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 September 12, 2022   

A Peek Inside the Upcoming LightSPEC West Event

2022 09 lightspec west.jpg

Lighting industry thought leaders to deliver programs in L.A. later this month


The inaugural LightSPEC West kicks off at the Magic Box @ the Reef in Los Angeles, CA September 21-22, 2022.  The event is expected to involve over 170 lighting and controls exhibitors while also delivering over 15 programs on various lighting-related topics.  Below, Clifton Stanley Lemon, Program Director, LightSPEC Conferences shares previews of some of the programs that are scheduled for the upcoming event.


Start with Daylightdaylight134.jpg

Almost everyone prefers beautifully balanced daylight in buildings, especially when it comes from windows that also provide great views. Yet for many reasons, much of our current built environment simply doesn’t provide these daylight and views. What to do, especially if you don’t have anything to say about the building siting, massing, skin, and fenestration in the first place?

It’s certainly very hard to change buildings after they’re built. To use a medical analogy, we often treat the symptoms of an ailing building with technology – replicating sunlight with electric light and developing ever more complex lighting systems – rather than the underlying cause, which is lack of daylight and views. Traditionally daylighting design has not been the purview of the lighting designer, but this is changing, as innovative firms take a more holistic approach to lighting and daylighting design that includes close integration with architecture and other building systems.

At LightSPEC West in Los Angeles on September 21, Teal Brogden and Venna Resurreccion of HLB Lighting present a talk entitled Experiencing the Daylight Dynamic. HLB is one of the few lighting firms in the U.S. with a deep and robust practice in daylighting design, and they’ve developed an exemplary practice in integrating daylight with electric light. Their talk will will focus on the design process and the many health and wellness benefits of daylight and views through a series of exemplary case studies. Teal and Venna will describe ways in which regenerative lighting design uses daylight first before considering electric light, and how the two can be balanced. They will present data on the impact of views and daylight on real estate value, productivity and other metrics from studies of schools and daylight, and health outcomes from hospital rooms with access to views and daylight. They will also evaluate specific qualities and forms of architecture that provide optimal views and daylight and how these can be put to best use for electric light as well.

Their talk will also discuss the possibilities for lighting designers to evolve their professional practices by capture important daylight and window treatment scope, collaborating directly with architects, engineers, and building owners. This is an important new area for many lighting designers, and will present challenges as it’s outside the traditional scope of designers and specifiers who are typically only concerned with electric light and controls.

Even if most lighting designers don’t have much chance of expanding their scope into daylighting design anytime soon, learning about it can greatly improve understanding of design with electric light. Light is a dance with architecture, regardless of its source. And daylight is perhaps the best place to start.


The Underlying Simplicity of Unimaginable Complexitysimplicity-3554.jpg

John Arthur Wilson, principal of the Portland, Oregon-based Fernhill Shopworks consultancy, is one of the best people in the lighting and power industries to explain the intricacies of complex control systems, grid-connected buildings, and exactly what they have to do with each other.

According to Mr. Wilson, “The controls industry has yet to untie the gordian knot that separates the capabilities we want from the ease of use we need. Emerging technologies and approaches to integrated controls are poised to deliver a future of smart buildings and grid integration, but only if informed decision makers enter the process early, and if users can understand and operate building systems easily.”

John Arthur will be delivering a talk at LightSPEC West in Los Angeles on September 22, entitled Simplifying Controls and Evolution of Grid-Connected Buildings. This talk will show how building control systems play a vital role past the meter, in helping to enable and manage the emerging connected grid, and how they can deliver previously unrealized ROI while becoming simpler to understand, justify, install, and operate.

He’ll also talk about how lighting controls can drive integration of other building systems in ways that provide ROI on sensor and operational data, aid predictive maintenance, and increase user control and comfort. John Arthur feels that most of the real impact of IoT in buildings is, at least initially, around the control systems.

Because lighting controls are the substrate for energy strategies like demand management and occupancy-based approaches, they’re a natural leverage point to facilitate grid-connected buildings. Eventually we’ll see a grid where buildings produce, consume, and share both energy and data in two directions- to and from the grid and internet.

While within the building envelope, building systems are becoming increasingly complex, when we look past the meter, the energy grid has indeed been unimaginably complex for decades and is becoming even more so. Our aging electrical grids can barely accommodate the increased loads that we’re seeing in, for instance the current heat wave in California. It also cannot easily manage the large influx of renewables that have come online with the growth of wind and solar.

