Last month, Philadelphia hosted the largest annual international commercial and architectural lighting tradeshow and conference – LIGHTFAIR. Architects, engineers, lighting designers, contractors, and lighting manufacturers & distributors (basically anyone affected by a project’s lighting design) traveled to the 28th annual convention that drew nearly 25,000 attendees.

If you ever have the chance to attend the full 5-day conference and trade show, the experience is worth it. 5 days of lighting? Really? Yes! Lighting has become more complicated than ever. The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) updates every three years and so does ASHRAE 90.1. Each version becomes more stringent than the last. Maryland is one of the leading states to quickly adopt energy codes. With growing demands to increase energy efficiency while providing a user-friendly and economical lighting system, “easy lighting design” has become a thing of the past. However, our main goals as designers and engineers is to simplify that for our clients in order to deliver a seamless lighting system that is aesthetically pleasing, fully functioning and coordinated, code-compliant, and as green as possible!

LIGHTFAIR presents a great opportunity to enhance our work through the knowledge presented to attendees. The educational seminars led by industry experts are tailored to address the current industry trends and concerns. There are many opportunities to expand one’s knowledge base in design approaches, code compliance, technical applications, and professional development. The exhibit hall is full of the latest-and-greatest lighting products and controls. With over 500 exhibitors all in one place, it is a chance to get hands-on with the products. The keynote speakers are motivating and invigorating, and the presenters lend their expertise in all things lighting by offering 200+ hours of accredited courses.

Notably, one of the major themes this year at LIGHTFAIR included Light & Health. Quite a bit of the conference included new lighting buzz words that are starting to become commonplace – color tuning, circadian lighting, WELL standard, etc. Let’s dig in a bit.

Color tuning/tunable white lighting is the ability to shift the color temperature of light along the cool light to warm light spectrum. Similar to the concept of dimming, we can dim lights to increase or decrease the light levels in a room. Now, we can tune the range of the color temperature depending on the immediate task. This is intended to promote circadian health, increase occupant comfort, and promote productivity. A classroom case study was shown to demonstrate how color tuning in an elementary school positively affected the teachers and students alike. There were light switches with settings that allowed the class to select “Reading” (warm light), “General” (neutral light), “Testing” (cool light), and “Energize” (very cool light). The tunable white lights could be changed to “tune” the behavior of the students. Research has shown that tunable light has even been shown to improve test scores. Circadian health and lighting is slowly becoming a focus, and we should be ready for it as designers of occupied spaces.

Along those lines comes the relationship with light and WELL. Our goals as engineers and lighting designers will always be to provide green, energy-efficient lighting systems. However, there is a shift in the field that emphasizes not only the quantity of lighting being used, but also the quality of lighting delivered to users. The most recent version of LEED (v4) recognizes this by even providing credit under Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) related to Light Quality.

One step further, a relatively new standard has emerged that more intensely addresses just that – the WELL Building Standard. The WELL Building Standard focuses on building strategies that affect its occupants. Similar to LEED, points are available in various building categories to achieve different certification levels, and, yes, there are also WELL APs. WELL is intended to align with LEED. The two have been explained as simply this: LEED is for the environment; WELL is for people.

In the ever-changing lighting industry, our goals should be to not only continue creating increasingly sustainable designs, but also pursuing improved lighting designs that foster the occupants’ health and well-being. Lighting for the environment and lighting for people need not be mutually exclusive.

To check out some pictures from the conference: LIGHT FAIR 2017 Photo Gallery