Blog

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

You Should Take a Road Trip

Traveling at Human Speed

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It's about 17 hours in a car from where we live in New York City to St. Louis, MO. When Jenn and I were invited to an old friend's wedding in Cuba, MO we decided that rather than fly, we'd simply get in the car and drive there. The journey was approximately 33 hours in the car (round trip) and we spent about 34 hours in Missouri total. For many that would be insane (OK, it was insane) but it was also wonderful, and not just because of the company. We have been conditioned to think of travel as something done by plane. Travel stories are rife with the struggles of security and delays and the cramped seats. I love to fly, and it is certainly more time efficient, but for me there's nothing like a road trip. Sure we could have flown over the corn fields of southern Illinois, but instead we saw them at eye-level. We could have flown over the Ohio valley, but you can't experience it's beauty unless you see it in person. America is a vast beautiful nation and as Americans I think we all should make an effort to see it at human speed, at ground level. 

One social media side note - this little road trip was a great excuse to get my Instagram going again after a bit of a hiatus, I was surprised at how much I missed it, I look forward to getting started with it again. 

Slowing Down at 70 MPH

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I tried to take as many photos as I could on our journey west, but I did the lion's share of the driving and that's no time to shoot. When driving through 8 states at 60-70mph you get the chance to really see things. All of the amazing hand-painted billboards for boot shops and fireworks, the Love's travel shops that dot the interstate through Pennsylvania, all of the miles of corn fields that feed us every single day. They're all out there, really out there and you can drive through them and see them for yourself. It's difficult to put into words what happens when you replace the media-driven image of "a farm" or "the country" for the real thing. It becomes tangible. The hours and hours of corn fields become a stand-in, a gentle taste, of the months and months it took to grow that field. It's not an instant at 30,000 feet, it's a half a day. All of the sudden it's a lot easier to appreciate the food we have, to appreciate the people who grow it and cultivate it. To get a sense for what a hard and beautiful life it must be to be a farmer. 

Design Inspiration

Of course, driving isn't only fun for the cultural observations. It's also a fun way to see the rest of the country as an example of design. I find interstate culture fascinating. Built for truckers and long-road types, the signage is amazing. The black and white sign that declares "LAST STARBUCKS FOR 91 MILES!!!!" or "ADULT SUPERSTORE EXIT 158" or the endless signs for hotels all offering free wifi and a hot breakfast. Emerging from the farmland of southern Illinois is Missouri and with it St. Louis. I would like to tell you that I saw all of St. Louis, but I definitely did not. The trip was just too short. Yet, our brief stay on "The Loop" provided some awesome examples of architecture and lighting design. We stayed at the Moonrise hotel, which was not only an example of great lighting design but of sustainability as a design value. The hotel will get it's own blog post, there's a teaser image below. 

In the end, I all I can say is get out there and see this great country of ours. Take your time, stop often and in random places, see the America you hear referenced on the news but have never seen up close. Do it at human speeds. You'll be amazed at the people and places you discover both just outside the car window and deep within yourself.  

 

Using @BufferApp to Stay Grateful

My twitter buddy @Thomaswensma asked me the following:

It's a fair question. After all, why am I auto-tweeting what should be a fairly organic question and why have I been doing it almost nightly? Well it's really quite simple actually. I believe we all live really busy lives. Lives that can be made to feel busier by the constant stream of social media that we are expected to tend to. It is my belief that social media is at it's best when it fosters human connection. That doesn't mean that automated content is the devil, it just means that the best of any social media platform is when we are really connecting.  

So I've been conducting a little experiment to see if social media can actually make me more mindful instead of less. It's a simple two-part experiment - every morning once I'm fully awake and the coffee is brewed, I tweet a good morning greeting into the world. That's simple and usually gets conversations started. 

The other part is where buffer comes in - I schedule a tweet asking some version of "what was awesome today?" The idea was simple, I wanted to get people thinking about the positive things that happened that day. It's turned out to have a profound effect on me. By scheduling the tweet, sometimes in the hustle and bustle, I'd forget that it had gone out. Then midway through the evening I see mentions from friends all over twitter telling me what was awesome about that day. 