The underlying simple idea behind Mr. Wilson’s talk is that we who work in building systems like lighting controls have a significant impact on how we manage energy in the future, by helping buildings talk to the grid and vice versa. Energy efficiency is no longer the only focus of building systems, it’s load management and resilience. We need to manage the integration of renewable energy into our grids, and much of this effort is at the building controls level.


Inclusive, Diverse, and Just = Better Prepared for the Futureinclusive1.jpg

Today we’re in a turbulent period of questioning basic assumptions and practices in the design of the built environment. Upon closer examination, we’re finding that many of these are skewed to benefit an unacceptably narrow sector of the general population. The more we consider diversity, inclusion, environmental and social governance, environmental justice, and inclusive design, the more we see that these are inextricably connected to all the other important goals we have in design: health and wellness, climate action, economic and political stability, and even basic survival. The lighting industry has lagged behind the other design disciplines in this regard and is now busy catching up.

On September 211 at LightSPEC West in Los Angeles, a panel entitled Inclusive Design as a Catalyst for Change will presented. Moderated by lighting designer Alana Shepherd, founder of the North American Coalition of Lighting Industry Queers (NACLIQ), and including Mariel Taviana Acevdo of Portland, Oregon lighting agency Solus; Archit Jain, principal at Oculus Light Studio; and Thomas Paterson, principal at Lux Populi, the panel will explore a range of tools and actions to address inclusive design: corporate programs, education and training, cross disciplinary collaboration, and communications strategies.

Because there are so many directions and initiatives with different acronyms, people occasionally feel overwhelmed with the nuances and refer to a broad swath of these as simply “equity,” a term that can be particularly difficult to define in any context. Let’s look at three of the main ideas and how they relate to each other.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a term most often used to describe a training format in the workplace. DEI training is utilized to encourage functional knowledge of fellow employees' identities and how to navigate diversity in an organization.

According to Wikipedia, environmental and social governance, or ESG, is “a framework designed to be integrated into an organization's strategy to create enterprise value by expanding the organizational objectives to include the identification, assessment and management of sustainability-related risks and opportunities in respect to all organizational stakeholders (including but not limited to customers, suppliers and employees) and the environment.”

And environmental justice, sometimes referred to as EJ, is a social movement that addresses the unfair exposure of poor and marginalized communities to harms associated with resource extraction, hazardous waste, and other land uses. EJ has historically been understood in the context of the exterior environment at the community level and has not encompassed lighting per se until recently. Light Justice, a new organization founded by lighting designer Edward Bartholomew, seeks to address inequities in lighting in the exterior environment as well as inside buildings.

What all these movements have in common in the context of lighting today is that they address social, political, behavioral, economic, and health issues that are far from the traditional technical and engineering focus of lighting professionals. But factors that may be outside our basic training and expertise can no longer be ignored. In an industry with chronic labor shortages, disincentivizing any part of the potentially employable population based on race, gender, or sexual orientation has serious consequences. Expanding the scope of environmental justice to include both interior space and exterior lighting is an inspired shift in context that reframes the discussion in a refreshing new way. ESG trends are stimulating stakeholder attitudes and investing behavior that favors healthier, more carbon free buildings and companies that implement real equity-based programs for employees and customers. These movements are broad and deep and definitely impact what we do in lighting. 

It’s easy to believe that we all want fairness and equality for all, but when we’re operating with attitudes and beliefs that are often so deeply embedded that we don’t even know we have them, change can be painful and slow to come. One way to get the attention of businesses is of course, to focus on economic impacts. In developing this panel, Alana Shepherd and I discussed the fact that there’s ample data that connect equitable practices with superior financial performance in companies. In an article in LEDs Magazine, Ms. Shepherd says “..business leaders often ask me what LGBTQ+ advocacy has to do with lighting or with their business specifically. It’s simple: queer people engineer your PCBs, issue your quotes, sell your fixtures, and design your projects.”

While it may seem obvious, or not, that diversity of all kinds in the work place fosters innovation, this article in Harvard Business Review cites compelling evidence to support this.

The panel session will evaluate data and evidence that describe the scope of problems in inclusion and equity, point to real economic impacts, and offer positive reinforcement for constructive programs and strategies. It will discuss criteria for groups at risk from current systemic inequalities, including those that are not necessarily equally represented, for instance: age, technical proficiency, and education level, and explore examples of inclusive design programs and projects that have effectively achieved real transformation. And by facilitating a dialog with the audience, it will seek to discover fresh and constructive ways to implement and share successes in inclusive design.

