illustrations by Eugene Smith

Solid-state lighting is transforming lighting in every aspect—from fixture design to design applications. architectural lighting recently spoke with Richard Fisher, Barbara Horton, Eric Lind, Michael Myer, Brian Stacy, and Ron Steen—the speakers at this year's LEDucation program, which took place on March 16. These six are a cross section of the design, manufacturing, and research sectors of the lighting industry, and they talk about their concerns and excitement about how LEDs are impacting architectural lighting design and luminaire development. What follows is an excerpted version of that conversation.

What impact is solid-state lighting having on the design practitioners and manufacturers?
Barbara Horton: I have been reluctant about LEDs for some time, but my introduction to the Next Generation Luminaire program really made a big difference for me. In every era, we seem to engage in new technology, and while this one is a little bit more complex … it's just more to learn. There is definitely a learning curve but, at least in our office, we've embraced the technology, and are seriously looking at it as a basic and dominant tool now. If you had asked me two years ago about that, I would have laughed.

Barbara Horton is president/CEO and senior principal at Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design in New York. As a design principal she has the opportunity to work on projects around the world, and her design skills allow her to meet each challenge from the design stage to installation.

Eric Lind: From a manufacturer's perspective, it's much different. It's the coordination involved with a new source. In the past, with fluorescent in particular and maybe even metal halide, there were fewer moving parts and pieces. It tended to be more sequential—a lamp being developed, then a ballast, and then a fixture around it. Much more with LEDs is concurrent and I think that's put a greater burden on manufacturers to coordinate from the LED module to the driver to the fixture. Timing is also affected. The world has become very comfortable with mixing parts and pieces with metal halide and fluorescent where you have ballasts that are UL-listed. If you want a fixture [for LED] that's UL-listed, the entire assembly has to be listed.

Eric Lind is vice president of global specifications at Lutron Electronics in Coopersburg, Pa., and has overseen the development and expansion of Grafik Eye and related products. He is currently working on new control technologies for energy-efficient lighting sources. Lind serves on the IES Board of Directors, IES Progress Committee, and the IALD Lighting Industry Resource Council.

Will that change over time as there are more LED fixtures on the market? Lind: I would tell you that once there is some movement toward a standard socket, I think there will be, potentially, the opportunity to move drivers to a point where they can be UL-listed. It's a question of when.

Ron Steen: We're riding a curve. Two or three years ago, efficacies were sitting around 10 to 20 lumens per watt. Now, we are seeing 50, 60, 70 lumens per watt, with a theoretical headroom of 220. Lead times of the technology are going to continue to evolve. It's better we prepare for the ride for the next three or four years—and maybe it's even more like 10 years.

Ron Steen, vice president of business development at Xicato (based in the Lindenhurst, Ill., office), has been working with LEDs since 1996. He successfully brought the first full-function LED tail lamp to market in 2000 and did pioneering work on the LED headlamp. Prior to joining Xicato, he was Philips' director of product management for solid-state lighting systems and drivers.

Are there instances where components could stabilize so a baseline standard can be set? Steen: People are going to start normalizing on lumen package; at least I hope that they do. And there is going to continue to be pressure on energy savings.

Michael Myer: Any bit of interchangeability would be great at this point. Drivers that are forward phase and a reverse phase. Everything is very different right now.

The thing I like about LEDs is that we don't need more efficacious products, we just need better lighting. Rather than having to keep pumping out more and more light, maybe we should start thinking about: Why do we want so much light?

Michael Myer has been with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in the Lexington, Mass., office for the past three years. Previously, he worked for Naomi Miller Lighting Design and before that Hayden McKay Lighting Design. Since joining PNNL, Michael has worked on projects that include Appliance Standards for the Department of Energy (DOE) Solid-State Lighting Commercialization, and the DOE's Commercial Building Energy Alliances.

Richard Fisher: What's interesting from my point of view, as a young designer, is starting to understand more about what the technology means in terms of light. People are understanding what LEDs can do instead of just pushing for efficacy.

Richard Fisher joined Arup's New York office in 2008. With his background in architectural and theatrical lighting design, he focuses on lighting-control systems design and integration, and has worked on projects including theaters, corporate headquarters, hospitality, and sculpture lighting.

Brian Stacy: It's been interesting to hear this desire for standardization because, for me, it's a tool that goes back to a time in the industry where lighting designers were, in a way, a little bit like craftsmen putting together components that weren't necessarily just a spec-ready system. To actually compose, to be able to create with light. It feels like we kind of have a source again that has given us the ability to have nonstandard lighting.

Brian Stacy is Arup's lighting leader, and an associate principal, and the principal lighting designer at the firm's New York office. Stacy has been instrumental in building an international network of lighting designers within the company. The core business of this network is designing integrated daylighting and architectural lighting. He incorporates his keen interest in the use of cutting-edge control and LED technology on all projects.

Are there certain ways in which LEDs are impacting lighting for better or worse? Myer: I sometimes do get frustrated that often the first thing people say is, “We're looking for an energy solution. What about LEDs?” Fluorescent is a great product for certain applications. Other technologies can be as efficient or more efficient—and possibly cheaper. And yet everyone is saying it has to be LED. Very few people are asking you for T5 lamps or metal halide but everybody knows what an LED is.