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LD+A The Magazine of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America

Lighting Research & Education  

The Time Has Come for Licensing


In an essay in the August 2013 issue of LD+A magazine, excerpted below, IES past president and former NCQLP president Jody Good makes the case that changes in the lighting industry make formal licensing a necessity for lighting designers.

At one time, the selection of lighting equipment consisted of determining the mounting height of the fixture, whether it was recessed or surface mounted, and then selecting the wattage of the incandescent lamp and how to switch it. The choices were few, and the decision relatively easy. Today, electrical contractors still make these decisions. Arguably, they still select the majority of lighting equipment installed. But they rely on advice from salespersons, whether employed by electrical wholesalers or sales firms, architects or interior designers, among others. Of course, if a professional lighting designer is involved, then many of these decisions are made for them. Today, the amount of information required to make intelligent recommendations or decisions for lighting is much larger and more complex. There are more choices than ever.

The rapid pace of change in lighting hardware--sources, ballasts, luminaires and controls--is bewildering. Every LIGHTFAIR brings us acres of new products and ideas. How many sensible and impractical new LED luminaires were shown this year? How can you tell the difference? Yes the “market” will eventually decide this, but how do you know what to use and what to avoid, in the best interest of your client? For example, who decides if the color, color rendering, glare or flicker of all these new lights is acceptable? Of course, these decisions are project- and task-specific, but I argue that the public is harmed by the wrong light in the wrong place.

But this is only the tip of the lighting decision and responsibility iceberg. There is also the question of building codes. Today this means mandatory evaluation of task and ambient lighting and the associated energy consumption. More recent energy codes require complex, if not complicated, control systems. Now we find controls apply to virtually all buildings and sites. Extensive control for daylight harvesting is required. Not to mention the requirement for egress lighting, which is set to get more complicated in the next code update.

I have never seen a sales person, whether a wholesaler or sales representative employee, fill out the energy code compliance forms. (Although if they go through any of my lighting classes, they learn how to use these tools.) I am sure some contractors do this paperwork, but it is rare, to say the least. I have many electrical contractors contact me to assist them with the energy code paperwork for their own projects.

Extensive lighting calculations are being required by authorities to prove compliance with egress lighting requirements. Outdoor lighting calculations are also being required to prove compliance with various light coverage and light trespass requirements. It is safe to say that energy codes will continue to become more complex and stringent, and lighting ordinances will continue to be adopted. Both will require proof of compliance, which will result in more computer calculations submitted for review.

Some people in the industry are anxious to see the energy codes move to a consumption metric to credit the project with the benefit of an extensive lighting control system. Today we seem stuck in a “maximum connected load” model. This is popular with code officials since it is easy to review and verify at installation. LEED has brought us the benefit of commissioning and advanced commissioning. This could supply assurance that the lighting will perform within some consumption limitations, and perhaps peak demand limitations (which will please the utilities). However, the electrical utilities and certainly the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) have no responsibility for or authority over the LEED portion of the project. Even projects with the most aggressive LEED objectives are ignored by the AHJ on the project.

I suggest that a consumption- based energy code compliance path could be adopted, if it were designed and certified (or some such action) by a licensed lighting designer. Of course the path to a license would have to test this competence. Continuing education in this field would have to be included in the licensure program.

We are also seeing reasonable reports that certain types and amounts of light are disrupting human sleep. While this is just becoming known and evaluated, this is exactly the type of information that needs to be understood by the person recommending lighting in health care, hospitality, residential and similar applications. Another lighting application that requires some experience and care is for senior living. As we all age, illuminance, color and glare need to be understood and factored into the design.

I am not saying the need for licensure justifies creating some elite lighting group. The lighting design license should be held by contractors, architects, electrical engineers, interior designers, sales persons and dedicated lighting professionals. I am saying that the new and coming knowledge necessary for good, safe lighting should be measured by the states that determine and maintain licenses. The selection and application of lighting fixtures and controls is becoming too complex to let it be done by ill-informed people. The need for energy code compliance, egress lighting design, and designing lighting that does not harm people in their beds and corridors is too important to ignore any more.

There is an organization that is in the business of certifying individual practitioners’ knowledge of lighting applications and technology. This is the National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions (NCQLP). Experienced and educated people can take their exam and become “LC” certified. There are other organizations that have credentials or have tried to establish various lighting credentials. One of these needs to rise to the top and work with the states to establish a meaningful Lighting License.

September 2013

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