Archive for the ‘Art and Design’ Category

In the discussion of lighting quality, there appears to be a desire to see a simplistic set of performance factors to be met, that can be universally pointed to as “quality”. This is most apparent from fixture manufacturers, who wish to have a set of 3-5 reductive bullet points to indicate their product is a “quality” product. Color rendering is one such factor frequently singled out in this effort, regardless of its relevance to an application.  A quality lighting system is more than the sum of products lumped together into a specification, each defined as quality components, without contextual inter-connectivity. Lighting quality is the result of creating a recipe of approaches, priorities and understanding/agreement that delivers a system that satisfies the end-user occupants, the facility operator, and external influences  to the highest practical level. To this end, I have attempted below to summarize, in the most reduced form possible, the systematic factors that define a quality design.

There is no magic formula for lighting quality.

  • Quality of applied lighting approaches/systems are defined by room by room, that establish approaches to:
    1. Lighted spatial appearance, image, aesthetics
    2. Glare/brightness control
    3. Color selection and performance factors
    4. Natural and artificial light integration
    5. Visual performance support and enhancement
    6. Time and space connectivity and relationship
    7. Controls operation and function
    8. Energy use and efficiency
    9. Operational commitment – short and long term
  • Prioritization of lighting qualities requires careful evaluation and consideration of the following considerations:
    1. Practical needs of those occupying spaces
    2. Type and character of visual tasks involved
    3. Human factors (demographics, condition, etc.)
    4. Desire to support/enhancement human health
    5. Sensitivity to flicker and/or color variation/distortion
    6. Comfort of occupants
    7. Available budget (energy and capital) initial and operating
  • To deliver a quality lighting system/solution within the priorities and approaches defined above requires:
    1. Recognition that energy efficiency is not a quality of light, but it is a component of a quality lighting system
    2. Understanding of both the visual and non-visual effects of light on humans
    3. Understanding that the subjective and objective measures of quality are defined by appropriate application within established priorities and goals
    4. Recognition that human occupants are not singular entities that can be lumped into averaged assumptions.
    5. Understanding that the visual environment is a blend of objective need, subjective perception, and practical limitations that cover a broad range of requirements and perspectives.
    6. Realization that “lighting” quality factors must be resolved in concert with non-lighting features within spaces that enhance or detract from quality lighting in isolation.

Within each of these reduced descriptions lies a depth of detail that can be applied depending on the level of priority established. For example, for a space focused on task accuracy, consideration of human factors would require digging deeper into age range, physical condition, etc… to establish the demands on task lighting and the need for flexibility to accommodate the range of occupants anticipated. The dynamics of design may also place all of these factors in whatever order is appropriate to establish a quality end product in context to the practical definition of the project involved.  In truth, the most important factor in realizing a quality solution is the quality of the approach taken and how completely it includes consideration of the range of factors, considerations and priorities involved. The more superficial an approach is, the less likely the result will be of high quality. This does not mean that quality designs need be overly complex, or time-consuming, it just means that a conscious effort to balance these considerations is what defines a quality end result.

While we might all agree that glare control is important, in some applications selecting the lowest glare product may be less important than selecting a higher efficiency product. Glare is also dependent on viewing angle and movement dynamics that cannot be universally represented by a set of features defined as “quality”, outside the context of application. High color quality is not a universal requirement – ranging from highest priority to nearly irrelevant in low demand transient occupancy. Enhancement of human visual performance can be critical in high demand tasks, yet be of minimal value in low demand transient spaces. Lighting for visual effect is meaningful for some applications, or generally irrelevant. Human factors, such as supporting visual performance, as well as mood and health enhancement factors, are naturally a component of all lighting systems designs, as lighting exists for human consumption, with no other purpose beyond this context. However, the degree of effort invested in enhancing the human experience varies greatly, from critical to merely supportive. For these reasons, and many more, lighting quality cannot be reduced to a simplistic set of universal factors, out of practical context. Lighting quality is achieved through prioritization and spatial end use delineation that establishes factors that, when met, define a quality solution and end result. The deeper one digs into the needs of end users and how light effects them, the greater the opportunity there is to create a quality experience, thus, defining a quality lighting system.

So, this isn’t at all about lighting, or solid-state, or technology. It’s just a gadget cat toy we call the Cat-apult.

The lever arm is sprung by rubber band and released by the trigger when depressing the pedal at the rear. The launch tube keeps the cat from stealing the treat inside, also protecting him/her from the lever when it is released.

