NYT Talks Lighting Design, But Not With Lighting Designers

Sometimes the New York Times is oblivious and yesterday was one of them.  In an article titled Lighting a Room, Simplified the author wrote about the importance of lighting in the home.  In preparing the article, she spoke to and quoted four interior designers, one fixture manufacturers and  one professional lighting designer.  In addition, all eight of the photos in the article are taken during the day, so they’re nice illustrations of the use of windows and daylight in residential interiors but terrible illustrations of electric lighting, which is the topic of the article.  They seem to  be marketing photos for particular lighting fixtures, not examples of good lighting.

It’s too bad.  There are plenty of lighting designers who would have gladly shared their expertise and their work with the public if asked.  Unfortunately, this article is a reflection of the public’s (and the author’s) lack of awareness of the contribution good lighting, and therefore a good lighting designer, can make to a residential of commercial project.

Lighting doesn’t just come with a building.  Most interior designers and architect receive little or no training or education in lighting design when they’re in school.  Yes, some do have an affinity for lighting and can create beautiful work despite their lack of training.  However, the best lighting design is most likely to come from the best trained people – professional lighting designers.  If you are looking, one place to start is the IALD’s web site and the Find A Lighting Designer tool on the home page.

The Myth of the Irrelevant Lighting Designer

Kevin Willmorth has a long and interesting article on his blog in which he argues for the recognition of professional lighting designers and what a professional lighting designer is and is not.  The post echoes Chapter 1 of Designing With Light, and many of the things I’ve written here, including promoting the lighting design profession, the value of professional lighting design, the need for projects to use a professional lighting designer (here, here and here),  those other than professional lighting designers making design decisions, and poor documentation of LED products by manufacturers, among other topics.  I don’t have much to add to Kevin’s post, except to say that it’s well worth reading.

IALD Set To Launch CLD Credential

After five years of planning the IALD is set to begin accepting applications for the newly created Certified Lighting Designer (CLD) credential. The CLD credential is similar to the LC (Lighting Certified) credential in that it is meant to demonstrate lighting design competency. Unlike the LC, the CLD credential will be awarded based on a portfolio review that demonstrates proficiency in seven areas of professional practice rather than by passing a written test. The other difference between CLD and LC is that the CLD will only be awarded individuals with at least three years of experience as a lead designer. This means that some people who have earned an LC (sales reps, for example) will not be eligible for the CLD.

Why does this matter? First, the LC credential carries some weight, mainly because since 2009 the GSA has required the lead lighting designer on U.S. government projects to be Lighting Certified. However, many designers are unhappy that people who aren’t practicing lighting designers can hold an LC credential. By limiting the CLD to working designers, the IALD hopes it will be seen as attesting to the holder’s skills as a lighting designer, not just their knowledge about lighting in general.

Second, lighting design is in some ways the redheaded stepchild of the architectural design professions. Lighting design is not licensed, meaning that anyone can say they’re a lighting designer. As a result, lighting design is provided by electrical engineers, architects, interior designers, sales people, and manufacturers who have widely varying education and training, and with widely varying degrees of success. The CLD could be a means of identifying who is a lighting designer and who is not.

The key to the success of this project is public awareness. If the IALD only talks about CLD to the lighting design community it will be nothing more than letters following a person’s name on their business card. Building owners and other clients have to understand the value that professional lighting designers can bring to a project, and have to insist that the design team includes a professional lighting designer. Architects and interior designers have to understand the role of a lighting designer and be willing to tell their clients that a professional lighting designer is an important part of the design team who is worth the additional fee. If, through the CLD, the IALD is able to raise awareness about lighting design in those who can benefit from it, it will have been well worth the effort.

First, The Bad Climate News

There’s more climate change news this week, some of it good and which I’ll get to in a few days.  First, though, the bad news.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) May 2014 was the hottest May ever recorded, and we have records dating back as far as 1880.

  • The combined average temperature over land and ocean surfaces was 1.33°F higher than the 20th century average, and the average temperature over land alone was 2.03°F higher.
  • The period of March through May was the third warmest on record, with global land surface temperature 2.27°F above the 20th century average.
  • he period of January through may was the fifth warmest on record, with a global land surface temperature of 1.19°F above the 20th century average.

Here’s a map showing the global temperature variations for May in degrees Celsius.


Combined with the just released report Risky Business, this is indeed bad news.  This report was commissioned by a new organization of the same name that was started by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer.  The report warns that, among other climate driven issues we’ll face by mid century, the number of days over 95°F will nearly double to between 45 and 96.  Outdoor laborers, including construction workers, may be unable to work for days or weeks at a time because of the extreme threat of heat stroke and even death due to the high heat.

Why do I keep going on about climate change?  Because it’s real, it’s here, and it does and will affect the lighting profession.  As long as we are still struggling to control greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change we should expect to see it impact lighting designers and manufacturers.  First, we should expect to see expanded requirements for, and limitations on, lighting systems.  Lower lumen power densities (LPDs), more requirements for sensors and controls, and more requirements for load shedding all seem inevitable.  On one hand that may be good for the profession because fewer and fewer architects and interior designers are going to be able to execute their own lighting designs (more work for us!).  On the other hand it will probably be a struggle to get clients to pay us more for the additional work.

The second impact this will have on our profession is that of credentials.  Today, lighting designer credentials are entirely voluntary except for the lead designer on federal projects, who must hold an LC.  I think we can expect more clients to ask for higher levels of green certification for their buildings, whether that is LEED, Green Globes, Energy Star or some other.  To demonstrate that we have the education and training to design these buildings, green credentials are going to be more important in the near future.  Designers who do not hold a LEED Green Associate credential, at a minimum, will be at a disadvantage.  So get ready.  The work, and the rewards, of being a lighting designer are changing.