! The LVCC solution is, walk more, or….

The LVCC LOOP

Moving people is obviously an aspect that was overlooked in the planning of the convention center expansion. Sure, walking is an option. Exactly what every show attendee wants to do more! Why wasn’t a much more comprehensive and usable solution installed?

Instead of a bi-directional Monorail or tram, or even a loop system (not sure about the right-of-way across the street from the convention center) connecting the halls, the LVCC bought into Elan Musk’s boring system. This has resulted in the most cumbersome people moving concept I’ve ever experiences.

A tunnel has been bored between the South Hall and a plaza space between the North and Central Halls, then onto the new West Hall. Rather than installing a train, or tram to travel the underground route, individual Tesla cars are driving people, three at a time to their hall destination.

WHAT??

You read correctly. On the first day, I waited with two others for fifteen minutes for the next available chauffeured car at a poorly attended show!! What is going to happen at the Consumer Electronics Show with almost 200,000 attendees? Even worse, if you are arriving at the show early, as I did for the early morning education sessions, the LOOP is closed!

LightFair 2022 – Las Vegas Convention Center LOOP – Waiting for the next chauffer to arrive and take guest through the tube to the West Hall.

I actually think Musk has something in his bore technology. This, however is a laughable implementation with which he should be embarrassed to be associated.

LightFair Booths

Seriously people. We’re supposed to be lighting experts. That being said, why are so many booths glare bombs? I passed one booth with 10,000 lumens of light poking me in the eye. From beyond the blinding glare, a voice, “May I help you?” I couldn’t see if it was Mephistopheles or an exhibitor. In an effort to avoid permanent retinal damage, or eternal damnation, I ran away.

Check out these blinding examples of poor, uninviting light.

LightFair 2022 – GLARE! filled booth
LightFair 2022 – GLARE filled booth
LightFair 2022 – GLARE filled booth.

Now, look at this image. The booth was filled with light, but none of it was blinding. There was a crowd almost every time I passed. Good lighting means good business! It is time for exhibitors to do better!

LightFair – A pleasantly lit, glare-free booth. What a shocker!!

The Best Booth

RAB devoted two large floor areas to four blocks of ice suspended over acrylic buckets, there to collect the dripping water. Visitors did not know what to make of it, compelling them to interact with the RAB personnel on hand.

LightFair 2022 – RAB – The most meaningful booth in the show.

Each cube was marked with a QR Code that linked to a video on climate change. It was an effective message about RABs intended direction. In the 100° Las Vegas climate with just released news reports on dangerously low levels of water in the Colorado River and the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs, it reinforces the need for action.

The Funniest Point

LightFair 2022 – LVCC signage confusion – Photo taken while standing in front of room W228 after passing it twice!

A new hall. The first show many people have attended in two years. I’m standing in front of Room 228. Guess how many times I passed the room before checking in? Obviously, there are a few bugs that need to be cleaned up before the new West Hall is ready for prime time!

LightFair 2023

I might indicate here that things can only look up and LightFair 2023 in New York will be better. I’m not sure I believe that. I’ll go, but it could be my last if something doesn’t change. It had a good run. It might be time for retirement.

Categories
Technical Lighting Help

Lighting Safety

Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

Perhaps one of the most highly regulated types of lighting is that which is placed in closets. Over a year ago, I wrote a whole blog post on deciphering the nuances of the National Electric Code requirements concerning this rather obscure light placement. https://lightingbyjeffrey.com/2021/03/29/closet-lighting/

At the start of the late 1970s energy crisis, efficiency gurus urged homeowners to add more and more insulation in their attics. That, unfortunately trapped heat in ceiling mounted outlet boxes. The increased temperatures caused wire insulation to melt.

Fabric, stacked against poorly placed electric lighting in closets and disintegrating electrical wire insulation, both resulted in fires. The NEC added stricter requirements for closets and Underwriters Laboratories recognized the root cause of increases in fires and elevated the testing requirements, now performed in insulated ceilings. These are safety measures aided by outside oversight. Are there steps the average homeowner can take to insure safety? Here are a few thoughts.

