Current economic and political events present us with a precarious and unprecedented moment in U.S. history. With the U.S. economy in turmoil in large part due to the housing and mortgage crisis, economic milestones such as gasoline hitting more than $4 a gallon, and the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November unknown, ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING's Industry Exchange questions for its next three issues—Sept/Oct 2008 through Jan/Feb 2009—take on a new immediacy.
Amid these conditions the architectural lighting community faces a paradox: lighting design firms have yet to see any kind of a downturn, rather, there is an excessive amount of work in addition to concern about the lack of qualified lighting professionals in the marketplace. (See “Professional Sustainability,” April/May 2008.) However, on the manufacturing side of things, the National Lighting Bureau (NLB) referred to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) 2008 first-quarter Lighting Systems Index data (nlb.org/index) as “troubling.” Established in 1998, the index is “a composite measure of lamps, luminaries, ballasts, emergency lighting, exit signs, and other lighting products shipped nationally and internationally from the United States by the 430 companies that comprise NEMA,” according to NEMA's website.
In a press release, NLB communications director John Bachner indicated that although the index results exceeded 2007 fourth-quarter results by 1.1 percent because of an increase in emergency lighting and miniature lamp shipments, overall the U.S. lighting market is moving in a downward direction for the second consecutive quarter. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Architecture Billings Index (ABI) also is not forecasting a bright future. A leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI hit a historic low of 39.7 in March 2008 (scores above 50 indicate an increase in billings). In May, the ABI was experiencing a slight rebound with a reporting of 43.4.
The question is no longer if these general economic trends will affect the lighting community, but how and when. Even more important, how will the lighting industry prepare and respond? ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING invites its readership to respond to the following set of Industry Exchange questions and engage in this highly important discussion.
RESPONSES CAN BE SENT TO ELIZABETH DONOFF AT EDONOFF@HANLEYWOOD.COM.
Exchange Questions: Sept/Oct 2008: With the slowdown in the current U.S. economy, what effect is it having on your firm/company's workflow and projected workflow for the next 12 to 18 months? DEADLINE: AUGUST 26, 2008
Nov/Dec 2008: How do you think the 2008 U.S. presidential election will impact the lighting industry? DEADLINE: OCTOBER 26, 2008
Jan/Feb 2009: What are your thoughts on/concerns for the economic outlook of the lighting industry in 2009? What steps will you take at your firms and companies to adjust and respond to the current marketplace? DEADLINE: DECEMBER 19, 2008