The 6th Annual LightCongress, held on April 22 at the Hotel Affinia Manhattan, allowed lighting professionals and students in the New York area to learn about green initiatives that can ensure profitability in the industry.

In his keynote address, Dr. Mark Rea, director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y., spelled out practical steps that can help ensure sustainability, which involves considering a cradle-to-grave product cycle, not just the lumen-per-watt efficacy of a light source. He also noted the importance of defining when and where to use electric lighting. For example, daylighting can and should replace electric lighting in a building when possible, and occupancy/control systems effectively turn off lighting in unoccupied locations. Human factors regarding how we see and the need for visual stimulus were also stressed.

The first of two panel discussions focused on recognizing outdated technologies and the need to promote energy efficiency in lighting. Cheryl R. English, VP of Market & Industry Development, Acuity Brands Lighting, headquartered in Atlanta, encouraged attendees to make use of the Limited Time Tax Incentives provision contained in the EPAct 2005 law. Under the commercial building deduction, owners can write off the entire cost of new lighting in the taxable year it is placed in service at both new and existing buildings. This incentive, which expires December 31, 2008, has specific power density, light level, and control requirements.

Lighting consultant Willard Warren, of Willard Warren Associates, New York, showed retrofit kits for a deep-cell parabolic fixture using three T8 lamps that is replaceable with two T5 lamps, eliminating the dark scalloping on the walls of an office while saving energy. He also described the importance of flattening the peak demand curve for electricity and techniques to accomplish this task, such as twin light-level, load-shedding ballasts that respond to a command/control signal.

Marketing consultant Bill Attardi, of Attardi Marketing, Colts Neck, N.J., reviewed some of the recent energy legislation and cautioned attendees about increasing energy rates in the future, which present the opportunity to turn maintenance into an efficiency strategy by introducing new technology systems to both existing and prospective customers.

The second panel discussion looked into the synthesis between economics and the health of the human person, hinting that “health per watt” might be substituted for “lumens per watt” in lighting design considerations to gain important benefits. Dr. Joan Roberts, Chair of the Department of Natural Sciences, Fordham University, New York, noted that new research makes it clear that we do not know as much as we thought about light and lighting. She also projected that the design criteria used for indoor lighting could change drastically in the future.

For example, Wal-Mart will no longer build its retail stores without incorporating a daylighting component, realizing that energy savings and increased sales are possible, particularly in color-sensitive merchandising areas. A technical report by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo., shows that a properly designed daylighting system decreases the incidence of headaches, seasonal affective disorder, and eyestrain among office workers.

Perhaps the most important development is the discovery of the eye's photoreceptive sensory system, which does not involve vision. Researchers are exploring the relationships between the visual, nonvisual photoreceptive and circadian (biological) rhythms in humans, or to put it another way — the connection of light and health.

For example, researchers are studying how ganglion cells located in front of the human eye's retina detect light and how much light is needed for them to respond and their wavelength (color) sensitivity. The next step is to apply that knowledge to tomorrow's lighting systems.

It seems that blue (cool color) light during the day and reddish (warm color) light at night is most beneficial for our circadian rhythms, and the color-changing feature inherent in the emerging light-emitting diode (LED) source has particular advantages.

Jim Benya, Benya Lighting Design, West Linn, Ore., cautioned attendees that energy-efficient building construction requires qualified professionals, stressing that it's easy for architects to over-glaze a building and not observe proper orientation to the sun. Suggestions included: undertaking passive measures (which would include daylighting) before using active measures and laying the groundwork for LEED certification by eliminating gratuitous energy use. Looking at the big picture, he recommended that construction specialties that have worked independently for years should learn to work together going forward. When you consider the impact of even small improvements in efficiency, the need to better understand where the newest products can be applied will continue to be important.