Own the Code – June 11, 2019, Session Summary Report

Own the Code-image.png

On June 11, IES San Francisco Section held an important meeting of the minds on energy codes and regulations as they affect the lighting industry. My goals in organizing the event were: first, to convene a group of speakers who represented the diversity of code stakeholders – manufacturers, utilities, specifiers, consultants, NGOs, and government; second to explain to our local lighting community how they can impact the code rather than simply reacting to it and to inspire them to do that; third, to elicit feedback and dialog; and finally, to capture the ideas from this session and share them with the world, which is what this blog and the accompanying report are about.

This was the final regular season IES event of my last term as Section President, and I was quite pleased that we met all of these goals and then some. Several new surprising ideas came up in the session, the most important of which was a suggestion that IES San Francisco Section take the lead in coordinating communication efforts between the California Energy Commission (CEC) and its members. In most group educational situations – seminars, classes, speeches, or lectures – we may have warm feelings of revelation and enlightenment during the event, especially if the speaker and material is compelling, but we quickly forget most of what we learned or heard. As educators, my colleagues and I are always trying to overcome this behavioral inertia and inspire action after learning. I can say that more than almost any event I’ve produce, this one felt like a great beginning, I truly believe some very important initiatives will spring from it. For me this is particularly encouraging because the problems we face are entrenched and complex. 

The main point I demonstrated with this meeting was that we, the people, own the government and the process that makes the regulations that protect us and make business, science, technology, and quality of life possible. It may not feel like we have control or power most of the time, but getting involved in commenting on and helping to shape codes is rather like voting. And if you’re not concerned enough about what might well be the gradual and increasingly alarming erosion of representative democracy to get out and vote in every election, then you have to bear responsibility for the state of things. Actively commenting on code is, of course not as straightforward as voting, but regulatory bodies are actually somewhat desperate for representative feedback from stakeholders. This is a problem we can solve. No particular outcome, good or bad, is inevitable, but if we don’t organize to improve codes, we’ll have to settle for complaining about it and adapt as best we can. Not all of us will necessarily adapt very well of course.

The format of the event was meant to stimulate constructive discussions and audience comment, after a thorough briefing on the state of California’s Title 20, JA8, and Title 24 from a very distinguished panel of speakers: James Benya, a lighting designer, consultant to the CEC and many other organizations and a veteran code expert who has written much of the California energy code pertaining to lighting; John Martin, Co-Chair of the California Energy Alliance, an NGO focused on reducing energy, improving the environment using existing

programs and processes, and developing and deploying improved policies and approaches; Susan Larson, CEO of 90 Plus Lighting, a manufacturer of high quality LED lamps that are all Title 20, Title 24, and JA8 compliant; Kelly Cunningham, Senior Customer Care Program Manager for Codes and Standards for Pacific Gas and Electric Company; David Wilds Patton, an independent Bay Area lighting designer who has been involved in commenting on code since 2005; Simon Lee, who is on the Lighting Staff of the Building Standards Office for the California Energy Commission; and myself, a consultant to lighting manufacturers and developer of educational curriculum for lighting, energy, and the built environment. 

Our session we generated a lot of material, dialog and ideas, and I captured as much as I could. Below is a link to a report with my takeaways along with commentary. Here I sum up what I thought were the most important observations. 

1.  Current California lighting codes are too confusing, for practitioners and manufacturers alike. Many, perhaps most, don’t quite understand the relationship between Title 24, JA8, and Title 24. Although confusion is well known, hearing directly from stakeholders was quite instructive. 

2.  The IES, specifically including the San Francisco Section and other Sections in California, should take a leadership role in communicating between its members and the CEC. 

3.  All efforts are needed – even better if they’re coordinated. Current efforts by CEA and PG&E to help this along are important and well received. We all want the same things fundamentally: we all want codes that work; the CEC needs more and better feedback and to improve compliance; and utilities need to maintain efficiency as a major part of their energy portfolios. 

4.  There is confusion and lack of awareness not only with the codes themselves but a lack of understanding about how they get made and who makes them. 

5.  Merely the fact of meeting in person, presenting multiple viewpoints, and hearing different perspectives and experiences generated new ideas for future improvements.

Judging by the excellent turnout and level of participation we had, I trust that our Bay Area lighting community is dedicated and geeky enough to get into the weeds on this stuff and get busy working for change. I would hope that you all will refer to this post more than once for future ideas and action. 

Thanks especially to Pacific Energy Center’s Linda Sanford and Angela McDonald for making the facility available to IESF and for partnering with our Section for so many years. And thanks again to our speakers for their commitment, participation, and providing us with ideas and resources. In my detailed report, which you can download below, I give many links to useful resources. Read it and share it with everyone you know!


Positively Fabulous- Beauty and Efficiency Are Interconnected

The Silver Oak Alexander Valley Winery, Eric Johnson Associates, Inc, lighting design, is a net positive project.

The Silver Oak Alexander Valley Winery, Eric Johnson Associates, Inc, lighting design, is a net positive project.

The lighting design projects submitted by Bay Area firms for the 2019 SF Lux Awards demonstrate many impressive things – first and foremost a level of excellence and creativity in design that is simply superb, world class. In our IES San Francisco Section and the larger local community we should all be proud about being part of a vibrant design ecosystem that produces work at this high level. The projects show amazing versatility and willingness to use new technologies in fresh ways to deliver beautifully lit environments, interior and exterior. They exemplify innovative approaches to controls and energy efficiency. And they often deliver moments of exquisite beauty – they’re Positively Fabulous– by this I mean something quite specific. For further explanation read on.

Recently in lighting we’ve begun to take energy efficiency for granted. This is understandable for many reasons- solid state lighting has made amazing efficiency gains in the last decade, enabling considerable energy savings on light sources alone across the board. Lighting power densities of .5 Watts/sf are no longer uncommon. Lighting now uses on average 97% less energy than in 1973.

Lighting designers were never as focused on energy efficiency as mechanical engineers in the first place, and now they often feel encumbered by codes like California’s Title 24, which are becoming increasingly complicated and difficult to meet. Most would prefer just to get on with the business of design- focusing on beauty, emotion, health & well-being, in short, what I’ll call fabulousness.

Although the last two decades have also seen considerable progress in increasing energy efficiency in buildings, this has been slower than in lighting alone. There have been no dramatic improvements in HVAC technologies relative to lighting. But net-zero buildings have become much more prevalent and accepted, largely through changing energy codes and the design process. To date this effort has been mostly about optimizing building performance through engineering and calculations. The ultimate goal in this exercise is the net-positive building, one that makes more energy than it consumes. But the engineers who squeeze watts out of buildings and their systems rarely focus on beauty, emotion, health and well-being- they’re all about positivity. So it would appear that the two imperatives– beauty and efficiency– are rather intractably at cross purposes. 

This common mindset does seem at times to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially when adopting new technology or design practices disrupts the deeply entrenched risk-adverse culture of the construction industry. But a closer examination of many successful highly efficient and net-zero buildings shows that efficiency and beauty are often highly compatible. I recently studied several such projects in preparation for teaching their case studies in our class on advanced lighting controls at PG&E’s Pacific Energy Center. Now net-positive buildings are the goal, which is where the “Positive” in Positively Fabulous comes in. 

Lighting plays a significant role in the overall adoption of efficient and resilient building practices and better energy codes for several reasons. First of all, lighting was the first application for electricity and is the most visible use of energy. So although it now consumes a quickly shrinking relative percentage of energy use, its impact on awareness and changing behavior is proportionately far greater. Secondly, intelligent adaptive building systems are integrating on lighting’s electrical distribution network- whether lighting professionals will evolve to be able to handle this technology in professional proactive or not, integrated smart building systems can deliver significant additional energy savings on top of already efficient buildings and systems. And finally, as more fabulousness accrues to efficient lighting technologies and installations, the general public is gradually equating SSL with higher quality, and this will drive more adoption and its attendant efficiency gains.

The relentless drive for efficiency in all things as evidenced in the software economy we’ve created for our aculture, aesthetics play a huge role in most design decisions in the built environment. The modernism remains the strongest operative aesthetic today. “Modern” design is clean, crisp...efficient, and can certainly be beautiful– we all love a pristine Eichler house, right? Modernism is also, famously and unfortunately, not always very “human-centric.” It also stylistically codifed the use of wildly inefficient materials for building skins, such as glass and metal, miserable choices for effective thermal performance in most climates. So basically the modernist style has caused us to waste incalculable amounts of energy. And in lighting, while there are many excellent examples of innovative collaboration between modernist architects and lighting designers – notably Richard Kelly teaming with Philip Johnson and Louis Kahn, for instance – modernism has also given rise to an over-engineered uniform troffer ceiling paradigm, neither human-centric nor efficient, and one that we’re going to be retooling our way out of for the next several decades. 

For the last fifteen years I’ve been intrigued with the idea of a sustainable aesthetic that will improve upon or replace modernism. What if people gradually, organically begin to recognize beautifully illuminated, sustainable buildings as the preferred style, one that will become ubiquitous? It could happen! If anything could serve to provide an instantly recognizable element of a “Sustainable” or “green building, I think it could be lighting – specifically lighting that’s an optimal balance between daylight and electric light. And if architects take the advice offered in the webinar I just did with my excellent colleague Jeremy Steinmeier, architect and lighting designer extraordinaire, “A Machine for Light- the Building as Luminaire” (available soon online at ies.org) they will begin to consider lighting first when shaping building envelopes. This is a crazy idea to most lighting people now, but with a closer look at design history, not so crazy – as we show in the webinar it was common practice before electric lighting came along. I don’t know what to call it yet (“Positively Fabulous” sounds like a new Netflix show, I know huh?), but I’m convinced that lighting can lead the new aesthetic. 