 

So as you can see from this minor sampling, my twitter friends are doing and sharing awesome things. Having people generously share them with me sparked something. It's become a daily reminder at how many awesome things there are in life, both large and small, to be grateful for. In a world as busy as ours it's easy to forget this. By asking this question daily, I get a kick in the butt to remember that there are lots and lots of things to be thankful for in life.   

How do you stay mindful? How do you keep perspective?  

 

It's Going to Be a Very Big Week

It seems things comes in bunches, at least that's the case this week. I have not one, not two but three big things happening this week. I hope you can join me, this is going to be a very big week. 

Our First-Ever G+ Interior Design Sustainability Summit

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I've been tweeting my butt off about it for the last few weeks. It's finally here this week. Our Sustainability Summit will be September 5th at 8pm Eastern. If you want to take part, follow the hashtag #IDCSusty in our Interior Design Community and on Twitter. You can find out more about the event on G+ and right here. Please join us and share your thoughts. 

I'm Hosting #KBTribeChat!

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If you're not familiar with #kbtribechat you should check it out. This lively chat of kitchen and bath design pros is a fantastic place to share information from pros to pros. I'll be hosting on the topic of sustainability as a lead-in and supplement to the upcoming Sustainability Summit. So terrific to talk about sustainability with a group of seasoned design pros. Thanks so much to Stacy Garcia for her generous offer. 

Starting a New Job

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Starting Tuesday September 3rd I will officially be part of the team at Stan Deutsch Associates. I talked about the position in a previous blog post, but I couldn't be more excited to be joining SDA this week. My focus will be on sustainable retrofits for businesses and institutions and given what I'm already working on and passionate about, I don't think I could find a better fit for work.  

So that's my busy busy week. I'll try to keep the blog updated along the way. But you can also follow me on Twitter and on Instagram for updates on what I'm up and thinking about when it comes to all things lighting and sustainability.  

Testing the Power of Fiber Optic Art in Healing Spaces With a Tremendous Kickstarter Campaign

 I get a lot of emails asking me to accept a guest post on a promotional topic or write a post about this or that product or project. I usually don't entertain those requests. Then one floated into my inbox last week and it stunned me. So I have no choice but to share this project with you all.

Lyn Godley is a not a household name, but perhaps she should be. Over the course of her career she's worked at the nexus of lighting and art to create stunning installations for The American Craft Museum, NYC's Jewish Museum and the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, to name a few.

The focus of her recent work are art installations that weave together computer aided design, charcoal drawing and fiber optic lighting. The results are installations that are beautiful to look at during the day and inexplicably visually soothing when internally illuminated.

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What you're seeing in the photo above are photos of the ocean. The white caps have woven fiber embedded in them which are made to be luminous, giving the scene an otherworldly feel. These pieces have been found to be not only mesmerizing but therapeutic. Given my deep interest for how sensory input can impact health and well being, the Kickstarter campaign Lyn Godley's Design Studio has launched is of particular interest to me. From the Kickstarter Page:

Research shows that there are measurable physiological effects from both art and light that could explain the effect of "calming" that we witnessed during the solo exhibit in Cologne. This is why it is important for us to get this work installed where we can further test this work in healthcare settings.

I encourage you to watch the video below and then head to their page and make a donation. The power of the art is so evident that they've already hit their initial goal. Initially, the idea was to upgrade the light source and hardware of the piece to make it viable for institutional use. Once the final piece is upgraded it will be donated to a hospital. Having met that financial goal they've added a stretch goal - for every additional $10,000 they raise another piece will be donated.

 

One last note, I don't know Lyn personally. I'm not doing her a favor. I just think this art is beautiful and it could be a powerful addition to healing spaces. I hope this post raises exposure and good luck to the team at Lyn Godley Design Studio!

