With so much at stake in the recent elections, ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING asked: How do you think the 2008 U.S. presidential election will impact the lighting industry? Here, the presidents of the two principal professional U.S. lighting organizations offer their perspectives before and after the election.
In November, Americans elected Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president. With the economy pressuring all future policy decisions, everyone will watch with interest the direct effect on the lighting industry.
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International Association Of Lighting Designers
President-elect Barack Obama, I believe, understands large-scale investment, and the impact of green technologies and alternative energy solutions. As a core idea, Obama is going to be more aggressive in advocating and investing in technologies that can get us off oil. That is very good for the lighting design industry because as lighting designers we have the opportunity in that environment to have a much broader impact with our expertise. From the industry side, this will mean more work for lighting designers both in terms of volume and scope of services.
In contrast, I think Republican nominee John McCain was advocating a continuation of market-based initiatives, leaving it to the private sector to address issues that are better balanced between private and public. Given the state of the economy, those private interests would not have the resources or even the interest to make those investments.
Going forward, lighting designers will find themselves working on new and different things. For example, there is going to be more retrofit, more reuse, and energy fit outs of the existing building stock. This ought to create more work for lighting designers and more free industry at the same time. With increasing pressure on lighting designers to do more and higher-level sustainable buildings, we'll have a broader range of projects that showcase a deeper use of our talents. On the manufacturer side, there will be a better environment for solid-state lighting and controls as well as light fixtures and sources. If Obama follows through on making green technologies a national priority, then out of that ought to come a higher level of recognition of how important lighting is. This will mean higher visibility and more acceptance of the lighting designer.
Whereas McCain has lots of experience in international policymaking, in the campaign this was not apparent. I think Obama has more interest in an international approach, trying to partner up and “make friends” again with our allies, potentially leading to more flexible immigration policies. This bodes well for the lighting industry. With better connections to other countries we will have more opportunities for projects, more opportunities for clients to come to the U.S., and more opportunities for lighting designers to hire people from overseas. Right now it is very difficult for lighting design firms to hire good people from India, China, or other countries because you can't get visas. As the IALD president, I'm in touch with people around the world, and increasingly people say they see the U.S. as an island. With a broader sense of connectedness and dialogue, it ought to be good for lighting designers who are increasingly globalized.
I hope that we are entering a period of higher optimism. One way to promote this is by keeping the lights on—light the tops of buildings or invest in urban downtown lighting to improve the cityscape. In an optimistic era people are more outgoing, more unifying. If we do it right, we'll be in a period of people recognizing good lighting.