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

Next Steps For My Social Media Presence

If you've followed this blog for a long time, then first of all THANK YOU. I deeply appreciate it. Over the years this blog has been my space on the web to talk about lighting design an sustainability. For a period of nearly two years I wrote for this blog every weekday. It's been a tremendous source of learning for me, a space to introduce ideas and work through them creatively. 

Lately, you've probably noticed that my posting has grown infrequent. This isn't do to a lack of passion for the topic (very much the opposite). It's a result of having way too much to do and not enough hours in the week to do them. However, that's all going to change. 

For those of you who might still be unaware, I've take a job a sales rep for SDA Lighting in Long Island City, Queens. Sales rep makes it sound like I spend my days lugging around samples and taking people to lunch. While that might be the case some times, my role is much nuanced than that. I work with end users, architects, ESCOs and planners to develop lighting solutions that will increase energy effieciency, while making space look dramatically better. The job has been an incredible adventure and I still have a lot to learn. 

While there are many things I have to learn, one skill set I can bring to the table is my toolkit of social media skills and practices. SDA is launching new pages across the web, making us more accessible to our current and prospective clients as well as helping us engage in larger lighting topics in a more public and vigorous way. At the heart of that effort is the blog, which I am spearheading. 

The goal of the SDA blog is to become a go-to resource for lighting information across the web. While we represent dozens of manufacturers, we're not blogging to advertise. We want to become your indispensable source of lighting information. In a world where LED seems to be the only letters on anyone lips, we want to re-engage a conversation about lighting quality and how great products can support innovative, sustainable design. 

I'll be focusing much of my social media time and effort on the SDA blog for the foreseeable future, but that's not the only place I'll be. Recently, I partnered with AV nation to create "The Lighting Guy" my podcast on all things lighting design and sustainability. Look for a lot more from that channel soon. You'll also find me on twitter and tumblr sharing items I find interesting and inspiring, I'm always up for conversation in either of those places. 

I won't be taking this blog down. The site will remain intact for awhile. I might even add content occasionally if it makes sense. That said, the bulk of my effort right now will be for the SDA blog, if you love lighting, I hope you'll check it out. 

When it Come to Lighting and Sustainability - Do the Simple Things First

Yesterday, I was at a trade show and training session on lighting and energy saving strategies. As the 8 hour (!) day went on speakers from various organizations (who I won't name here) talked about what makes great sustainable lighting everything from daylight harvesting to personal lighting controls were discussed. Principles like reducing glare and lowering contrast ratios were all discussed along with dimming technologies and designing smarter lighting.

I had two fundamental problems with the event. First, I don't think it's fruitful to teach lighting design to electrical contractors and distributors. It's simply not their job to worry about contrast ratios. It's their job to install systems on time and on budget. Later today, I'll talk be talking on the podcast a little bit about what you need a lighting designer for and what you don't. 

The second was more straightforward. There we all were attending an event on sustainability, in a space that clearly didn't employ any of the techniques the hosts were espousing. Without revealing who the hosts were, suffice to say they have the means and the knowledge to install photocells and occupancy sensors. Yet in bright sunlit atriums I saw halogen wallwashers on for no reason. I saw fluorescent pendants burning away giving no usable light. You could chalk all of that up to not having the funding to install controls at the moment, maybe its on the docket for 2015, I didn't ask. But then I saw this in the conference room and it told me all I needed to know. 


That is a moving light (why this conference room had 4 moving lights I'll never know). The light is a 250 HID source. These lamps are "struck" and they cannot be dimmed, once on they must stay on while they are intended to be used. In order to have the fixture not cast light a shutter closes, but the lamp keeps burning. For 8 hours yesterday this fixture sat burning 250 watts for no purpose, at an event on sustainable lighting. 

Here's the point of my little anecdote. We can specify photocells and occupancy sensors, we can specify LED. At the end of the day, first let's do the basics, someone on a ladder could have flipped the switch on these heads - no magic programming or tools required.  Let's make sure we're only using the lights we need and let's make sure we're choosing the gear that's right for our application. We have to fundamentally change our mindset about lighting first before any of these advanced measures will take hold. Get the basics done first, then let's talk about the advanced stuff. 

The Lighting Science Glimpse is an Awesome Downlight Retrofit Option

Today I got to show a client this bad boy. 