Big Changes For Me

For nearly the last two years, I've worked as a freelance independent lighting designer. To say it's been a wild ride would be a bit of an understatement. Being out on my own has afforded me the ability to work on a wide a variety of projects from pop-up stores to dance. Being a freelancer has been a terrific learning opportunity for me and it's been nothing if not an adventure. The adventure is taking a new path starting right after Labor Day. I've taken a job with Stan Deutsch Associates, based here in Long Island City. SDA is a lighting representation firm with over 30 different manufacturers on its line card including Cree, DesignPlan, ILight, Lumenpulse, The Lighting Quotient, Vantage and Wattstopper, just to name a few.

Joseph Abboud Showroom Market Week 2012

Joseph Abboud Showroom Market Week 2012

So what will I be doing with SDA? My job is to work with businesses and institutions in the Long Island area who would benefit retrofit projects geared at reduction of energy use. This goal aligns perfectly with my personal mission to reduce energy consumption through great lighting and it affords me the opportunity to take the concepts I've written and talked about and put them into practice in the field. I'm looking at this job as a great balance between being self starting and "on my own" but having the support of a terrific office and company behind me. 

The Jersey Couture Pop-Up Beauty Bar

The Jersey Couture Pop-Up Beauty Bar

As far as my online/social media life not much is going to change. I will continue to be one of the lighting people on twitter and G+. The website will be re-vamping a little bit in terms of focus as I won't be trying to build a book of freelance business any more I've taken down the pages offering architectural and event lighting services. As you can imagine my "about me" page will also be changing a bit too. However, I have no intention of taking down or changing the blog and my work in social media won't be changing either. As always I'll be writing about the lighting-related issues that are grabbing my attention and I think are important. 

Thank you all for sticking with me and this blog. I've tried to be one of the places people can come to for lighting information and I've always tried to get people thinking about light in new and bold ways. I have no intention of stopping that effort. Stick with me…who knows what this next chapter holds?

 

 

My Unsolicited Advice to Lighting Retailers

We're Selling Light Bulbs Wrong

I've worked in the lighting business for over a decade. I've installed lamps in every kind of fixture imaginable. From an HPL in a Source Four hanging over a balcony to a bi-pin halogen in an outdoor flood lamp. Yet when I go to Home Depot or Lowe's even I get a bit overwhelmed. There's a wall of lamps of different shapes and sizes all promising me amazing performance. 

If Home Depot or Lowe's or Walmart or Target or any other big retailer is listening, here's a piece of unsolicited advice on how to make the American public feel better about their lighting choices. If you're a manufacturer here's what your marketing materials should talk about.  

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Start Speaking the Customer's Language

What is often missing is the common language that home and business owners are looking for. They want to know if the new light source is going to feel the good in the space. Here's an exercise. Go to Home Depot or Lowe's on a Saturday. You'll probably find someone looking pretty bewildered in the light bulb aisle. Go talk to them, but not as a lighting expert. I actually like to play totally dumb. I'll look at the huge display of light bulbs and say something like, "it used to be easier, right?"

You'd be surprised at what such a small comment will spark. You'll hear home owners talk about specific problems. The light at the top of the stairs no one can reach. The new light bulbs in the kitchen aren't bright enough. They'll talk about wanting things to feel brighter or softer. They'll talk in terms like "pretty" or "traditional" and they'll describe a lamp with their hands. You'll hear things like "I want a lot of light in my kitchen."

 

Very few people walk into a retailer with the goal of saving money with their lighting choices. 

Very few people walk into a retailer with the goal of saving money with their lighting choices. 

When we work with this stuff everyday it's easy to forget the people who actually live with our specs don't. Here's a short list of things you'll never here in Home Depot. 

  • "Jeez, how many lumens per watt does this lamp get?" 
  • "When will someone break the 95 CRI Barrier with an LED A-Lamp Replacement?"
  • "Hmm I wonder what the accepted deviation in CCT is between lamps for this particular manufacturer."
  • "Boy I'm really looking for this light bulb to save me money."