According to Ms. Acevedo “There are so many conversations to be had around DEI, some having to do with the practitioners, like: How do we diversify the workforce? How do we then, mentor and retain that workforce? Others have to do with our practice: Who has access to lighting designers? How do we, as an industry, create quality lighting that fits the people, and not just the spaces we are designing for? These are big questions, and it will take the whole village to come up with answers. I see this panel more as a conversation starter, a workshop between us and the audience and I can’t wait to see what we start to develop.”


Developers as Experience Curators? Incentives for Healthy Smart Buildings


Investment decisions in buildings are typically seen by developers through two different lenses: capital expenditures (cap-ex) which go toward maintaining assets, or operating expenditures (op-ex) which go toward maintaining asset value. Today, decisions to acquire, install, and operate smart building technology carry both risk (will it be too hard to operate or be obsolete quickly?) and, increasingly, rewards. And as requirements for workspaces continue to change, often dramatically, new opportunities are emerging that point to different roles and potential partnerships between developers and tenants.

Jay Wratten, Senior Director at WSP will present a talk entitled Beyond Occupancy - Risk Management and Revenue Streams at LightSPEC West in Los Angeles on September 22, in which he will explore investment in smart buildings from the perspective of building owner and operators. He’ll show how smart, integrated building systems not only allow decreased op-ex by enabling things like predictive maintenance and energy efficiency but can provide operating revenue from increasingly valuable data streams and analytics. He’ll also explore how becoming more involved in building system integration and data architecture is an increasingly important collaborative scope for systems engineers, IT professionals, and lighting designers.

In this recent podcast, Jay also talks about emerging business models for developers in providing shared amenities and experiences for tenants, such as “third spaces” like rooftop gardens, coffee houses, or gyms, where tenants from different businesses can socialize and benefit from chance encounters, one of the main drivers to return to physical workplaces among certain employee cohorts. He also talks about how building owners and tenants can both consider information-as-a-service business models, where data about building use and performance can be processed and analyzed, thus becoming more valuable and sold to interested parties to provide valuable revenue streams. This is not yet widespread practice but may become so in the future.

Mr. Wratten is also a panelist in a panel session I am moderating at LightSPEC West, entitled IEQ, Real Estate Asset Value, Health, and Productivity. We will be covering many of these same issues in that session.


What if The Next Big Thing Isn’t?big-thing.jpg

Since solid state lighting (SSL) became commercialized about fifteen years ago, the lighting market went through some significant transformation in many ways then eventually adapted and thrived. Various predictions have been made about the future impact of SSL (most of them wide of the mark) but the industry has long been used to thinking that another Big Thing – inevitably characterized as a “disruptive” technology – is perpetually imminent. This hasn’t quite happened the way anyone predicted it; instead a potent mix of unforeseen factors, including but not limited to technology, have created an environment more complex and considerably more chaotic than we could have reasonably imagined even in 2019.

Since the SSL revolution, enamored with the misleading and now mostly discredited theory of disruptive innovation promulgated by wildly successful Silicon Valley consumer electronics and software companies, many lighting companies assumed that following similar strategies was inevitable. But today more disruption is the last thing we need. The building industry is not identical to the software or consumer electronics industries. As a culture, we are evidently completely incapable of stopping the drive to develop increasingly complex technology, but at the moment we really don’t need more new tech as much as we need to figure out what to do with it and how to integrate it into different applications. This is the innovation that needs to happen.

The disrupted, overwhelming, permanently chaotic business environment we all live in is also filled with almost unlimited opportunities for those brave and creative enough to recognize and capitalize on them.

On September 21 at LightSPEC West in Los Angeles, Wendy Davis, a Senior Research Analyst at Guidehouse, and I present a talk entitled Permanent Chaos, Wishful Thinking, and Real Opportunities - the Lighting Industry Today. This talk will address the current state of the industry – important economic trends. unrecognized and surprising growth areas, the impact of ESG and regulatory action – and suggest strategies for coping with uncertainty and conflicting data and predictions. We’ll identify emerging research on lighting, views and daylight that present opportunities for collaboration with architects, advances in occupant health and wellness, increased value for building owners, improvements in environmental quality, and best practices in inclusive design.

We argue that policy can do as much, if not more, to move markets than technology. We will explore the impacts of regulatory actions in California, the U.S., and internationally on lighting markets and technology, design practice, and emerging lighting and controls product development trends.

As part of our look at wishful thinking, we’ll examine some typical assumptions about the role of technology in solving health and productivity challenges in the built environment and contrast them with other non-technology strategies such as regenerative design, inclusive design, and biomimetic design.

We’ll also muse about the future role lighting can play in new and surprising areas like materials development, smart buildings, cognitive function, health outcomes, and productivity.





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