The value of light is typically measured in dollars, color temperature, or efficacy. But how does one quantify the sense of security that light provides in a parking garage, or the increased productivity of workers in a bright factory? This question of enumerating the objective, along with the psychological benefits of light, was posed to the roughly 175 industry experts and participants who attended the 25th anniversary celebration of the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y., on March 20.

Audience members representing a gamut of industries, such as architectural design, manufacturing, and policy, came from across the U.S. and around the world—including 14 attendees from Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Sweden—to commemorate the university-based research center and educational institution. The LRC is internationally recognized for conducting objective, third-party testing of lighting products as well as for its research and development work with lighting technologies and their associated impact on human factors.

In his opening remarks, LRC director and co-founder Mark Rea stressed the importance of finding “additional metrics to expand the definition of the value of lighting to the benefit of the environment and society.” Because the private and public sectors gravitate toward objective “perceived” metrics, the qualitative “real” value of lighting is at risk of being value engineered out of projects.

Keynote speaker Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy Group UK, enlightened the crowd with case studies in which prioritizing general psychological metrics led to tangible benefits. The challenge of ascertaining and communicating the value of lighting was discussed by a five-member panel, which included Sutherland along with Peter Bennich, Solid-State Lighting chair, Swedish Energy Agency; Steven Briggs, general manager of Global Product Management, GE Lighting Solutions; Randy Burkett, president and design principal, Randy Burkett Lighting Design; and Andrew Vesey, COO and executive vice president, AES Corp.

During the day, the LRC also hosted an open house of its facility in the historic W. & L.E. Gurley Building, which dates back to 1862. Though it may appear like “an old factory with basically empty space,” Rea says, the four-story building allows the LRC to fulfill its “core competence” to “measure light and electricity” while responding to the needs of its particular customers—a diverse range of constituencies that includes the Federal Aviation Administration as well as dairy farmers. The space also allows the LRC to adapt quickly to industry-wide changes in lighting products. “We’re not committed to a technology,” Rea says. “We’re committed to lighting.”

The event also celebrated the opening of the LRC’s new photometry laboratory, funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Irvin “Jack” White, the past NYSERDA president who issued the original 1987 request for proposals that would establish the LRC, cut the ribbon alongside Rea and current NYSERDA president and CEO Frank Murray.

The day culminated at the historic Franklin Plaza ballroom, where Rea and other LRC staff paid tribute to individuals and organizations with longtime affiliations with the center. Rea also announced the launch of the Glenn W. Bailey Industry Mentor program and its first honoree, Fred Heller, chairman emeritus and former CEO of Genlyte. As part of the program, Heller will help introduce students and researchers at the LRC to important practices in the lighting profession. The LRC then presented a 25-Year Award to NYSERDA for its leadership in lighting research and support for the center.

For more information about the LRC and its numerous initiatives, visit