OK, a couple of things. You're selling these fixtures, right? Why not get a bulb in every socket? Also label the fixture with the recommended bulb. Help people understand their choices visually.  

OK, a couple of things. You're selling these fixtures, right? Why not get a bulb in every socket? Also label the fixture with the recommended bulb. Help people understand their choices visually.  

How to Change the Lamp Buying Experience 

Retailers

  • Show off your stock. Light is meant to be experienced. Not talked about. If you're proud of your lighting stock then turn it on and and display it. Does it dim? Well then give folks dimmers to play with. 
  • Have someone friendly and knowledgable at the displays ready to answer questions. 
  • Label your display fixtures with what bulb is inside. This simple step alone would make it much easier for people to understand what lighting they're getting from a given bulb. 

Manufacturers

  • No one is used to buying a light bulb and expecting it to last a decade or more. Stop talking about long term savings and ROI. 
  • Start talking about beauty. People want the light in their homes to be beautiful. 
  • Very few people care about energy efficiency in lighting. Perhaps they should, but they don't. 
  • Explain the kind of light the customer is buying in terms like "perfect for your side table lamps" or "perfect for your recessed cans" give people a scenario for use. 

That's my unsolicited advice for the lighting industry. What's Yours? 

 

3 Ways Lighting is the Low Hanging Fruit of Residential Sustainability

We Need Sustainability Gains Now

The planet is facing huge challenges when it comes to the future of our natural resources. Buildings in the US use more energy than cars, and our homes are no exception. Between our major appliances, our electronics and climate control our homes use an incredible amount of energy. In 2005 the estimated total was 128 Billion Btu of energy. Lighting represents 13% of all residential electricity consumption roughly 186 billion kWh (Source: EIA 2011)

That feels like an awfully big number to chip away at, but there are reasons to be hopeful that lighting can lead the way to more sustainable American homes. Here are three ways lighting is the low hanging fruit of residential sustainability. 

The Rise of LED

The fully dimmable beautifully warm Cree A19 replacement lamp. 

The fully dimmable beautifully warm Cree A19 replacement lamp. 

 If you follow lighting news at all, then you've known about the growth of LED for a long time now. If you've kept up with my blog then you know that by and large I'm a big fan of LED especially in the face of the larger challenges our nation and the planet are facing. There was a time when LED was not ready for residential applications, that time has passed. With companies like GE, Philips, Cree and Lighting Science Group all vying to replace our 60 watt bulbs with LED alternatives, the race is on to create the workhorse lamp of the 21st century. 

There are countless amazing LED down lights and replacement lamps coming to market every few weeks. Each of these products offers not only the promise of reduced wattage but a much longer life of service. 

Infographic courtesy greenbusinesswatch.org

Infographic courtesy greenbusinesswatch.org

The Simplification of Advanced Lighting Control

When it comes to reducing the amount of energy used by lighting systems there is nothing more effective than a lighting control system. From turning off unneeded lighting, to dimming sources as part of a preset scene, lighting control systems are imperative to reducing the wattage of today's residential lighting.

The floor plan light switch gives you a graphic way of knowing what lights you're turning on and off. 

The floor plan light switch gives you a graphic way of knowing what lights you're turning on and off. 

Up until fairly recently programming lighting control systems only had complicated interfaces controlled by central hubs that no one could understand. Today, lighting control is getting more and more intuitive. On the high end lighting control firms like Lutron have residential control systems for your entire home that can be programmed from a smart phone. That's terrific, but what might be most exciting is a product like Philips Hue which relies on a control protocol born of the Internet. Once you open up the control protocol to something anyone can program, it becomes ubiquitous. Great lighting control is becoming reachable for everyone, not just those who can afford a fancy centralized control system. 

Total Sidebar: Using the online automation tool IFTTT you can program Hue to do all kinds of things like say, turn the lights pale blue when it rains.  

The Hue Starter Pack

The Hue Starter Pack

The Sustainability Opportunity of Exterior Lighting

When you're as much of a geek as I am you take time to read US Department of Energy reports titled: Residential End-Use Consumption Study: Estimation Framework and Initial Estimates. Let me tell you, it's a page turner. 

All kidding aside, through a formula I don't quite understand the people who created this study were able to take self-reported survey data and census data and extrapolate estimates on how much energy we use from lighting in our homes and where we use it. There are many incredible data points in the report but there was one that really struck me. The average American home's lighting uses 4,679 watt hours of electricity, 1,610 of those watt hours comes from exterior applications! That's right nearly 35% of all of our lighting watt hours come from lighting applications not within our homes, but elsewhere on our property. 

This represents a huge opportunity for efficiency gains, especially given our first two points. Exterior lighting rarely requires the kind of perfect color rendering and color matching demanded for interior art lighting. Exterior applications are ripe for LED retrofit which would dramatically reduce energy consumption in this sector. Let's take the simplest example possible - the driveway flood light. 

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A typical PAR30 halogen flood lamp uses 50 watts to generate 660 lumens. The new Cree BR30 Flood lamp uses 9.5 watts to generate 650 lumens. Average use of an exterior light is 3 hours per day. At that rate the LED lamp is estimated to last 22.8 years. It also casts a beautiful warm 2700k light. This is really is a no brainer.

Lighting Is the Forefront of Building Sustainability

I love being part of an industry that is innovating as rapidly as the lighting industry. By embracing LED technology and new control protocols the lighting industry is making it easier and more affordable to cut daily wattage usage down in American homes and businesses. Lighting is at the forefront of the sustainability movement. That makes me proud.  

Announcing The G+ Interior Design Community Sustainability Summit

Join Us September 5th at 8PM EST

Two weeks ago, we had a hangout in the Interior Design Community called "How Can We Help?" Susan Serra, Laurie Laizure and I explored some of the ways the interior design community can help make the world a better place. One of the many offshoots of the that great conversation was the need to have a hangout dedicated to the topic of sustainability. So I dug into the Rolodex (also known as LinkedIn) and started brainstorming on how to make a panel of terrific experts on the subject. The goal here isn't to solve the sustainability problem. It's to dive into the topic of sustainability from a high level so interior designers and brands in the interior design space can get a sense for what this sector of our economy is all about. If you're an interior designer we want to encourage your practice to get greener, and if you're a brand we want to encourage you to shift toward making more sustainable products.  

We've assembled a terrific panel for this discussion and I couldn't be more excited to get to sit with these ladies and discuss what I think it the most important discussion we're not having in the industry today. So without further ado let me introduce our panel of experts. 

KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz

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Founder and CEO of Sustainable Life Media and Sustainable Brands. She launched Sustainable Life Media in 2004, and its flagship brand, “Sustainable Brands” in 2006. Sustainable Brands is now the premier international community of change makers seeking to lead the way to a flourishing future through the power of better brands. The community now touches 500,000 professionals world wide on line, and hosts the world’s leading conversations on the role of business and brands to change the world, both online, at conferences on 4 continents and via an active peer-to-peer learning network.

You can connect with KoAnn on Twitter @KoAnn 

Rachel Hulan

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Owner of consultancy service providing specialized expert advice and guidance targeting sustainable interior design projects. Hulan Design is aimed at helping interior designers, architects, home owners, real estate developers and anyone else seeking expert guidance in creating residential or commercial projects that adhere to sustainable, environmentally conscious principles.  Rachel Hulan completed her first LEED Platinum for Homes project last year, and is currently working on her second.  She is also a professor at Interior Designers Institute in Newport Beach where she teaches sustainable practices to the next generation of designers.