Obey Wattage Labels

Since many of us are using LED replacement lamps, ignoring wattage labels is becoming more common. Try not to become complacent, especially if you are still using incandescent lamping. Wattage labels are a meaningful part of the safe operation of your light source.

Especially problematic are those applications where the lamp base (the threaded portion of the light bulb) is position in an “up” direction. (Remember your high school science, heat rises!) If a 60W maximum is specified and a 100W light bulb is used, the envelop size is the same, but the temperature created is substantially higher. That means the wire will be exposed to hotter temperature levels and deterioration can result.

My mother had a pole lamp that she could not live without. It was illuminated all evening, she read, did puzzles and knitted using it and when she couldn’t see well, as cataracts took more and more of her visual clarity, she simply increased the light bulb wattage. Of course, eventually it stopped working. I got a call to “fix her light.” My first reaction was replacement. “No! I like this one. You’re a lighting guy. Can’t you fix it?”

After I tore the pole lamp apart, I found barely functioning wire. It was all brown and brittle. The Bakelite sockets fell apart in my hand. Were she not a self-sufficient person, a fire could have easily destroyed her home. I rewired it with heavier wire and porcelain sockets. Go ahead mom, use whatever wattage you need. It is built for maximum wattage now.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a son, who is a lighting guy. Most people can’t teardown a fifty year-old pole lamp, rebuild it for higher temperatures and set it up for another 50 years of use. To avoid that, follow the wattage labeling instructions. (Please don’t call me! Rebuilding pole lamps are a pain in the keister!)

Obey Mounting Labels

Many luminaires are engineered to function in a specific direction. A “mounting direction” label indicates “This End Up” to insure proper operation. I’ve mentioned multiple time my neighbor, who has his porch light mounted upside-down. Were it not for the eave above, the unit would fill with rainwater and electrically-short, causing serious damage. He didn’t pay attention to the mounting instruction. Don’t make the same mistake as my neighbor.

Adequate Kitchen Lighting

How often would you walk through a dark room with a sharp object ¼” from your carotid artery? Unless you share some character traits with the Marquis de Sade, this adventure is unlikely. Why then would you cut carrots on a poorly lit countertop? When we bought our current home, there was a single light on a fan in the middle of the kitchen. When we cleaned the room prior to moving-in, I was surprised there were no finger segments that accidentally fell behind the refrigerator! To avoid parasuicide, install proper lighting. General kitchen lighting should be of a recommended level with supplemental under-cabinet lighting a must.

Nighttime Navigation

Attempting to walk from the bed to bathroom at night continues to cause numerous injuries that accelerate with age. Regardless of our familiarity with the surroundings, we still need the aid of light to traverse this short distance. Consider one of the following:

  • A motion activated light under the bed. Once your feet touch the floor, a sensor detects their presence and turns on a light.
  • Include a switch next to each side of the bed, connected to a light that travels the distance between bed and toilet. I recently recommended this idea to a client. The bed was centered in the bedroom with entrance to the bathroom from two directions, one on each side, for each of the sleeping partners. We connected the switch to a few junction box-mounted, aisle lights in the hall and a strip of LED Tape under the vanity counter. On the opposite side, the second switch illuminated different hall lights, but the same under-vanity light. The owners were extremely satisfied.
  • Remember that all nighttime lighting should be aimed downward and indirect. The reduction of glare will be easier to use with sensitive night vision in place.

Stairs

If nighttime navigation is the number one fall risk in a home, stairs are second, again, especially egregious for seniors. Find those areas where steps and staircases reside in the dark and add some light. Look for landings and step treads that are the same color. Consider steps used regularly at night. Solve the problem with step and aisle lights on the adjacent wall, or use strips of LED Tape under each tread. Railing is also sold with an embed strip of LED Tape, or it can be easily added to an existing rail. Regardless of the method, light the stairs!