Shown in the “cocked” position, the lever arm is sprung by rubber band. This is released by the trigger when depressing the pedal at the rear. The launch tube guides the snack projectile and keeps the cat from stealing the treat inside, while also protecting him/her from the lever when it is released.

Over a period of time (this being generation three, each iteration perfecting and strengthening the device), launches treats if the subject critter steps on the trigger pedal. Yes, cats can be trained for such tasks. In fact, this is but one of several toys our chubby Japanese Bobtail has learned to work in order to get his “cookies”. In this case, it took him a few months to understand the lever-trigger release reliably. This is one of my favorites, made using a 3D printer, it’s powered by a rubber band that can be adjusted to launch the treat to various distances and velocities. As you can see in the video’s below, Miko approaches this like he does many of his other favorite games – ones that can be played while laying down. The idea is to get him to get up and move around a bit… even if for one brief moment..

All right, back to work then…


08285I have a fondness for the halogen lamp. From the little 20W bi-pin 12V burners to the 500W double ended monsters, the combination of light quality, simplicity, toughness, light density and versatility filled a special place in the hearts of lighting designers for decades. While there were also  larger iterations of the technology reaching 20,000W, even the most halogen crazed found them to be a bit over the top, setting them aside for special applications. In my own experience, the 20W through 75W 12V burners, 15W through 65W MR16, 35 through 50W PAR36 and 75W through 250W mini-can line voltage lamps hit the spot for a wide range of focused and unfocused lighting product designs. For my personal portable lamp works, the low voltage burners, MR16 and the PAR36 lamps were my favorites. I could create live-structures (where the fixture acted as conductor) using remote 12V power supplies, allowing sculptures to be simple to the extreme.

This simple bridge design was created using building and armature wire, a PAR36 halogen lamp, and a ball bearing counter weight.

This simple bridge design was created using building and armature wire, a PAR36 halogen lamp, and a ball bearing counter weight.

When LEDs arrived on the scene in the late 1990’s, I caught a glimmer of what was to come. By the year 2002, it was obvious that solid-state would be delivering something new, and that the properties of the source technology shared a great deal with the halogen lamp from a lighting perspective, with a huge advantage – far less heat, much tougher and resistant to impact, and very long lived. The only issue was, color quality was initially poor, consistency from LED to LED was awful, and light output per individual LED device was pathetic. This required designs utilize a number of LEDs mounted to circuit boards, wired to drivers that were clumsy at best. The complexity of LEDs in the earlier stages were compounded by the lack of available components, which meant one-off application of the technology was out of reach for anyone not up for custom electronics design. (more…)

To set things off on the proper foot – I do not like complexity when it is not necessary. I’ve noted many times that if energy were free and maintenance was not a consideration, the perfect light source is the tungsten halogen lamp. This technology delivers a very attractive white light, is very easy to control, provides optical focus, and is as simple as it can get. The low voltage versions of this technology are equally attractive, accepting that transformers were a horrible thing to tag onto an otherwise neat little light source. I have made hundreds of lights using halogen lamps, mainly 12V versions, starting back in 1985. It was my go-to light source. I still have boxes of transformers and sockets, acquired over years of making lights for myself and others.

Applying LEDs in efficient lighting designs is no more complex than use of any other source, just more productive.

Applying LEDs in efficient lighting designs is no more complex than use of any other source, just more productive, and attractive than CFL or other conventional “efficiency” improving sources.

That said, there is no escaping that energy is an issue, and maintenance is a pain. The cost of operating halogen technologies is simply impossible to bear. This is why we have HID sources with all their ugly liabilities, and the fluorescent lamp.  While I get HID technology as a giant super-power halogen device, it has always been a clumsy, heavy, messy engineering gadget that sets aside the art of lighting for raw lumen energy. Fluorescent lamps have are a source you are forced to live with, in an uninspired, just-get-lumens-in -the-box sort of way. There is very little to love about their scale, lack of focus-ability, ballast hardware, delicate tubes, and ghastly glow. I’ve specified millions of these lamps into existence, wishing every time there was a better way. I never made a single art light using fluorescent lamps, not because itsn’t possible, but because I never liked them enough to give them that part of my time.