It's the Glimpse from Lighting Science Group. The Glimpse is a super simple retrofit kit for recessed downlights with 4" and 6" apertures. Three things to like about it:

1. It consumes 11 watts and replaces 65 watts in terms of light output.  

2. The LEDs are invisible with a very simple, beautiful indirect LED design.  

3. It's competitively priced.  

Bonus - it's dimmable with most standard dimmers. 

I love these simple retrofit solutions that not only save energy but make downlights look better. 

Cove Lighting Versus Troffers for Hallways


I was working on a project this week and I had to run some photometrics on two lighting options for a typical hallway. The question was cove lighting or 2x2 troffers for the hallways. After running the reports and crunching the numbers, I came up with some surprising results. 

The project in question is a healthcare facility with an existing cove lighting scheme. The T12 fluorescent fixtures need to be replaced, but the question becomes, should they simply be replaced with LEDs or should a new troffer scheme be considered?

Pros and Cons of the Cove Lighting

The existing cove lighting is made up of 4' T12 strips which are hugely inefficient on their face, especially with aging ballasts. Staff members dislike the cove lighting for other reasons, they say the cove lighting makes the hallways feel dark. On the other hand, this indirect lighting method reduces glare in the hallways for patients. The other major consideration is energy savings. At basically 10 watts per linear foot, is there a better way to light this hallway and save energy? 

New Cove Lighting

By replacing the T12 fixtures with Cree's new LS strip series we create a dimmable linear solution. At maximum output these fixtures will not save much energy, in fact they use about 11 watts per foot. However, since they are dimmable over 0-10v protocol, our plan would be to dim them when these transit spaces are unoccupied and in overnight hours. Energy savings aside for a second, I expected the cove lighting to be much darker than a troffer solution. The photometrics didn't quite bear that out - more on that in a second.

Troffer Solution

The other option is to replace the cove altogether with a series of troffers, Cree's CR22 series. There lots of benefits to the troffer solution. Since it's direct lighting, much more of the generated light gets into the hallway. Each troffer is 32 watts which is much less energy to light the hallway than the cove lighting solution, add smart controls and you realize that much more in energy savings. So what do the numbers bear out? Click the images below for more information.

As you can see, both solutions deliver a fairly uniform 30fc at the floor level. So why does the cove lighting feel so dark? The answer is in the renderings. Click each image for an explanation.

Ultimately, a mockup will decide which lighting solution we go with, but this was an interesting exercise in comparing two very different hallway lighting solultions. 

What are your thoughts? The comments and twitter awaits. 

Get Lost in a Beautiful Dance Piece

Some mornings I have very technical blog posts to share all about the differences between one LED tube and another. How about today we just get lost in an artistic team's work. 

The video has scant details on Youtube, so please any information on the creative team would be appreciated. In the mean time, enjoy this combination of dance, lighting and projection. 


Should You Replace Your T8s with LED Tubes Or Whole New Fixtures?

Replacing Fluorescent Technology

It seems every week another LED manufacturer is developing a replacement tube for the T8. Just last week, Cree announced their own T8 lamp replacement which is compatible with 90% of the existing T8 ballasts, including instant start, programmed start, rapid start and dimmable fluorescent ballasts currently in the field. The lamp is designed to last 50,000 hours and boasts 2100 lumens per lamp all at 21 watts. With a color rendering index better than 90. The MSRP on this lamp is $30.

With this addition to their portfolio Cree joins Philips, Kumo and many others in the race to win the retrofit market. So if you’re a facilities manager the question becomes, why not simply switch to these LED tubes and move on?

Are LED Tubes the Right Choice?

The answer comes down to your goals. When I think of T8 replacement lamps, I think of them as retrofit-lite. They are certainly the least expensive way to retrofit a fixture, but they aren't the most effective.  Let’s stick with the Cree world just so we’re comparing apples to apples.

Performance comparison based on Acuity AL Series

Let’s take a single 2x4 fluorescent troffer. It’s a 2-Lamp T8 fixture burning 32 watts per lamp . The lamps consume 64 watts, when you include the ballast factor (10%), you end up with a system wattage of 70.4 watts. The photometrics provided by Acuity for this fixture use 2 lamps generating 2675 lumens per lamp or 5350 lumens, however the fixture delivers only 4644 lumens with brand new lamps, making the fixture 86.8% effiecient. That’s about 65 lumens per watt.

