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The Future of Lighting - 6th part

Mihai R. Pecingina, ing., de Kelvin Emtech, et coll. - lectricit Qubec / Volume ... / ... 2010


The Experts Share their Opinions

Lighting the Future


Dr Cristian Suvageau, P. Eng. LC

Cristian Suvageau has worked and taught in the domain of lighting design and energy efficiency in Europe and North America for over 20 years.  Senior Engineer in lighting and energy management with BC Hydro, he focuses his activity on lighting energy efficiency projects and programs.  Mr. Suvageau obtained his doctorate degree in lighting in Romania and was the prior to last IESBC President.

Look Around!

Well, we are now in 2010. We do not need a crystal bowl to predict the future in lighting! What we
need to do is look around. For lighting the future is happening now – cold cathode replaceable
lamps in commercial and residential applications, induction luminaires in industrial settings LED
luminaires for roadway lighting, and many other new applications. These technologies either did
not exist or were just emerging a decade ago, at the dawn of the Millennium.

In lighting, however, the evolution of technology is not at all linear. Its development history been
marked by big lapses and breaks. It is the last decade that has experience a bold push of
emerging technologies such as Solid State Lighting (SSL) devices, digital addressable
fluorescent ballasts or wireless commercial controls, to name just a few.

This is part of a planned future. We are at a mid-point of the 2020 technology roadmap, a 20-year
North American industry plan for lighting technology. This initiative was fostered by all big industry
players, from the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) to the International
Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association
(NEMA) and the U.S. Department of Energy.

As with any technology roadmap, we soon find barriers and challenges and we have to develop
strategies to overcome them in order to successfully transform the market. Reading the 2020
Vision document (http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy00osti/28236.pdf) reveals what these challenges
and strategies could. But I would like to venture to my personal 2020 lighting vision.

To paraphrase a famous quote of the French writer and philosopher Andre Malraux, “If the 21st
century will not be energy efficient, it will not exist at all”. Briefly, today’s reality of climate change
and scarcity of resources dictates that mankind needs to seriously reduce the energy
consumption, as well as the ecological footprint, of material production. Net zero energy
consumption in buildings and completely recyclable luminaires are being avidly researched today,
giving us strong hope for tomorrow.

Technology-wise, solid state, digital and wireless are going to be the standards for tomorrow’s
lighting. Using LED or Organic LED engines, the solid state technology of the future will enable
an unparalleled level of controllability and flexibility to deliver quality lighting to the users. Besides
the classical meaning of dimming, SSL sources will have the ability to modify the colour
temperature of the light to match the circadian needs of buildings’ occupants or to dynamically
change the appearance colour to match occupants’ moods or artistic inclinations. Side and core
daylighting-enhanced lighting systems can complement them offering a healthy, natural
continuation of outdoor activities indoors. Overall, it would be ideal that, for building occupants,
the terms “day lighting” and “artificial lighting” to simply and naturally be referred to as “lighting”.
Fluorescent and HID technologies will survive only with digital ballasts in order to compete with
their solid state counterparts. Committed to a continuous reduction of the mercury content, lamp
manufacturers will develop equipment with increased energy efficiency, longer life and superior
lumen maintenance (for HIDs and CFLs). Addressable digital ballasts, likely common equipment
for all forms of discharge technologies of the future, will enable achievement of significant energy
conservation goals as they will easily interface with occupancy and daylight harvesting controls.
On the controls front, the wireless ability to connect lighting equipment within the building or to
adjacent buildings will be a commodity of the future. Open protocols will enable the “plug-andplay”
connectivity of digital lighting sources (SSL or discharge ballasts) to control sensors and
actuators. Moreover, modern building management systems will enable older, non-digital
equipment to easily interface with digital equipment thus allowing not only energy savings but a
greater flexibility of (individual) control for the occupants.

Lighting design, however, will see the most extraordinary advancements. The use of SSL
technology will require and also enable a true paradigm shift of how lighting is provided. For
example, OLED sources could be in the form of ceiling tiles or wall panels and can be easily
replaced or re-arranged by end-users using a wired power network embedded in architectural
surfaces. The smaller size of SSL luminaires will allow an easier and more efficient illumination of
tasks, reducing the need for a bright ambient component and saving important amounts of power
and energy. The same design coupled with a control network could provide an individualised
illumination that will follow people as they travel through the space. For area and roadway
applications, this glimpse of the future is almost here, as LED luminaires with motion sensors can
turn on and off as a presence is detected along the way.


