The Exchange column on design awards in the Sept/Oct issue of A|L raises issues on the self-diminishing value of too many awards programs. The problem is that many of the presentations are worthy of awards as 'eye candy,' for several reasons.
Many first-rank lighting designers decline to submit their projects for awards not only due to the high cost and time involved, but because they feel they are not being judged by their peers. When the judging rules were established for the Lumen Awards many years ago, it was a requirement that at least one judge visit the finished project and report on how it compared to the presentation-and this was even before there were programs (i.e., Photoshop) that allowed for photographic enhancement, as described by Naomi Miller in her Exchange response.
Secondly, there are now mandatory energy codes limiting energy use as Naomi points out. And even if there weren't, design professionals should not be giving lip service to saving the planet; we should be practicing restraint in the use of energy. Rarely do presenters give details on how they did more with less, how the lighting design meets the requirements for visual task performance, or in the case of retail installations, increased sales. Steve Margulies, in his design of the Charlotte, North Carolina, Bank of America trading floor (Sept/Oct 2005, page 40) demonstrates that watts per square foot are not as meaningful in energy conservation as watt-hours per square foot, and that controls are an essential component in design.
In her Exchange response, Carrie Knowlton pointed out that 'receiving an award can be an excellent marketing opportunity.' How true. On the other hand, she remarked that awards 'also educate young and future lighting designers, as well as the public, about the value of lighting design.' Here too, the original documentation of the Lumen Award entries required discussion of technical issues, which were emphasized in the awards presentations. That's the proper way to educate.
Ours is a profession practicing the Art and Science of Illumination, yet we don't give enough credit to the goals and accomplishments of the lighting design, other than its transitory visual appearance. There must be a set of criteria established for each award, with judges of the highest reputations, so that the awards are respected by the community, or they will gradually diminish in importance and credibility.
Willard L. Warren, PE, PC, FIESNA
willard l. warren associates
lighting and energy consultants, new york