The Department of Buildings for the city of New York is going to start auditing design submissions and will revoke permits if projects do not meet New York State Energy Code compliance. To educate architects and designers on the new requirements being implemented by the city that are necessary to comply with the state code, the AIA New York, ASHRAE, and Urban Green recently partnered to present a series of energy code training sessions titled “Energy Code: It's the Law” from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4 at the Center for Architecture in New York.

While stringent energy codes ensure occupant safety and benefit the environment, some architects and lighting designers regard codes as barriers to good design. Part two of the series, “Lighting Design and the Energy Code,” presented by Hayden McKay and Shoshanna Segal of Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design, offered design strategies applicable to any city or code. The two lighting practitioners believe it is possible to meet and even exceed code requirements while maintaining lighting quality. One way to address lighting code issues, they point out, is by returning to the basics—namely daylighting. Not only is daylighting energy efficient but it is beneficial to occupants. “Americans spend 85 to 90 percent of their lives indoors,” McKay noted. Rather than rely on electric lighting, she suggests that it should be considered supplemental.

Controls are another strategic way to create energy-efficient lighting design. Separately controlled layers of light allow occupants to modulate their environment throughout the day, using natural lighting when feasible. Clearly labeling lighting controls and fine tuning after installation ensures that occupants will be able to properly operate them. Otherwise, McKay says, users will “self medicate” by bringing incandescent lamps to their desks, offsetting any energy savings.

Instead of retrofitting existing lighting systems, which usually are inefficient, McKay advocates starting with a clean slate by “re-lighting.” With this approach, a designer can use a little creativity to correct undesirable architectural conditions. For example, punched openings can create stark interior contrast, but you can remedy this problem by lighting the wall space between openings. Designers should light the space first, then accommodate specific tasks, Segal suggests, instead of the other way around. A delicate balance needs to be struck between comfort and stimulation; the absence of shadows is too uniform and in turn is boring.

McKay and Segal advocate using a wide variety of lighting sources and point out that, while the decision depends heavily on the intended application, the most energy-efficient fixture is not always the best. “Be careful not to let technology be the driver,” Segal warns. Designers should make lighting an integral part of the project from the start. Rather than passing the task to a consultant, Segal suggests “tailored rather than blanket solutions.”

The New York City Department of Design and Construction also has developed a helpful resource, a lighting design guide titled The Manual for Quality, Energy Efficient Lighting, that offers practical lighting solutions that can be beneficial to designers in New York and elsewhere. It can be downloaded at The energy code training series continues with a second five-part program Dec. 2. For more details visit