Currently Reading

Is LED lighting keeping its promises?

Is LED lighting keeping its promises?

Lighting experts debate the benefits, drawbacks, and issues related to specifying LED fixtures.


By C.C. Sullivan and Barbara Horwitz-Bennett | April 19, 2013

Note: This article originally appeared in BD+C's April 2013 AIA/CES course, "Advanced Controls and Exterior Tactics for Better Illumination." This free class is available on BD+C University

 

 

 

“We don’t specify LEDs,” says Avraham Mor of Lightswitch Architectural. “We specify solid-state luminaires and lamps (SSL) that use LEDs.”

Mor’s correction of this common misuse of the term “LED” is significant, because a problem associated with SSL is often just a problem with a specific LED product. “SSL is the only source to use when trying to meet energy reduction goals while maintaining the look and feel we typically work toward,” he says. “We have had great success, but it takes a great designer and client to manage the entire process.”

In fact, many complaints about LEDs are often attributable to the SSL, and vice versa, leading to complaints about a technology that sometimes fails to meet expectations. But SSL, as Mor says, is really the future of energy reduction; with careful design and specification, it is also the present.

PNNL’s Naomi Miller points to the myriad benefits of LED technology: “Higher lumens-per-watt than fluorescent, good lumen maintenance over time (in some cases better than fluorescent), long life compared to CFL or metal halide, and excellent color compared to almost any conventional light source.” She adds that the small form factors mean LEDs are richly accommodating, allowing designers enormous creative flexibility with space, configuration, and color.

Lumen Architecture’s Nelson Jenkins says blanket substitutions aren’t necessarily a good strategy, however: “Not all LED products match the quality of the other sources we specify.” In addition, price is still an issue. “We find that while the cost of LEDs has come down, they tend to be more expensive than, for instance, a halogen version. But the up-front cost for LEDs can often be offset by the energy savings and reduced maintenance.” Jenkins suggests explaining to clients that SSL will require re-lamping less often—an especially strong selling point in vaulted spaces or exterior applications.

Ultimately, the SSL category is a work-in-progress, not a panacea. “LED is certainly very popular, and many designs would not be possible without it,” The Lighting Practice’s Stephen Hoppe says, referring to exterior applications. “But ceramic metal halide also provides great color rendition and warmth and can often be as efficient as LED.”

James Benya of the California Lighting Technology Center, UC-Davis, has concerns about how codes and standards may be affecting the market for products and systems, particularly LEDs. He hopes to see energy codes and sustainable building standards that do not promote particular technologies.

“The current trend shows a rush to use LEDs,” warns Howard Brandston, founder of Brandston Partnership. “One must determine if LED is the right choice after sifting through the qualities of all the alternate products. There is no change in the design process,” he concludes, “just an additional product to select from.”

Related Stories

Sponsored | BD+C University Course | Oct 15, 2021

7 game-changing trends in structural engineering

Here are seven key areas where innovation in structural engineering is driving evolution.

| Oct 14, 2021

The future of mass timber construction, with Swinerton's Timberlab

In this exclusive for HorizonTV, BD+C's John Caulfield sat down with three Timberlab leaders to discuss the launch of the firm and what factors will lead to greater mass timber demand.

Multifamily Housing | Oct 12, 2021

Affordable and sublime: 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing

These projects prove that it’s possible to develop aesthetically pleasing, high-quality housing for low-income families, the homeless, and veterans.

Building Owners | Oct 12, 2021

6 ways building owners can own their construction projects

Building owners have an important role in executing their capital projects and can greatly increase their project’s chances of success by understanding and actively managing a few key factors.

AEC Tech Innovation | Oct 7, 2021

How tech informs design: A conversation with Mancini's Christian Giordano

Mancini's growth strategy includes developing tech tools that help clients appreciate its work.

Green | Oct 6, 2021

My reaction to the UN IPCC Climate Change 2021 report: Ugh!

The recent report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not a happy read.

Sponsored | Glass and Glazing | Oct 1, 2021

Specifying Responsibly to Save Birds’ Lives

Realizing sustainable, bird-friendly glass design

Sponsored | Glass and Glazing | Oct 1, 2021

Seizing the Daylight with BIPV Glass

Glass has always been an idea generator. Now, it’s also a clean energy generator.

Architects | Sep 30, 2021

Riding the great AEC resignation wave

More people than ever are reconsidering what work and career mean. What can AEC firms do to recruit and retain workers in this changing workplace environment? Karl Feldman, Partner with Hinge Marketing, discusses ideas and strategies with BD+C's John Caulfield in this exclusive interview for HorizonTV. 

More In Category





Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: