As a student at the University of Kansas I worked for the EADC - Energy Analysis and Diagnostic Center. This was a fantastic DOE-sponsored program (now called IAC) which employed college students to perform free energy audits of manufacturing plants and commercial office spaces and then provide them a report full of Energy Conservation Opportunities (ECOs.) One of our most common ECOs at that time was: replace existing T12 fluorescent lamps and magnetic ballasts with energy-saving T8 fluorescent lamps and new electronic ballasts. One of the added benefits of this upgrade was the elimination of "flicker." Though imperceptible to some, flicker can be quite problematic for sensitive individuals, causing headaches or even seizures. Flicker happens with the natural cycling of AC power, but with the higher frequency inherent in electronic ballasts, the fluorescent phosphors do not have time to dim, and therefore flicker is eliminated.
We had a handy tool that we could use to verify whether the existing ballasts were magnetic or electronic. It was a top, called a flicker checker. When you spin it under electronic ballasts, you see a series of concentric gray circles like in the first video below.
However, if the existing fixture had magnetic ballasts, the flicker checker displayed choppy squares instead of concentric circles, illustrated in the video below.
The thing is, this second video wasn't a top spinning under a fluorescent lamp with a magnetic ballast. It was spinning under a dimmed LED fixture! Once again we need to watch out for flicker in our lighting. The great news is that this time almost everyone is armed with their own personal flicker checker! No...maybe not a top. Pull out the camera on your phone and point it at the nearest LED source. If you see a series of bars or stripes on your display, the source is flickering. If not, then you have a high-quality LED with a compatible dimmer and/or driver.
Try it. Let us know what you find!
The International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) is currently participating in the development of an international lighting certification. The debate that surrounds this whole idea is an interesting topic in and of itself. It stems from 2009 Legislation in Texas that would have required a license to practice lighting design. I recently sat in on an IALD webinar about credentialing, and while I am as credentialed up (kind of like tatted up, only I'm not that) as anyone I know, I'm not yet convinced that this is the answer.
That is a debate I would rather not enter, though!
What I want to share here are some great metrics that the group has thoughtfully accumulated to measure and provide the elusive definition of the profession of architectural lighting design. Currently they identify seven domains that define the core competencies that a lighting designer will be required to illustrate and maintain for certification. They are:
1. Goals and Outcomes - Project goals are met in the final lighting design.
2. Collaboration - The lighting designer collaborated with all members of the team throughout the duration of the project.
3. Ingenuity - The lighting designer proposed creative, ingenious solutions to the design of the project.
4. Synthesis - The lighting solutions are integrated and the lighting design complements the overall design solution of the project.
5. Science - The design illustrated proper application of technology and consideration of human psychology.
6. Stewardship - Avoid or minimize harm, discomfort, or waste.
7. Human Experience - The lighting design contributes to and enhances the human experience of the space.
I think this is a great list and something to consider every project. What do you think? Is anything missing? What would you add or delete from the list? The tougher question - are these measurable?
I heard a psychological review of Adele's song "Someone Like You" on NPR. You can read the entire transcript here. This part of the program really jumped out at me:
I have been immersed in the architectural lighting world and its jargon for well over 20 years now. (What other industry uses such refreshingly technical terms as "Luminaire Dirt Depreciation"? But I digress.) Sometimes I forget that when I refer to a light bulb by its correct name, "lamp", that many of you picture this.
But I'm referring to this.
"Bulb" is the glass part of the lamp...er...light bulb.
So I want to illustrate some of the lighting terminology that I use.
In the picture below, we see several important lighting elements.
Ambient Lighting. In this example, ambient lighting is provided by the recessed lights that are mounted in the red ceiling. Ambient lighting is the general lighting in the space. It is the baseline that is just needed for walking around.
Task Lighting. In this example, task lighting is provided by the fabric pendants. Task lighting is lighting for the task. In this restaurant example, it is the lighting necessary for seeing your food and your dinner companions' faces. Energy can be saved by using task and ambient lighting appropriately.
Accent Lighting. In this example, accent lighting is provided by the track lights. Here it is the light that is aimed at the art on the wall. It accents this interesting parts of the space. Without accent lighting, there is plenty of light for seeing, but the space can be boring.
Daylighting. Light that comes from the sun. This could be from any kind of window or skylight.
Interior Surfaces. Wait, interior surfaces aren't a light source, are they? Well, yes and no. The reflectance of an interior surface makes such a huge difference in the impact of lighting on a space and on one's ability to see. You can perceive it in this photo. The yellow wall on the left hand side of the photo is brighter and reflects much more light back into the room than the dark orange or green wall on the right hand side of the photo. The color, reflectance, and contrast of interior surfaces are critically important.
There. You are enlightened. Maybe you will be able to understand me just a little better when I talk about lighting.
~ This post is dedicated to my mom.
Lisa J. Reed, lighting designer and Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC