According to a survey conducted last September, 72 percent of architectural lighting magazine's readers design lighting for office space-the most predominant project type, followed by residential at 60 percent and retail at 57 percent. And if the economy actually expands, the square feet in this category should too.
Energy efficiency remains a major factor affecting office lighting design. Code requirements that limit wattage per square foot are inching across the country, and by 2005, should be in effect in most states. Meanwhile, the US Green Buildings Council's LEED rating system-intended to encourage sustainable building practices-is quickly becoming a dictatorial force in many new construction and major renovation projects. LEED certification programs for existing buildings, commercial interiors, and core and shell projects are also in various stages of pilot testing.
Daylighting appears to have supplanted T8 and T5 lamps and energy-efficient ballasts as the hot trend in office lighting. If Lightfair International is a yardstick for what is happening in the lighting industry, the show's newly established Daylighting Institute provides a case in point. (See Industry Report, page 17.) Recently introduced products like Lutron Electronics' Grafik 7000 is another. The technology manages dimming, switching, draperies and shades, as well as monitors energy usage, from a centralized lighting control system. 'Our clients are very interested in ways to effectively integrate window treatments with electric light control,' says David Bennett, commercial marketing leader with Lutron. 'There is an opportunity to create a high-quality visual environment, while meeting energy ratings, not only for watts per square foot, but also HVAC levels.' In the next five years, he expects to see a growing demand for increased interoperability of control systems-integrating not just electric light and daylighting, but security and other building systems, facility-wide.
According to Bennett, there is also a push for lighting management capabilities at the individual level. 'I see a very exciting interest in personal lighting controls,' he says. In 2003, the first stage of a study conducted by the Light Right Institute (of which Lutron was a sponsor) demonstrated a connection between personal dimming control and employee productivity. (See October/November 2003, page 39.) The study is not finished, but the lighting industry is hoping the results will provide quantitative proof of the value of quality lighting; building owners and architects might be more willing to listen if there are supporting numbers. Still, many designers remain skeptical. They are not seeing and do not expect an overly loud call for this technology for one particular reason: Personal dimming equipment and installation are still an expensive undertaking and, hence, seen as a design frill. 'There is an acceptance hurdle that we have not succeeded in overcoming,' says lighting designer James Benya of Portland, Oregon. 'Until it goes from luxury to necessity, personal dimming is not going to happen on a scale that makes our industry transform.'
Will lighting be the next weapon in the ongoing battle against vanilla office space? On this, the jury is out. Benya expects a surge in creativity in this area-both in terms of new products and design approaches. 'There is a renaissance in furniture-integrated lighting and in task lighting,' he says. 'Rather than the same-old same-old, designers want fresh equipment and concepts.' For others, however, creativity and superior design are hampered by the spreading implementation of watts-per-square-foot requirements. 'Energy codes are not necessarily good at promoting quality lighting,' says Illinois-based lighting consultant Mitchell Kohn, who has chaired the IES office lighting committee for 15 years. The committee writes the ANSI standards for office lighting. 'If you want to include lighting for aesthetic reasons, you may not have the watts to do it.' He also sees a dearth in product options: 'How long have we had the T5 and how many good fixtures are there specifically designed for the T5? A handful.'
The collective industry will ultimately rule on these trends at Lightfair International 2004. For the 72 percent of A|L's readership with an interest in office lighting, this will be a good place to gather data.