In imagining a better future, we must open ourselves to the idea of change. As there is no perfect
present, one can only hope for an ideal future ; however, we must mitigate today’s issues :
Efficiency metrics : a 100-year old definition of the lumen, a metric developed for photopic
vision, does not support the realities of the present, let alone the future. While most of human
activities supported by artificial lighting are under mesopic vision, it is natural to consider a metric
for luminous efficiency born under this realm. Currently, IES has commissioned a sub-committee
of the Roadway Lighting Committee to investigate the mesopic vision benefits for white light

Value engineering concept : today value engineering is a necessary evil designed to balance
capital construction resources ; however, value engineering should not have a place in
tomorrow’s lighting design. Integrated design practice should be the norm, ensuring that all
stakeholders’ needs are considered and balanced for a healthy budget that also consider life
cycle cost accounting, not only simple payback, as today.

Energy codes : the narrow vision of efficiency based solely on restricting demand (W per area
unit), neglecting the actual contribution of controls, cannot continue. Utilities are charging
customers based mainly on their energy consumption. This needs to be reflected in the energy
code metrics (kWh per area unit). This way, designers and owners will not be penalised for an
efficient but layered lighting design. The 2011 Canadian National Energy Code is one standard
that is expected to incorporate this metric. Moreover, using smart metering, utilities will develop
tariffs that will reward customers with flexible time of use consumption that will keep the load
peaks at bay.

By Dr. Cristian Suvagau, P. Eng. LC

Conor Sampson, OAQ, LC

Mr. Conor Sampson, Arch., LC, IESNA is an Irish-born Canadian with double citizenship.  He received his architectural bachelor's degree from McGill University and a Mastes in lighting from the Parson's Schol of Designin New York.  A member of the Order of Architects of Québec, he has an impressive curriculum vitae including several prizes received from around the world.  He has worked in New York, Wahington, and Montreal where he now has his own company; CS Design: Lighting, Design / Architecture.  he is presently on the Montreal IES board of Directors.

Depending on where you stand, the future of architectural lighting is either utopic or apocalyptic. From the technological perspective, great advances have been made over the past ten years : output, efficiency, and range of products have all increased exponentially. The evolution from incandescent lighting to LED can be compared to the seismic shift from analog to digital. The huge amount of research and development money being poured into LED research will yield large returns in energy efficiency and quality of light over the next five years. In parallel, fluorescent technology has made deep inroads into the consumer market in a way that never happened when it was originally introduced in the mid eighties.

The popular press is filled with comparisons between incandescent and CFL bulbs or amazing LED laboratory results. Unfortunately, there has been scant coverage of the evolution of fixtures and delivery of light. To date, the major push in most of these technologies has been to create retrofit lamps to fit existing fixtures, or mimic the shape of existing lamps. I would argue that the focus should be on the potential to innovate in the area of fixture design and the distribution of light. Many designers bemoans the phenomena of curly CFL hanging out of a downlight or the abomination of the LED T8 tube. The most interesting applications of LEDs have come in the form of planes of light (luminescent wallpaper, for example) or in the area of controls, where shifting shapes, colours and hues have become possible.

Ironically, this last advance may epitomize the dark side of technological advance : we have relinquished control of our lighting design to marketers and energy consultants. Maximum choice is not design, and quality often loses out to quantity. The 12 million colour options offered by an LED RGB system, or the reduction of connected load to 0.70 watts per square foot is not a design in itself. Rather, it signals a “colour by number” approach to design and a Disney‐fication of our environment. Partially to blame, the sustainability movement has become fixated with quantity metrics : how much light, how many watts, how much mercury, how much embedded energy. Little attention has been paid to where the light is placed, the intensity and variability, or the colour and rendering. Perhaps a little inefficient lighting masterfully used is better than blinding, poorly rendered, but efficient lighting ?