Safe

When we think of safety in a home, our mind snaps to bathtub falls, silent CO2 gases and errant fireplace cinders. We might not automatically think about eliminating some of the other, more popular incidents with correctly placed light. Light can help avoid incidents, but we should avoid lighting misuse incidents, as well. Paying attention to both will make the home a much safer place in which to live.

Categories
Aesthetic Lighting Help

Interesting Things I Saw In NYC/ICFF 2022

Sure, I’m a “Lighting Guy” but it is impossible to visit showrooms, galleries, design show floors and window-shop without seeing things outside of lighting that attract attention and ultimately will interact with lighting in the residential environment. While exploring the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and the streets of New York, the following items could not be ignored.

A New Finish Direction?

I immediately fell in love with the new Umber finish show by THG called simply “Umber”. If you’ve been around metallic finishes for a while, you might remember the Burnished Umber or Umbered Brass finish popular in the late 1990s. It was created by oxidizing brass and polishing off the oxidization into a sheen, rather than the matte found in antiqued finishes. The oxidization was brownish. The new THG Umber has more black with red undertones. Darker than the brass now used, this could be a nice brass/bronze finish alternative, or next-gen brass direction. The same finish is also available in a matte version, equally interesting.

https://www.thg-paris.com/international/en/finishes

Plumbing & Texture

I was struck by the addition of textural elements in some new plumbing products. Brizo showed the new Tulham faucet with a glossy faceted ring on the end of a matte ensemble. This small ring detail was a nice way to extend the idea that some accessories are indeed, the “jewelry of the home.”

https://www.brizo.com/

ICFF 2022 – Brizo Tulham faucet set with faceted trim ring

Similarly, Samuel Heath, the British “tap” manufacturer used a faceted ring around the handles of their One Hundred Collection. Stiloform, an Austrian company displayed a faucet with a knurled shaft that extended the texture idea into new areas.

https://www.samuel-heath.com/

ICFF 2022 – Samuel Heath One Hundred Collection
ICFF 2022 – Stiloform

Perhaps some of the most interesting and amazing faucets in the whole show were on view at Uniq-e! an Italian concern that appears to be reinventing all of the known parameters surrounding faucets. A quick look through their website information will provide an idea of their creativity.

https://uniq-e.it/en_index.php

ICFF 2022 – Uniq-e!

Sinks

For the last couple of decades, vessel sinks have been sucking up all most all of the creative air in the bathroom space. Thankfully, that era is at an end. Placing the proverbial nail in the coffin, a number of manufacturers were helping designers to ease out of their reliance to these ubiquitous sink options. Perhaps the most engaging and “fun” were the cast concrete sinks shown by Kast. In fresh colors and interesting shapes, these will quickly allow a homeowner to forget they ever hear of a vessel. They can read as modern, deco, mid-century or slightly retro. These are exciting options for the progressive home.

https://kastconcretebasins.com/

ICFF 2022 – Kast

The LaCava Linea sink has reinvented the vanity and enclosed it within an invisible frame of square tubing. Add to the mix a delightful collection of colors and it immediately ups the appearance of any bathroom. There is also a wide variety of frame configurations available. I like this look.

https://www.lacava.com/

ICFF 2022 – LaCava Linea

I am a sucker for almost anything Philippe Starck does and his White Tulip collection for Duravit is no exception. With just the gentlest of curves, the standing sink opens at the top to serve as a beautifully sculpted tower sink. The tub and surface mounted sink feature the same appealing curve. This is a stunning bathroom suite.

https://www.duravit.us/

ICFF 2022 – Duravit White Tulip collection by Philippe Starck

On the opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum are the handmade sinks from Whitebirk. Made in England, these sinks are beautifully crafted, but lean a touch more traditional. Again, color is being used to better differentiate what is available from a high-quality supplier and that which is purchased through mass-retailers.