The first problem with trying to figure out how much light you’ll get out the LED retrofit is that no one has done photometrics for these scenarios, so we’re left with rough math. But all other things being equal, two Cree T8 bulbs would generate 4200 lumens, in an 86.8% efficient fixture that means the fixture would deliver 3645.6 lumens burning 46.2 system watts (42 watts for the lamps and 10% ballast factor). That makes the fixture more efficient for sure, delivering 78 lumens per watt, and it saves energy burning 24.6 fewer watts. However, it’s also about 21% less light from the fixture. Paying the suggested retail price the retrofit would have cost you approximately $60. 

Now let’s compare that to what happens if you simply swap out the entire troffer. Cree’s ZR troffer is an LED integral fixture which delivers 4000 lumens on 44 watts delivering 90.9 lumens per watt. There is a slight light loss versus the two T8 lamp fixture (about 13%) however, there are multiple benefits. Including, a warranty of 10 years versus and the standard 0-10V dimming driver making it easy to connect to a lighting control system for daylight harvesting and gentle, dimmable occupancy sensing. The fixture will cost more up front, more than double the cost of the LED T8 lamps, but in the end you have a bright efficient system you won’t have to touch for 75,000 hours and is warrantied for 10 years.

So, in the end which should you choose? 

T8 versus LED comparison

Every facility will have different needs when it comes to their retrofit. For some a lamp swap makes the most sense to gain operational efficiency without high expense. However if the goal is deeper energy savings and more robust rebates from utilities as well as much better fixture performance then the answer will be a fixture replacement. It's important to remember that LED wasn't necessary meant to work with the same form factors as fluorescent technology and so simply retrofitting the lamps won't yield the best lighting results. 

If you can't tell by the tone of this post I pretty definitely fall on the side of fixture replacement wherever possible. When it comes to creating terrific performance outcomes and saving the most energy new fixtures are almost always the way to go. That said I'm glad this option exists if for no other reason then to introduce people to LED technology and get inefficient fluorescent out of our buildings. 

Have You Tried LED T8? What was your experience? Tell me in the comments or on twitter @jamesbedell

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Why We Need to Reduce Energy Consumption Right Away

A Terrible Threshold

Mankind crept past a terrbile threshold this week, one that should renew our urgency in the fight to arrest climate change. 

How Did We Get this data?

From Slate:

Measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations taken continuously at Mauna Loa in Hawaii since 1958 have shown a steady upward climb related to fossil fuel burning worldwide. The Mauna Loa measurements are considered to be some of the clearest evidence of human impact on the global climate.
— Slate

One of the best continuous sources of data we have on atmospheric carbon tells us that we've crossed a thin statistical barrier - one that should scare us into action. 

Taking Action

It is my belief that we need to take action on two fronts. The first is public policy. We need to keep fighting the political fight to shift the global market away from fossil fuels. 

The other is personal and professional. Whatever it is you do professionally you can find a way to do it more sustainably. If that means how you ride to work, or how much you print or how much you leave plugged into a socket over night all of it adds up to your carbon footprint. 

What Lighting Can Do

I work in lighting. So I spend every single day working with small businesses, institutions and others to reduce their electrical load by switching to LED fixtures. The technology has crossed the performance threshold now, and as it moves into the market place we're seeing lighting loads get dramatically reduced. That's my life's work.

In spite of the negative news, I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful that other industries can have the breakthroughs in design and engineering that lighting has and I'm hopeful that more professionals will try to make their industry as green as possible.

What are you working on? How can we work together?

If you enjoyed this post, take a second and use the "Share" button below, I'd really appreciate it. 

Is The Design World Moving Too Fast?

Image courtesy H, O + K -1956

Image courtesy H, O + K -1956

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era. I imagine the design industry in the age of Mad Men. An age of scale rulers, plug-in motorized erasers, and big slanted drawing boards. I think fundamentally the design and build industry of which I am a part isn’t much different than it ever was. It’s filled with creative types, with engineer types, with artists and with demanding clients. It’s no more or less demanding than it ever was,  I think spending 12 hours stooped over a façade detail drawing hand-drafted at 50:1 wasn’t more arduous than sitting bleary eyed re-doing an AutoCAD drawing for 12 hours, just differently taxing. No the biggest difference between then and now is speed.

