Get the Idea . . .

On many projects, lighting responsibilities fall to the electrical engineer. Depending on the talent and experience of the engineer, that can be a good thing, or it can be an extra and sometimes onerous duty. "There's just so much product out there that it's hard for an electrical engineer to keep on top of," says Shawn Good, P.

By Jim Crockett, Editor-in-Chief July 1, 2003

On many projects, lighting responsibilities fall to the electrical engineer. Depending on the talent and experience of the engineer, that can be a good thing, or it can be an extra and sometimes onerous duty.

“There’s just so much product out there that it’s hard for an electrical engineer to keep on top of,” says Shawn Good, P.E., L.C., a lighting specialist for Harrisburg, Pa.-based Brinjac Engineering. Good is an electrical engineer but deals strictly with the lighting side—and is glad of it. “We’re forced to do lighting all the time so it’s easier for us [as lighting designers] in that we don’t have to keep up with the electrical side.”

Brinjac, which has had a lighting department for 10 years, is fairly out of the norm in employing full-time lighting specialists.

That’s something Sally Lee, a marketing manager for Danvers, Mass.-based Sylvania, knows all too well. Lee, whose primary job is to call upon consulting engineers, says she often finds lighting innovations a difficult subject to discuss.

“There’s definitely a need for education in the engineering community,” says Lee, who is very intimate with the mindset of electrical engineers, being married to one. “A lot of times, engineers will simply white out their existing specs and just replace T-12 with T-8, but you just can’t do that.”

With a greater emphasis on energy efficiency and the growing popularity of the green building movement, she says, engineers with lighting responsibilities need to be on top of their game. In fact, by the end of July 2004, if a state adopts no energy code of its own, ASHRAE 90.1 will become that state’s default standard, which means it will become mandatory that all systems within building projects be more energy-efficient.

Here’s where Lee feels the greatest frustration: She believes manufacturers have a lot of great products on the market that are simply not being used. Part of this lies not directly with the engineer, but rather in the fact that lighting budgets are not just second banana, but perhaps the last banana of the bunch.

“Oftentimes, electrical engineers are given a lighting budget after the fact. But to really adopt some of these new technologies, more money has to be found within these very limited budgets,” says Lee. It’s a difficult task, given that lighting systems are also the first system to be value-engineered out of a job.

Despite these obstacles, she believes, engineers need to be more proactive. “The need for technology with longer life and better efficiencies is becoming inevitable,” she says. “But it starts with the spec. You can’t just use the same old boilerplate you’ve been using for 20 years. You have to look at it this way: What wattage do I have to spend? What do I need to make this a true class A building? Because if you don’t address this, you’re leaving 25% of the wattage on the floor.”

Lee, however, is not shrinking from her responsibility as an educator. “We as manufacturers have to do a better job reaching out to the end user.”

For example, in her presentations to engineers, Lee keeps it simple, assembling a matrix and sticking to one thing at a time. On her list are explanations of the following:

  • Why we did it (product innovation).

  • Where one can use it.

  • How it compares to other types of similar products.

Lee notes that it’s also incumbent upon lamp manufacturers to work more closely with counterparts on the fixture side to drive these points home.

But while that’s all well and good, there’s another reality of engineering life to consider. Most designers are strapped for time, and rewriting lighting specs is often a low priority. With harried engineers in mind, Sylvania launched its “mySYLVANIA” Internet site, which won an award from the National Assn. of Electrical Distributors and its online publication, TED Magazine. Lee encourages engineers to check out the site at

Of course, Sylvania is not the only lighting vendor lending a helping hand to the specifying community. Philips, for one, is trying to be an asset in helping engineers understand and achieve the necessary requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program.

With its Alto line of low-mercury lamps, Philips is a big proponent of sustainable design. “It’s the only kind of lamp we make, and it’s priced the same as other fluorescents,” says Paul Walitsky, Philips manager of environmental affairs. Walitsky serves on the LEED Council and is a member of the committee assembling the LEED for Existing Buildings program

In line with their Alto theme, Philips has developed a “mercury calculator” program designed to allow engineers to figure out ways to reduce mercury in their projects. LEED requires projects be under 25 ppm.

The way it works, according to Walitsky, is that the program allows users to plug in an existing technology, such as a metal-halide lamp, and determine what replacing it with an alternative technology, such as a T5HO, might produce. Or vice versa; if a designer is set on leaving X amount of HID lamps in place, they can work on swapping out other technologies to bring the mercury to an acceptable level.

A big issue in the Great Lakes region, mercury reduction is also a major concern in hospitals everywhere. “You can take it out of the ceiling or take out the thermometers,” says Walitsky.

Philips is taking its show on the road, hitting 18 cities with a one-hour session in program instruction that’s good for an AIA/CES learning unit. For more on the program visit .

Sustainability is a big part of Philips’ corporate values, says Walitsky. He points out that the company was the only lighting vendor exhibiting at the first Green Building Conference in Austin, Texas, last fall, and the only manufacturer who participated in a recent federal government summit on the subject. Besides making products, such as T5s, that use less glass and less space, Philips is also changing the way it makes products to comply with ISO 14,000 certification. “That’s our whole theme—moving beyond energy efficiency to the broader issues,” says Walitsky.

He notes the USBGC is hoping to have LEED lighting specs for existing buildings in time for its 2003 annual conference in Pittsburgh this November. The council is also developing some ammunition for selling the green building concept. For example, at the recent federal summit, it was shown that green buildings don’t have to be expensive. “The numbers we saw showed that payback is $4 per every dollar you invest,” Walitsky says.

Still, he notes, there is a need for more education and marketing, something he hopes Philips’ road show will facilitate.