ICFF 2022 – Whitebirk

Outdoor Living

The partnership between Danver and Brown Jordan has produced exciting outdoor kitchens in bold, unusual colors (notice a pattern here?) Danver showed an electric yellow outdoor kitchen and a contemporary pink option. The acceptance of colored laundry room appliances, then high-end ranges (or was the progression reversed?) has allowed consumers to feel comfortable using big ticket items in something other than stainless steel. I think this is a wonderful step forward. We can never have too much color in a home.

ICFF 2022 Danver outdoor kitchen for Brown Jordan
ICFF 2022 – Danver outdoor kitchen for Brown Jordan

Opiary is a Brooklyn creator of concrete outdoor furnishings. The product is so fluid and organic that it belies the tough material employed in fabrication. Seating, water features, tables, planters and surrounds are all built for an unyielding outdoor reality, but look as if they are delicate and born of the earth.

https://opiary.com/

ICFF 2022 – Opiary outdoor living

Furniture

Interestingly, I’m seeing fewer and fewer new and exciting things in furniture. Yes, I liked the Bernhardt seating and I loved the joint between leg and top of the Ethnicraft PI tables. I also loved the student presentations of a table (Johannes Lu) and chair (Lara Villa) in the ICFF Studio. Despite that, I’m just not seeing the next “big thing” beyond the reemergence of beige I discussed in the 2021 report.

https://bernhardt.com/

ICFF 2022 – Bernhardt

https://www.ethnicraft.com/us/en/

ICFF 2022 – Ethnocraft – PI leg-top joint
ICFF 2022 – Studio – Chair by Lara Villa
ICFF 2022 – Studio – Table by Johannes Lu

Wallpaper

Wallpaper continues to be BIG, BOLD and exciting. A quick review of the options available from Wow Papers reveals an explosion of color and patterns. Even the staff manning the booth were dressed commensurately. The patterns replicated illuminated surfaces with blasts of neon and lighted tubes. Flavor Paper options were tame in comparison, but not when set aside toile versions of the past. Both of these companies believe that if a wall is going to be covered, it may as well be for a reason…a very bold reason. I love these extreme wall covering options!

https://wowpapers.com/

https://www.flavorpaper.com/wallpaper

ICFF 2022 – Flavor Paper

Accessories

Two different accessories stood out to me. JD Staron creates rugs like Flavor and Wow create wallpaper, big and bold. This bespoke creator can deliver a variety of custom handwoven rug options. Each is more beautiful than the next.

https://www.jdstaron.com/

ICFF – J D Staron – area rugs

Equally interesting were the mirrors shown by Zieta. One might initially believe these are fabricated from blown glass, but instead they are metal formed in Poland using the internal pressure, FiDU process. This involves welding thin plates of metal together at the edge, then inflating the assembly to create the interesting shapes. Sort of like a balloon made of metal! Construction process aside, what really matters is the amazing result. Airy mirrors, “blow-up” tables and ice cube columns. Really amazing stuff. I encourage you to follow the link below and check out some of their other projects.

ICFF 2022 – Zieta inflated metal

Fashion

I’m always challenged to understand how personal fashion connects with home furnishings. Window shopping New York revealed light, feminine colors and fabrics and dainty jewelry for women and a wider color palette of equally light materials for men. The dichotomy here is the shoes. Sure, there is an occasional spike heal and slim brogue, but most women’s shoes were heavy, clunky and dark, while men are being sold heavy sports sneakers. What does this mean? Do we want a carefree life of fun and excitement, but our feet must be firmly planted on the ground to do so? Is the weight a counterbalance to the fluff we encounter daily? Are we both serious and goofy at the same time? The differences certainly make for an interesting conversation starter.

Faith Ringgold – The New Museum

Perhaps the single more interesting thing I experienced in New York this spring was the Faith Ringgold retrospective at The New Museum. This was a fascinating review of a 50+ year career that explores and attempt to understand the life of a Black, female artist in a world that is primarily centered on white European men.