A. Quincy Jones at work in his office in the mid 1950's 

A. Quincy Jones at work in his office in the mid 1950's 

For the most part technology doesn’t change us as much as it makes us faster. In 1965, when a bid set needed to be issued, the drawings from the architect’s office where lithographed, packaged and shipped to the necessary parties for review. There was a 3-4 day lag time before the contractors and engineers even saw the drawings. To me this lengthy process meant that everything had to be correct the first time. Attention to detail was critical because it took weeks to generate a set of drawings, mistakes would take days to correct and would slow down the process not by hours but by days or more. In 1965, you got notes over the phone or in the mail. There wasn't email pinging away all day, there weren't text messages begging for your attention. You wrote an appointment in your date book and you simply showed up at the same time and place as the person you were meeting, it wasn't at 15 text message exercise.

Contrast that with today. An architect’s office runs a project on 2 people now instead of 10. Being a project manager today means you get to CAD all of the details the principal sketched, you get to email them to the appropriate parties and manage all of the correspondence, anything you can’t handle you hand off to the intern. As you are re-drafting the RCP because of newly discovered on-site details, your inbox is pinging with questions, ideas and commentary on the project all of which could effect the very drawing you are re-doing. You’re dropping lights into the ceiling and “damn!” you don’t have the dimensions on the fixture housing. You text your rep asking for the cut sheet. Five minutes go by, 10 minutes go by, as you're growing impatient a text comes in from your boss, he’s asking about the section detail on an entirely different project. An email comes in saying it might be better to drop the ceiling in the atrium 8 more inches. Your rep texts you back, “here’s the link, want to get lunch I’m in the neighborhood?” You wrestle with saying yes, because if you do you know you’ll be at the office that much later and saying no and working hungry. Your boss texts again “I’m in a meeting I need the detail now.” Your rep texts back “?” 90 minutes have gone by and the drawing is sitting there with no progress made.

Welcome to the 1990's

Welcome to the 1990's

As humans we gravitate toward activities with the least friction. Technology has made communicating frictionless and so we do a lot more of it. Think about this…if you could tell the planet what you had for lunch, but it would require you to take a photo, develop it, write a letter put it in an envelope, stamp it and mail it, would you do it? Maybe, but it would have to be a very special lunch. Today people Instagram anything above a bowl of Captain Crunch. In 1965 it was almost as difficult to communicate a drawing as it was to make it. This slowed the process and gave time for actual human thought. Time for person to person communication. Time for quiet lunch and maybe even reading.

I know we can’t go backward - I can’t chuck the laptop out the window and do my work from catalogs and drawing on vellum. The truth is I wouldn’t want to, I am able to write this post after an evening of thought, edit it easily and post it on my own website where the world can read it. I text family and friends constantly. I’m active on social media and gain inspiration from it every day. But sometimes I wonder, what if we slowed down? What if we changed the expectations and gave ourselves time to think? Would we have better design? Better buildings?

What do you think?

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Sustainable Theatrical Lighting - An Earth Day Presentation

Good Monday morning everyone. Last week I gave a presentation with the Broadway Green Alliance as part of it's Earth Day Symposium on Green Design for the theater. This morning I thought I'd share the slides from that presentation and give a little context. Basically, I think you make theatrical lighting more sustainable three ways: 

  • Re-think design strategy
  • Re-think gear selection
  • Run a tight ship in daily practices

When it comes to re-thinking design I focused my talk on the concept of relative brightness, which I've spoken and written about before. This is the idea that our eyes adjust to the light level you as a designer set. The theater begins at a perfect zero in terms of ambient light levels. The light levels you create and maintain will create the highs and lows. This seems intuitive but so often there is a push to make the brights brighter, to push more flash more effects and more of everything into a production, where it's needed or not. 

Re-thinking gear selection is all about keeping up with new products. LED is literally changing everything about how we make light in the theater. It's an exciting and ever changing world when it comes to theatrical lighting gear. We are seeing more and more light being created by fewer and fewer watts. To keep up with these advances the BGA has launched the Green Lighting Guide. Where designers, artistic directors, producers and any other theatrical decision maker can compare incumbent lighting technology to new greener alternatives. Take a look and tell us what you think.

The slides that describe best practices for venues and productions, those are pretty self explanatory. But the last few slides describe for me an ideal lighting set up for a performing arts venue. Buckley Hall at Amherst College was re-lit by HLB Studio using gear from Lumenpulse. The Lumentalk technology used in combination with their LED flood lights has basically cut energy consumption in half while adding 13 zones of control. All of the house lighting ties directly into the controls for the theatrical lighting in one interface making seamless transitions easy for the design and production teams. 

Take a look at the slides and let me know if you have any questions or ideas. I'd love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on sustainable lighting for the performing arts? Hit me up on G+ or twitter...

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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.