You can connect with Rachel on Twitter @RachelHulan 

Lauren Sparandara

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Lauren Sparandara is a Senior Consultant with DNV KEMA’s Sustainable Buildings and Communities (SBC) team. Ms. Glasscock obtained her management degree from Yale University and her architecture degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Her expertise is in corporate environmental management, life cycle assessment, and green building. She is a LEEP AP and GRI Certified Sustainability Reporter. During her nearly six years at KEMA she has consulted on over 35 LEED projects of varying scale and and through all LEED systems. She was previously a LEED reviewer of LEED-NC and LEED-EBOM projects for the USGBC and is a “guest expert” on the LEEDuser.com website providing advice on all LEED criteria. Mrs. Sparandara has taught numerous LEED courses to various design teams. Notable projects include the Porto Olímpico Olympic project in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the UC Davis Winery, Brewery, and Food Pilot facility, and the Oakland Airport.

You can connect with Lauren on Twitter @lsparandara.

Julie Urlaub

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Founder and managing partner of Taiga Company. Leveraging 36,000 Twitter followers and a blog with global reach, Julie speaks, consults, trains, and assists clients to powerfully engage in sustainability related issues and stakeholder communications in the social media space. Her passion is helping clients effectively pair their sustainability strategies with authentic and transparent communication for stakeholder engagement so that their social media marketing makes a bottom line impact in their business and a positive contribution in our world.

You can find Julie all over the social web, on Twitter she is @TaigaCompany 

 

Heidi Vassalotti, LEED®AP ID+C

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Architectural and Design Representative for domestic tile manufacturer Crossville, Inc. Her work in the Chicago market led to company wide innovations in the use of reclaimed porcelain and tile materials, resulting in the first cradle-to-cradle tile installation (in the John C. Kluckzynski Federal Building in downtown Chicago) and a powerful partnership with sanitary ware manufacturer TOTO USA to recycle that company’s fired porcelain refuse. Today, Crossville uses recycled material in 100% of its U.S.-made product lines and has initiated innovative programs like Tile Take Back, a unique waste reclamation program that contributed to the company’s 3rd party certification of its manufacturing processes. The company saves millions of pounds of fired porcelain waste from entering landfills each year.

Learn more about sustainability at Crossville.  

Connect with Crossville Tile on Twitter  @crossvilleinc

Don Hirsh

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Don Hirsh is manager of Cree’s state-of-the art Lighting Experience Center (LEC).  Cree, a publicly traded manufacturer of LED components, lamps and fixtures, developed the LEC to serve as an interactive educational environment where visitors can learn about LED lighting through first-hand experience.  The center is an expression of Cree’s long history of innovation and commitment to delivering top-performing LED lighting products. 

Don is a technologist who has been involved with developing and evangelizing illumination and display products for almost two decades.  You can connect with Don on LinkedIn.

Becoming a Part of the Event

As with all of our hangouts you'll be able to watch live on G+ or on YouTube. But if you have questions for our panel of experts we want to hear them! Head to the Interior Design Community on G+ and post a question with the hashtag #IDCSusty or tweet your question with the hashtag #IDCSusty and we'll do our best to include it in the conversation. 

Want to Learn More? Head to the Interior Design Community on G+

Or

Head to Our Event Page

 

Every Criticism of LEED You've Ever Heard Justified in One Building

The Failure of the Bank of America Tower

The Bank of America Tower Image Courtesy ArchitectureWeek.com

The Bank of America Tower

Image Courtesy ArchitectureWeek.com

The LEED program of the USGBC has been criticized since it's birth. Some that criticism is fair and some of it is unfounded. Well this article in the New Republic goes a long way to knocking the legs out from under the LEED program.  

From the Article (the emphasis is mine):   

According to data released by New York City last fall, the Bank of America Tower produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan. It uses more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old Empire State Building. It also performs worse than the Goldman Sachs headquarters, maybe the most similar building in New York—and one with a lower LEED rating. It’s not just an embarrassment; it symbolizes a flaw at the heart of the effort to combat climate change.

Anyone who's ever really done any study of LEED can tell you that the program is flawed. It provides a framework for creating a more sustainable building, but it doesn't do anything about how that building is occupied. The article goes on to explain why the building is performing so much worse than advertised. 

