My blog - here is where I talk about the latest in lighting design and how to make it work for you. 

Why This is a Good Lighting Scene



I found a restaurant/bar this afternoon called Lillie's. I posted a photo this afternoon. This is one of those good little lighting scenes you come across in the course of a day, so I just thought I'd share my thoughts on why this scene is so good. 

First, there's contrast. 

You can see there are areas of brightness and areas of relative darkness. This is essential to visual comfort. 

There's sunlight. 

The light at my back is from the south facing window. This gentle light balances the room.  

There is warm, bright, inviting light coming from various sources.  

The combination of classic pendants and up lighting create a terrific balance deep into the scene.  

The conditions in the restaurant were likely not "designed" all at once, yet they all work. Sometimes feeling your way through lighting is the way to making a beautiful space. 


Sustainability and The Performing Arts

When I use the phrase Sustainability and the Performing Arts what do you think of? 

You might think about financial sustainability, as in "Will We Have Opera in the US in 50 years?"

You might think about sustaining cultural interest, as in "Who Will Write for the Theater in 10 years?"

But what I'm talking about is environmental sustainability, and you might be wondering, "in a time of such tremendous fiscal and cultural pressure on the performing arts just to exist, why should we be thinking about sustainability?

Art has always had the power to shape what a generation thinks about the world. Vice President Biden once referenced Will and Grace when talking about gay culture in America. I remember going through high school and fully half of the girls in my school were in love with the Rent soundtrack. Girls were comparing how many times they'd seen it. Art and how we make it reflects our values. We cannot sit passively at a distance and rail against the way the world works today yet make art with the same disregard for it's impact on the planet and future generations.

Design leaders across industries are working to make their given industies more sustainable. We can do the same. 

Which brings me to next week. On April 21st I have the pleasure of sharing a stage with three brilliant and accomplished minds. We'll be talking about sustainability in theater and the performing arts. Who will be there? 

Allen Herschkowitz of the NRDC, from his bio: 

Allen Hershkowitz is a senior scientist for NRDC, joined the organization in 1988 and has coordinated prominent institutional greening initiatives, including the Academy Awards telecast, the GRAMMY Awards, "Broadway Goes Green," and the greening of Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the United States Tennis Association....

He is the author of Bronx Ecology: A Blueprint for a New Environmentalism (Island Press, 2002). His other publications include Too Good To Throw Away: Recycling’s Proven Record (New York: NRDC, 1997),Garbage Management in Japan (New York: INFORM, 1987), Garbage Burning: Lessons from Europe (New York: INFORM, 1986), and Garbage: Practices, Problems and Remedies (New York: INFORM, 1988). He has also published many articles, and contributed essays to numerous books. His work has been the subject of numerous profiles and feature articles in The New Yorker and elsewhere.

Donyale Werle will be discussing scenic design a little about her:

  • She is the Tony Award Winning Set Designer of Peter in the Starcatcher
  • She designed a set that still blows my mind for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
  • For as brilliant as she is, she has an extraordinary ability to listen and be be open to new ideas. 
  • She's been a proponent of sustainable design for years. 

Andrea Lauer will be discussing costume design, here's a little about her:

  • Costume designer of Bring It On, American Idiot, and numerous other theatrical works. 
  • Her work in and out of theater proves her committment to reuse and sustainable production.
  • She brilliant. 

This event is meant to be more than a lecture, we're asking for the audience to come ready to chat, ready to bring questions, challenges and ideas to the table. If you're planning on coming email

I hope I get to meet you there. 


Street Light Photography



This mornings walk had me focused on street lights. 


For this photo set I took color out of the equation and limited the observation to where light falls and at what intensity. 



We think of street lighting as a uniform practice carried out by strict standards. Yet, when you really observe it you will find areas that are terribly over-lighted and areas of near total darkness. 


The random regularity of street lighting creates all sorts of shadows and intensity variations. 



What's the street lighting like in your neighborhood? Do you love it or hate it? Did you grow up in an over lighted city or on the true darkness of the country? 

Three Things to Consider When Specifying LEDs

With the flood of LED products out on the market it's easy to get confused by different claims. Here are three key metrics to consider when choosing at LED product. 

