Emergency Lighting--Whose Responsibility Is It: The Electrical Engineer or the Lighting Designer?

Mike Rogers, Senior Electrical Designer And Lighting Designer | M.E. Group, Inc. / Reveal Lighting
Your opening editor's comment "It Takes Two," in the Jan/Feb 2007 issue compelled me to join in the dialog. There is one item from the Exchange forum that caught my eye, which I felt warranted further discussion. I am privileged to work in parallel fields, as both electrical designer and lighting designer, and I would like to offer my opinion regarding Francesca Bettridge's topic of "Emergency Lighting" from the Jan/Feb 2007 issue of ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING.

As an electrical designer, working with outside lighting designers always presents challenges regarding defining points of responsibility and limits of liability. Since our firm acts as the registered professional engineer for projects, we are ultimately responsible for all aspects of the electrical engineering design, including lighting. When teaming with an outside lighting consultant, we encourage the lighting designer to provide advice on an integrated emergency lighting solution that meets the needs of the project as an absolute minimum. Ideally, the lighting designer should insist on providing this input and should provide a complete design, including calculations and documentation where needed.

As a lighting designer, I want to guide the lighting design in all aspects, including providing emergency illumination. By taking responsibility for the design and integration of the emergency lighting I can be assured that the systems and components used are integrated into the design, rather than slapped on over the top of the design. If the project includes any specialty, custom, and/or decorative fixtures that are powered by battery or generator, some electrical engineers would be hard pressed to calculate these sources accurately. If the lighting designer has already created models of the spaces including all fixtures, textures, and reflectances, then they would be the best suited for completing the emergency lighting calculations.

By abandoning the task of performing emergency lighting design and calculations, the lighting designer also abandons their control of what emergency lighting fixtures might be used, and what types of technologies might be applied to their projects. I'm sure that we have all seen a beautiful office atrium, hotel ballroom, or restaurant with thoughtfully integrated, gorgeous lighting systems accompanied by the dreaded industrial frog eye emergency fixture. My advice is to include emergency lighting design and calculation into your lighting design fees and take ownership of the entire lighting design. This topic could easily be expanded to include who should be responsible for running energy calculations for projects, another common point of contention between electrical engineers and lighting designers.

Mr. Rogers, IESNA, LC, LEED, has over 25 years experience with a wide variety of project types, working in the electrical engineering consulting field, and 15 years experience as a lighting designer. A member of the IESNA since 2000, he currently serves on the Rocky Mountain Section of the IESNA Board of Managers, as Membership Chairman, and is the immediate past President of the Rocky Mountain Section of the IESNA.

Francesca Bettridge, Principal | Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design
I think that Mr. Rogers has made some important and thoughtful points, and I would like to respond to them and add a few more for consideration.

In over twenty years of practice, the emergency lighting has always been in the scope of the electrical engineer; it is only within the last few years that we have found a growing resistance, actually a refusal, on the part of some engineering firms to do the calculations for the emergency lighting. This is a new practice that we are increasingly being asked to deal with so that it doesn't "fall between the cracks" when consultants are submitting proposals. I maintain that because the engineers sign the drawings and are responsible for meeting the emergency lighting codes, they should do the emergency lighting calculations and determine how much is necessary to meet code.

One can keep design control by coordinating efforts with the others on the team and reviewing the electrical drawings during the construction document phase. The method of emergency lighting--generator, battery packs etc.--is usually decided by budget, the architect, owners, and the engineers. No architect or lighting designer would choose emergency wall packs unless there was no other choice due to budget.

We state in our contracts that we will provide our AGI files and photometric information to the engineers for their use in calculating the emergency lighting requirements. This is standard professional practice.

In conversations with engineers about why they are now excluding the calculations from their services, it seems to boil down to not wanting to use staff time to calculate the emergency lighting requirements, and in this litigious environment, not wanting to take any risks with light levels by using a "seat of the pants" approach. I think it really is about fees, the fast pace of jobs, and not wanting to dedicate staff to the task.

Our office makes extensive use of computers for models and calculations, but that doesn't mean that we do this for every space in every project. Requiring the lighting designers to supply the calculations and holding them to the high standard of proving their work with computer analysis means that more of our fee is spent crunching numbers and less time is spent on design. This is a topic that deserves further discussion. I repeat my first point that this is a change in the scope of services that had previously always been provided by the engineer; for some engineering firms, it is still a matter of course that it is included in their services.

Throughout her career, Ms. Bettridge, IALD, IESNA, LC, has collaborated with highly esteemed architects on award-winning national and international work, which encompasses a broad range of types and styles. She has been honored with multiple Lumen, IALD, and GE Awards. Ms. Bettridge is a professional member and former secretary of the International Association of Lighting Designers, and has served on the Board of Managers and the Richard Kelly Scholarship Committee of the New York Section of the Illuminating Engineering Society. A graduate of Barnard College, Ms. Bettridge studied at Parsons The New School for Design and the Open Atelier of Design, which she helped found. She has also taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons The New School for Design.