The emergence of solid-state lighting, specifically LEDs, hit me in two ways. One, I get the small controllable source I had with 12V halogen. Second, I get the efficiency and raw lumen potential of fluorescent that made it indispensable. Because of this, the last time I made a light using halogen technology was in 2004, and that product was converted to an LED sources in 2006. For my own use, every halogen light I made from 1993 to 2004 still in use around the house, has been converted to LED. Every new fixture made since 2005 has incorporated an LED light source, without exception. I do not use retrofit lamps. I either tear down and rebuild products to utilize LEDs properly, or design them around LEDs in the first place. (more…)


The Tasca test mule turned 2 years in continual illuminated state this May. That’s 8,760 continuous operating hours in the cold, hot, and messy environment of the shop in which it lives. It gets abused as well, from tossing greasy rags over it to see what happens when airflow over the heat sink is cut off, to blowing coolant on it until it freezes. There have been several lessons learned in this time. For example, lumen depreciation, captured by measuring the fixture’s output, has been negligable. Losses have been less than 1.2% so far, which means the White Optics reflector and anti-reflective glass are doing their job, as is the Bridgelux ES Array LED. Temperature readings taken over this time have not changed anywhere, which indicates the internal construction attaching the thermal slug to the heat sink is durable and reliable. (more…)

When LEDs first emerged, I was one of the many who expressed the opinion that a lighting system that could dim to a warmer CCT, imitating incandescent lamps, would be desirable. I want to take this opportunity to retract that original opinion and thought. I’ve played with it, seen the products available that do it, and have experimented with the approach… and can say unequivocally that I really don’t like it at all.

One of the problems with incandescent dimming has always been the patchwork of CCTs one gets through a space from different dimmer settings for the various products in a room. This has never been a good thing. Further, the change in CCT of an old school incandescent lamp is significantly different than halogen lamps, as it the character of the color. I for one have fallen out of love with the old incandescent lamp long ago. Over the last 20 some-odd years, I have come to use halogen sources over all incandescent forms, preferring the cleaner white color over that yellowy dinginess of the incandescent lamp. Incandescent lamps (non-halogen) produce a decidedly ugly color that I personally feel is misrepresented by their high CRI rating. The fact that the CRI formula will show a dimmed incandescent lamp with the same high CRI number, even when it very noticeably distorts color in a space, is a condemnation of our poor color performance metrics, not an indication of this lamps superior color performance. (more…)

Working with Molex Electronics, the ZEBRA Alliance, Oak Ridge National Labs, with fixtures provided by Ultralights and Solid State Luminaires, we created a side-by-side comparison between CFL and LED in two identical homes. One uses 100% CFL lighting, the other 100% LEDs. The LED house uses Molex Transcend modular products, which incorporate 4W Seoul Semiconductor Acriche 120VAC LEDs to control costs. While the CFL home was designed by a lighting showroom, the approach in the LED home included redressing lighting design to reduce and elliminate glare, focus on delivering light where it is needed, and producing more attractive spaces that also save energy. The end result is a 70%+ savings over the CFL home. The LED home has less than 0.4W/s.f. of connected lighting load. So little energy is connected, that the entire home could have been wired to a single 15A circuit breaker (920W).

The purpose of this project is to operate both homes with controls that simulate occupied operation over 18-24 months. Over that time the performance of the two homes will be monitored using a sophisticated array of sensors and data aquisition. Lighting is just one small part of the total effort, which includes building materials, HVAC, window glazing, and roofing system performance. There are four total homes, all with identical geographic orientation, within a block of one another. The other two utilize fluorescent lighting, but are different in many other ways, including architectural design.

Below are a few of the rooms of the houses to give you an idea of how the combined approach worked out. As one can see, the difference in appearance is noticeable. At the task level, the LED house provides twice the horizontal illumination on kitchen counters and dining table, matches the CFL in the game room and office (not shown here), and provides a more comfortable light everywhere, as the light sources produce no objectionable glare. So, regardless of the LED employed not being a leading edge lumen/watt producer, the savings remain significant, while the end product – delivered illumination – both attractive and comfortable. This is an approach that will eventually set LEDs up as the preferred light source in residential application – not matching CFL glare bombs, but delivering an improvement in lighted quality as well as energy saving.

For those attending the LEDs 2010 conference this month (Oct 25-27) in San Diego, I will be presenting this project with some background and more detail there.  Stop by and say hello if you are in the area:

Entry CFL Lighting

Entry LED Lighting

Living CFL Lighting

Living Room LED Lighting

Dining Room CFL Lighting

Living Room LED Lighting

Kitchen CFL and Linear Fluorescent Lighting

Kichen LED Lighting