In 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was launched with a mission to transform the marketplace for environmentally preferable building design and construction practices. In less than a decade, the USGBC was well on its way toward that goal. Not only did it popularize the terms “green building” and “sustainable design,” it also launched LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—a green building benchmarking system. Since its debut in 2000, LEED has driven the global demand for quantifiable “green” buildings. It rapidly gained acceptance among progressive municipalities, school systems, universities, institutions, and corporations seeking a metric to encourage and reward efficient, high-performance facilities.
LEED has changed the way the architectural design, engineering, and construction professions practice. To meet the program’s stringent criteria practitioners have had to collectively learn to deliver buildings with a highly integrated design approach. But, LEED did not originally include lighting design as a qualitative element in its quantitative metrics. Lighting designers may have been miffed by this oversight, but nonetheless they still sought to achieve LEED accreditation because it offered a competitive advantage with architects seeking consultants who could address energy efficiency, daylight integration, and controls.
Lighting designers had long been advocating for sensible energy codes. The International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) had its Energy Committee and the closely allied Quality of the Visual Environment Committee pushed for smart energy legislation regarding lighting systems. As the USGBC gained influence, many lighting designers adopted LEED design principles and contributed to the refinement of lighting-related credits in the early versions of LEED. In 1999, the IALD converted its Energy Committee into the Energy and Sustainability Committee, with its members volunteering for USGBC working teams to interpret and improve the original credits for sustainable site lighting, daylight and views, and individual controllability of lighting. The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) formed a Sustainability Committee in 2001 to influence credit development and to assemble its own “Design Guide for Sustainable Lighting” (IES DG-22-12). Many of these committee members volunteered to become voting members for the ASHRAE Standard 90.1 for energy efficiency, referenced by LEED.
As someone who started in theatrical lighting design and then found himself working on energy-efficient lighting and daylighting projects in the 1990s, I saw the green building movement as a significant business opportunity. From my involvement in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Lights Program to eventually co-chairing the IALD Energy and Sustainability Committee, I understood that LEED could be a powerful market driver for lighting. When the LEED exam was first offered in 2000, a few IALD members, including myself, took and passed the test. Within a couple of years the IALD and IES joined the USGBC. Lighting design firms have also steadily joined the USGBC and encouraged their staff to take the LEED-AP exam.
LEED’s popularity has raised the awareness of lighting as a critical component of energy efficient and environmentally responsible design. While it may have originally caught the lighting design profession by surprise, it has become part of the profession’s standard vocabulary and scope of work.
Mark Loeffler, IALD, LEED fellow, is a director at Atelier Ten Environmental Design Consultants + Lighting Designers, in New Haven, Conn.