Of course we shouldn’t have to settle for either/or – the solution is education. The public is impressed with the novelty and profusion of options, but it still retains a memory of incandescent as a basis for comparison. Manufacturers, and government, should help people to understand a Colour Rendering Index and a Colour Temperature, the difference between directional and diffuse light, and what control options are available. Educating the consumer will help avoid misunderstandings and disappointment, and encourage the continued integration of these technologies.

There are some very credible health and productivity studies that provide measured data demonstrating that the subtleties of lighting design can have a marked impact on quality of life. Conservation of energy will become law shortly and the hoopla will die down : we will practice sustainable design without a second thought. As professionals, we must encourage research into quality of the built environment and insist that the equation is more complex than simply counting watts. While a good building design must be sustainable, a sustainable building is not necessarily a well designed building. We should embrace the goals of sustainability, but let’s not forget the occupants and consider their immediate environment. One of the highpoints in the field of lighting has been the resurgence of interest in daylighting. With its sister, solar power generation, daylighting is implicitly grounded in local environments. Without a clear understanding of where you are building and how big your neighbors are, you cannot adequately daylight your space. Good daylighting requires architects to make informed decisions early in the design process, and plan orientations, apertures, finishes and materials to maximize the controlled penetration of the sun into their buildings. We can scratch our heads about the embodied energy in a CFL or the actual lamplife of an LED assembly, but the most efficient source is, without a doubt, one that is turned off. The field of daylighting was all the rage during the 1980’s oil embargo. Interest tapered off as oil prices fell. Of late, advanced simulation has been integrated into CAD packages, making it easier for young, computer literate designers to rapidly visualize the impact design changes can have on daylighting. The next frontier will be to simplify simulation, making it more accessible and intuitive.

There is an interesting consistency in the portrayal of futuristic environments, from Blade Runner (1982) to Brazil (1985), to the more recent Minority Report (2002). Though obviously not uplifting in their outlook, the futuristic cities (for the future is almost entirely depicted as urban or in deep space) is, literally, dark. The sun is non‐existent and the electric light is a glaring blue, pink, or cool white. The directors may consciously use this approach to heighten the contrast with the present, but it also warns of a fetishization of technology ; it suggests a narrowing of options. We need to be more holistic in our view of future environments and more aware of where the market is taking us. Our future is not light bulbs, but the application of light. We need to think in terms of the people inhabiting our spaces rather than being fixated on the light producing object or technology.

By Conor Sampson, OAQ, LC

Jeremy Snyder

Mr. Snyder is the Director of lighting programs at the Center for Research on Lighting at the Rensselear Polytechnic Institutte in Troy, NY, USA.

"Tunable" Lighting

In the future, lighting will be much more “tunable” than it is today. In addition to controlling the intensity of lights, as we do today, control of the temporal, spectral, and spatial properties will be more common. Being able to tune lighting throughout the day will allow optimization of lighting for vision and energy savings. Further, and it will open up the field of lighting to support health and safety, an increasingly important aspect of lighting design and products. Tunable lighting will be made possible by combining programmable controls with new generations of traditional light sources, LEDs, OLEDs, and daylighting.

By Jeremy Snyder


Jimi Benya is a professional in lighting with over 34 years of experience.  A certified Engineer, he is also a fellow of the Illuminating engineering Society of North America - FIES, a fellow of the International Association of Lighting Designers, a member of IEEE and is lighting certified (LC) by the National Council on Qualifications for Lighting Professionals (NCQLP).  He is the President of Benya Lighting Design and a teacher in environmental design at the University nof California in Davis.  Ha has been a member of the IDA board of Directors since 2001 (reconfirmed in 2010).  There's so much to say about him, I suggest you visit  his company website at www.benyalighting.com.

In a single word : LESS

  1. Less lighting. Sooner or later the architects have to realize that the emphasis has to be put on the exterior, natural lighting and not on the interior, artificial lighting. Sooner or later we will realize that we spend too much useless.

  2. We have been promoting from too much time a lighting that is not energy efficient. It’s going to be critical to stop lighting design giving awards to gratuitous lighting.  Example : some of the projects in the Middle-East. We’re talking about big, awesome projects, culturally responsive but which don’t care about energy consumption etc. Covering a roof with LEDsthat are lighting the sky is not meaning caution to the main issues… “More is better” has to end.

By Jim Benya