She supplants herself in classic European cultural environments, places where no African descendants were likely to be found. It forces one to ask, “But, why not?” why wasn’t a Black artist, or simply a female amongst the masters in Arles? Shouldn’t a Black artist or writer have been involved in the roundtable conversations at Gertrude Stein’s Paris salons? While not invited and not expected, her art forced the viewer to see her image there and ask, why this is not a reality. Why would she have been relegated to Alice B Toklas’ separate room each Saturday evening?

Her artistic questions do not stop there. She brought the same perplexing questions into her later work. Women and Black individuals are missing from so many of our cultural milestones. Today we see images of Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Ketanji Brown Jackson, but we are well into the 21st Century. Ringgold’s art forced the point decades prior. Is it possible her work established a path to these “firsts?”

Ms. Ringgold remains an active artist, now well into her 90s. She continues to force everyone to recon with the failings of an American society to include ALL of its citizens. By doing so, through her art, Faith Ringgold explains the losses and missed opportunities we all face.

New York

No, I did not spend all of my time working in New York! I caught some exciting new shows on Broadway. A Strange Loop and POTUS should be on your list! I also ate at some dynamic new restaurants. Consider a visit to the inventive, Ernesto’s, Kimika and The Commerce Inn. By considering all a city has to offer, a better idea of where we are going can be imagined. I can’t wait to go back and see what is next!

Categories
Lighting Commentary

Interesting Lighting I Saw In NYC/ICFF 2022

The pandemic has disrupted many things in our lives, trade shows being among the most noticeable, especially for older people like me. As I’ve indicated previously, I believe these shows have one foot on a roller skate and the other on a banana peel. COVID just oiled the surface. I think the way industry responds in 2023 will provide a good indication of whether they are down for the count. This, of course, depends on a virus-free 12-months. Additional variants of Mr. C and all bets are off.

Even though the 2021 version of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) was just six months ago, to hop back into their typical mid-May schedule, another edition just occurred. Because if lacked the BDNY “half” featured in the fall of 2021, the 2022 outing was smaller. There also appeared to be fewer people. The shops, showrooms and galleries of New York showed minimal change as well. Nonetheless, there were new things and items that forced notice. This post discusses just the lighting. A future post will talk about the “non-lighting” items of interest.

Tom Dixon

First, Tom Dixon taught us copper was ok, then he told us gold/brass is coming. He moved from simple shaped metal shades to blown glass orbs and now the blown glass has taken on a distorted, amorphous “melted” shape. The Melt shades are huge, or small and multiples are pulled into chandeliers. The exciting option this year is a polished, black nickel, or metallic black option that carries a subtle purple tint. An LED disc/module tucked up into the shade provides illumination.

https://www.tomdixon.net/en_us/melt-led-pendant-us-3-configurable.html

NYC – Tom Dixon 2022

Artemide

Artemide appears to have gotten the message from Tom Dixon and has produced Stellar Nebular, a collection of quasi-symmetrical, dichromatic clear glass pendants that appear simple, but alter in appearance and color as you move around them.

https://www.artemide.com/en/search?searchString=stellar+nebular

NYC – Artemide – Stellar Nebular – 2022

Arrival borrows similar amorphous shapes, but relegates them to a tripod frames. The skeletal outlines feature LED built into the rails. Table lamps, floor lamps and semi-flush ceiling units have been created. I love the extremely long semi-flush. This size is needed and should be more popular than it is currently. These are not yet available in the US and still a few weeks away in Europe, but I feel they will be worth the wait.

NYC – Artemide – Arrival – 2022

Foscarini

A fun additions to their line this year. Based on the monumental bust of Nefertiti, the Nile lamp diffuser resembles her head and crown, while the lamp base is shaped like her neck and shoulder.

NYC – Foscarini – Nile Lamp 2022

Juniper

In all of the ICFF show floor, I was most impressed with a new approach to track lighting. The Multiverse is an extremely thin track. Endcaps are available flat and rounded. They can transition from ceiling to wall mounting. The adjustable heads have a magnetic feature that allows them to be momentarily set in place, before a collar is then tightened into position. The track is paintable and available in a wide variety of finishes. This is a substantially more appealing track system and should be considered for a different answer to a common lighting solution.

https://juniper-design.com/multiverse-power-distribution-system/

ICFF 2022 – Juniper – Multiverse track system

Cuero

Perhaps not new or earthshattering, but the leather cone pendants from Cuero Design were beautiful. The variety of natural, vegetable dye finishes was also appealing. As we transition to more beige interiors, these colors and simple shapes will fit in nicely.

ICFF 2022 – Cuero Design leather pendant

Sharon Marston

You might have thought, fiber optics have had their day and it is time to move on to the next technological trend. Certainly, LED and laser lighting is more exciting. Sharon Marston has created a collection of ethereal, phantasy-based luminaires that when shown, collectively stopped the show traffic. Employing the thin fiber strands, tiny crystal figures and miniature glass diffusers, you were immediately relaxed and brought into a new plane of existence. These were beautiful pieces.

https://www.sharonmarston.com/

ICFF 2022 – Sharon Marston – Fiber optics and ethereal designs

Jamie Harris Studio

Jamie Harris is a Brooklyn glass blower and he has shown products at a number of New York venues over the years. The stacked discs pendants and ceiling units are appealing. They expand across large areas and the individual disc is smooth, polished and alive with color.

https://www.jamieharris.com/custom-lighting

ICFF 2022 – Jamie Harris – stacked plates of glass

Parachilna

This is an Australian company with a modern version of Moroccan lighting. The Ma-Rock is an all metal pendant collection, pierced to allow light movement. It is a dominant piece that will command a space, just like its classic predecessors.

ICFF 2022 – Parachilna – Ma-Rock pendant

The Gweilo collection takes acrylic panels and melts or distorts them into floor lamps whereby the LED edge lights the contorted shape. Despite the clear material, like their Ma-Rock brother, these would demand a central point in a room and cannot not be ignored.

https://www.parachilna.eu/

ICFF 2022 – Parachilna – Gweilo lamp

Katy Skelton

This Georgia based lighting designer has developed a line of simple, clean and unassuming products. They almost have a light, “trapeze” feel with a heightened sense of construction and a deep understanding of the way in which the units are connected to the building.

ICFF 2022 – Katy Skelton linear pendant

Tom Kirk Lighting

As with Katy Skelton, the simple quasi-teardrop shape of the Cintola collection appears unassuming, but with multiple colors and configurations, the core design element bubbles up into a useful luminaire baseline.

https://tomkirk.com/shop/collections/ceiling/

ICFF 2022 – Tom Kirk – Cintola collection

Talbot & Yoon

Their Loop Light is an easy concept with which to create unique and customizable wall art lighting. By piecing together bent segments of tube with a ball lampholder, an endless trail of lights and curves can be presented on a wall.

Some of the science of light is telling us we may need more light delivered from vertical surfaces. Adding that light via an artistic approach such as this will make the clinical necessity much more palatable.

http://www.talbotandyoon.com/

ICFF 2022 – Talbot & Yoon – Loop Light

Swadoh

In the United States, there is no more unique city than New Orleans, so it makes sense that Swadoh, the byproduct of a French designer who has relocated there, would be creating such unique lighting options. They have a very feminine feel made of papers, fabric, guilt accents and some conventional materials. Their different approach is worth a quick review of their website. They could be an interesting addition to many interiors.

https://www.swadoh.com/

ICFF 2022 – Swadoh – Lighting

Koncept

Koncept always shows a new idea that answers a current lighting problem. This year, Yurei is a shallow pendant shade realized in glass (teal tint, clear, copper-bronze and black smoke) and metal (white and black). The illumination comes from a disc of LED that sits against the inside top surface. I like the size of these pieces. They have not yet been released to the market, but if interested, Koncept will notify those who sign-up on their website.