This is also my attempt at creating more portable sharable content. Any feedback would be helpful. I want to make and share lighting content that you'll find useful. So use the comment section or shoot me a tweet @jamesbedell

Rebates Today and Better Buildings for a Lifetime

The reality of buildings is that they are both incredibly complicated and very simple. Driving through any area in the country it’s easy to give a simple definition to the buildings in front of you. It’s a warehouse or a school or an office building or a hospital. Yet just below the surface lies a complex web of building systems and interactions. There is the lighting system, the air conditioning, the paint, the wall material. We used to think of those building systems as discreet. We like to imagine a single, genius architect thinking through all of these things and then birthing a perfectly working building, like a fine hand-cranked watch from a Swiss factory. We know that’s not how it works. A building is designed by an architect, but then a series of consultants, reps, distributors, engineers, contractors and subcontractors, manufacturers, suppliers, facilities managers, owners, occupants and maintenance staff mold that initial design into a living, working building.

Our existing building stock is incredibly inefficient. That starts in the core and shell, the window enclosures and the minimal insulation. In a “lowest bidder” building culture we sacrifice building quality for speed and lower cost. In the past, we would make up for that difference by filling our buildings with more artificial light, more heat in the winter, more cold air on the summer.

None of this is new information to anyone who’s thought about our building stock. So why am I bothering to write it out now? Well last week, I wrote a post saying that what was driving my retrofit work every day wasn’t LEED, it was the rebate programs of our local utilities in the NY Metro areas. I mentioned that LEED points never came up when I spoke to facilities managers, what mattered was meeting the lighting needs with less energy and in a way that would qualify for rebates. I stand by the original post as an accurate portrait of the lighting market here in NY.

That said, should that be the whole story? Is there nothing between the glittering LEED certified towers we read about and the scrappy commercial warehouses I work with every week? We can’t afford to have a gap in our sustainability strategy. We cannot accept that there will be a chosen few “good” buildings and the rest will make due. We need to close the loop and make all of our buildings sustainable assets.

First some statistics…

According to a 2010 market estimate by CoStar there are more than 84 billion square feet of commercial real estate in the United States. As of 2011 there was 1.6 billion square feet of certified LEED real estate and another 2.6 billion square feet of built to LEED real estate. Taken together that adds up to 4.99% of the commercial real estate market in the United States. That sounds low, but consider the commercial real estate stock I’m talking about dates back at least 80 years (the Empire state building is a simple milestone–opening in 1931). The LEED program was created in 1998. Moving that much of the market in just 16 years is an accomplishment in and of itself. Some states and localities have made LEED their legal building standards.

So with a 5% market share over 16 years, why should we care about LEED any more? The simple reason is because no single entity in the United States has done more to advance the notion that buildings can actually promote sustainability rather than simply consuming resources. The USGBC and the LEED program have led the way toward creating a more sustainable building stock. What matters more than any particular set of points a building earns, is the methodology and thought process behind trying to create a better building stock.

So when we’re talking about retrofit strategies, it’s not that rebates aren’t important, they are. Rebates are usually the catalyst behind a lighting retrofit, or at least a strong short term incentive. At the same time, we need to make room in our conversations for more holistic re-design. Thinking about how a lighting retrofit could reduce the strain on the HVAC system, or thinking about how proper control of natural light lends itself to better productivity. When we start to think about buildings holistically, we can move from simple retrofit thinking to dramatically improving our built spaces.

Rebate programs are simple and economical. They are win-win solutions for all parties involved, but they don’t come without a cost. The cost sometimes comes in the form of sacrificed lighting quality. Sometimes in the form of short term thinking. While rebate program are a good catalyst, there are ways they could be improved, more on that in future posts.

We need to always remember that however much we are doing, we can probably do more. No single program has done more than LEED to try and address all aspects of the built environment and the power of buildings to make our planet healthier. As we learn, the program evolves, forever disappointing those who wish it would go further while annoying those who think it goes too far. None the less, it’s still there, pushing us further, trying to get us beyond thinking about our next electric bill.

It was never my intention bash LEED when I wrote my last piece. My intention was to point out what my clients are thinking about every day. LEED and the USGBC are leading the way when it comes to green building. As an industry we still have a long way to go. But perhaps we can aspire to more than earning a rebate this year, perhaps we can aspire to continuously improving the built environment for a lifetime.

LEDucation Comes to a Close (Slideshow)

LEDucation has come to a close, so we're all getting back to our normal lives here in NYC. It was a terrific show, probably the most diverse crowd I've seen at a lighting trade show other than Lightfair. It's a busy year for lighting trade shows. Light + Build is coming up in Germany (still on my bucket list) as is Lightfair this summer in Las Vegas. 

Thanks to everyone who came out to visit the show. Click the image below for a slideshow of what I saw at LEDucation.