The biggest drain on energy in the Bank of America Tower is its trading floors, those giant fields of workstations with five computer monitors to a desk. Assuming no one turns these computers off, in a year one of these desks uses roughly the energy it takes a 25-mile-per-gallon car engine to travel more than 4,500 miles. The servers supporting all those desks also require enormous energy, as do the systems that heat, cool, and light the massive trading floors beyond normal business hours. These spaces take up nearly a third of the Bank of America Tower’s 2.2 million total square feet, yet the building’s developer and architect had no control over how much energy would be required to keep them operational.

So in the end despite the green design of the building and the bells and whistles that went into it, the actual use of the building is nowhere close to "green." So what's the lesson here? I think it's important not to blame the building for the tenant's occupation. The rain water collecting roof, the waterless urinals and all of the other green bells and whistles are a good thing and we shouldn't throw out good design features because of bad metrics.  

At the same time, it is completely disingenuous to have a building rating system that presents a building as "green" while taking no account of the occupancy of the building. This allows Bank of America to relish in the press' praise at the ribbon cutting, then immediately consume inordinate amounts of energy when the building is occupied. This allows developers and owners to get all of the praise on the front end and none of the criticism on the back end. 

Lastly, this story proved to me the importance of municipal energy auditing. We know about this because NYC commissioned a study of energy use. So we have real data and not fuzzy math. We need more of this kind of data not less.  

As a designer, my take on this is simple. We can only control what we control. Designing a lighting system that is efficient and beautiful is the charge of the lighting designer. Designing a building that's as energy responsible as possible is the architect's charge. We cannot be responsible for occupancy. I just wish LEED reflected that.  

 

Can Natural Light Be An Inspiration for Lighting Design?

The Power of Natural Light

This morning I had to walk Frankie very early for reasons we don't have to get into. As I stumbled toward the local park (only 1/2 a block away) my senses were awoken not by the scent of coffee, though that would have been wonderful, but by the beautiful first light of morning gently pouring in from the east. 

This morning's sunrise was obscured by trees and reflected off the pond. 

This morning's sunrise was obscured by trees and reflected off the pond. 

The entire park was bathed with a blueish purple light a light that felt more suitable to swim through than walk through. The tranquility of the morning light was stabbed through occasionally by the bright orange street lighting surrounding us. There are so many lessons a lighting designer can draw from a moment like this. For instance:

  • I'm sure my light meter would have read 1-2 foot-candles as I walked through the low grass toward the pond, yet everything was visible. Our eyes adjust.  
  • Contrasting shadow is beautiful - even light isn't necessary.
  • Light can have color if it's subtle.  

I've been fortunate enough to see lots of decorative and architectural lighting. I've seen beautifully lit rooms and spaces. I've worked on custom fixtures designed by some of the most recognized names in the world. At the same time, walking with Frankie exposes me to a lot of natural light. I will tell you hands down that natural light continues to inspire far beyond anything I've ever seen in an architectural application. 

It was actually this view that first snapped me out of my morning haze. Something about the gentle brightness of the sky set back behind the darkened leaves. 

It was actually this view that first snapped me out of my morning haze. Something about the gentle brightness of the sky set back behind the darkened leaves. 

Maybe it's because I come from the theater where light is meant to do all kinds of amazing things like replicate forests or sunrise. Maybe I just l love big bold statements, whatever the reason my internal inspiration scale always lights up when in surrounded by beautiful natural light. 

This was last night's sunset. The light burst through the clouds as the sun made it's way to bed. This level of contrast and shadow would never be allowed in an architectural lighting design. Yet it is completely stunning in the natural world. Why can't we take more risks?

This was last night's sunset. The light burst through the clouds as the sun made it's way to bed. This level of contrast and shadow would never be allowed in an architectural lighting design. Yet it is completely stunning in the natural world. Why can't we take more risks?

What inspires you? What makes you think big thoughts and makes you want to change the way things are done?