https://www.koncept.com/yurei

ICFF 2022 – Koncept – Yurei

Trella

The new Benedict collection starts with two nested spheres that surround a glass globe. This module is then used in a couple of sizes and singularly, as a pendant and in multiples as a chandelier. Because they are handmade, many customizable options are available.

https://www.trellastudio.com/

ICFF 2022 – Trella – Benedict

Of the many new products created each year, it is sometimes difficult to get a grasp on them all. While I worry about the validity of shows like ICFF and even the retail establishments that are slowly dwindling in SOHO, lower Park Avenue and the Flatiron District, I still appreciate their existence. Speaking for people my age, I need these physical entities to exist a few more years. Younger folks, apparently, have found better, more efficient ways to track new goods. A transition is now in place. Until that is complete, I’ll continue to record trend shifts coming to me in the only way I understand.

Categories
Aesthetic Lighting Help

Tetrachromatic Vision

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Each month, I deliver an educational lecture to hundreds of talented designers and architects from across the United States and Canada. A recent event centered on the color of light, a subject that has leapfrogged in importance exponentially since the introduction of LED and which I have spent a fair amount of time studying. In the Q&A section, for the first time, in a long time, I was stumped by a question. One of the designers wanted to know what I understood about those with tetrachromatic vision. Like a teenage boy being asked to define onomatopoeia and differentiate between a gerund and a noun, I mumbled, “Ahhh, I don’t know.”

Days after my Rick Perry, “Duhhh?” moment, a friend, who knows of and understands my interest in all things color, sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal discussing the research of tetrachromatic sight. (The Rare Gift of Seeing Extra Color – Jackie Higgins, February 22, 2022) The world was telling me it is time for some additional study.

Human color perception is delivered through tri-stimulus values. In other words, we have three photoreceptors in our eyes, one with peak sensitivity for blue, one with more highly refined sensitive to green and the third with heightened sensitivity for red. Images enter our eyes, the colors are separated into three “buckets” (R,G&B) and the information is sent to our brains for processing the understanding of the color of an object. (If you’re an ophthalmologist reading this, I apologize for that simplistic explanation!) If a person has some sort of color-blindness, one, or more of those photoreceptors does not work properly. If a person has tetrachromatic vision, they have a fourth photoreceptor. This fourth receptor allows that person to perceive higher gradations of color.

What Does Tetrachromatic Vision Do?

Explaining this is akin to developing an orthographic projection of an M. C. Escher drawing. How do we understand a higher level of color perception, when we, or the researchers can never experience it?

Imagine two paint samples. The average person sees the same color. In his research on color perception at Kodak, David MacAdams found that 90% of the population had average color comprehension, but about 10% had some level of elevated ability. They are able to hone in on the nuances and discern a difference. Those folks are likely my audience of designers, but also printers, photographers, artists, paint store specialists and even a few like MacAdams, a Physicists and Color Scientists. To understand persons with tetrachromatic vision, they see multiples of differences even in color samples perceived to be the same, by the rarified 10%.

Hourly and salaried wage-earners are the 90%, the 10% with better color perception are millionaires and those with tetrachromatic vison are the multi-billionaires of the world. Just a few, with overabundant powers.

So How Do We Respond to These Talents?

Unless the designer is equally gifted, it is near impossible to design to the demands of a tetrachromatic client. From comments provide by those with tetrachromatic vision, they also have no way of perceiving a life of color in any other way. How does one understand what one does not possess?

Recruiting people with tetrachromatic vision into the field of LED technology would be very helpful. Their superior color perception could help in the development of better products. If it passes muster with them, the rest of us will be well served with lighting of perfect quality. Wage-earners, millionaires or billionaires will all have great light. That egalitarian color solution sounds pretty good to me!