Based on the quality of the lighting and architectural design shown in the Lux Award project submissions we saw, I would also suspect that if this brave new aesthetic emerges, it has a strong chance of doing so first right here in River City, in our own front yard by the Bay (well there’s a river out there too). We can have it all, but not through technology and engineering alone, nor by following design styles irrationally, but by combining beauty, efficiency, and intelligence. Our local design community is already Positively Fabulous, we just need to get the rest of the world on board. 

-Clifton Stanley Lemon


Mastering Light with Russell Abraham and Kristen Paulin

In advance of our first Light, Technology, Design event this Thursday that features the work of Russel Abraham, master architectural photographer, I wanted to share some connections that I uncovered after seeing his draft presentation a couple of weeks ago. 

Like lighting designers, photographers understand architecture by how it harnesses and interacts with light, and must observe closely how people interact with buildings, albeit for slightly different reasons. Photographers also analyze light carefully, and the tools and metrics they use both overlap and diverge considerably from the tools lighting designers use to understand and shape light – in fascinating ways

Mastery, Light, and Architecture
The first idea I wanted to hold forth about is that of mastery. Russell, like most of us, would be reluctant to confer upon himself the title of “master,” so I have gone ahead and done that for him, because for me the idea of mastery is something very specific, has long historical precedent that we could stand to review today, and is intimately connected with craft, a concept that has rather fallen into disfavor in the wake of modernism.

Let’s take for instance, Renaissance painting in Florence in the age of the Medicis, the mid to late 1400s. In Florentine culture, a master was someone who had made a name for himself (there weren’t many recognized women masters unfortunately) by accomplishing works of vision and great beauty. But in order to do this, he had to at first become familiar with the tools and technologies available at the time. This involved much time learning to grind pigments, smelt metal, prepare surfaces, carve marble, make brushes, even raising chickens and rabbits in order to obtain the raw materials for paints and glues. It also meant spending much time copying and learning from older masters. The time scale of the transfer of knowledge and attention to tools doesn’t have much corollary today, when our access to knowledge is so fast, expansive and rich, and people entering professions don’t have any real idea of what they want to or need to master. 

One connection between photography and architecture we forget is the term for photography’s main tool – the camera. Camera is a Latin word that means “room,” because the first cameras were actually rooms. The term for this was “camera obscura” literally, dark room. Camerae obscurae with a lens in the opening have been used since the second half of the 16th century and became popular as an aid for drawing and painting. The camera obscura box was developed further into the photographic camera in the first half of the 19th century when camera obscura boxes were used to expose light-sensitive materials to the projected image.

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

Artist David Hockney and physicist David M. Falco advanced a widely accepted theory that advances in realism and accuracy in painting were due to the use of the camera obscura, camera lucida and curved mirrors.

So strangely enough, the practice of architectural photography, communicating the experience of architecture, has its origins in architecture itself, quite literally. Buildings, or dark rooms, at least, could be used to generate images. 

The Sequence of Perception and Experience of the Built Environment
In their talk, Russell and Kristen explain that the way we experience the world visually is that we’re constantly shifting our focus dynamically, that if we fix our eyes in one place, we’re using our foveal vision mostly to bring things directly in front of us into sharp focus. Peripheral vision is important too, and responds to different stimuli in order to direct the brain where to send the focused vision next. So seeing is a completely dynamic experience, not static, and the constant shifting between foveal and peripheral vision gives dimension and comprehension to a space. For architectural lighting this knowledge is important because our eyes unconsciously move towards the brightest thing in our direct field of vision, and things on the periphery need to be clear so that we have a good cognitive grasp of the space and how to move through it. This means that lighting vertical surfaces is important, a fact that is frequently ignored in many lighting designs. 

Russell explains that the job of the photographer is to use the camera to condense the dynamic experience of the space into a more static one, as shown in the example below. 


The practice, craft, and technical approach to architectural photogrtaphy is crucial to the practice of architecture as we understand it today. All most architects have left at the end of a project is photos, and many more people experience the built environment through these graphic interpretations of architectural spaces than actually experience the actual architecture in real life, and architects depend heavily on these images to communicate their design capabilities, style, and approach to building. Lighting designers play a huge role in how the buildings are experienced, and how they photograph. A deep understanding of what happens to the space in the camera is therefore extremely useful to lighting designers. 


Makeup for Architectural Spaces
Russell also explains how he applies what I call “makeup” to architectural spaces in order to compensate for the declining differences in dynamic range between our eyes, the camera, display devices, and printed materials. Basically, some compensation in lighting is usually required because the camera can’t replicate what we experience in person in a space. So the lighting may be balanced perfectly for human perception, but some magic combination of slight fill light and post production editing is often necessary in order to most closely convey the actual experience of the space. 


Color Rendering Experiments
I was very fortunate to work with Russell in 2013 in a series of experiments in the studio where we wanted to test the comparative color rendering capabilities of two 3000K MR16 LED light sources- the Soraa 95 CRI and a Philips 80 CRI. We simply set out to replicate two shots exactly using only the LED light sources, which were arranged in banks of 12 and positioned in exactly the same spot for each comparative shot. Most traditional product photography is done using Xenon or tungsten light sources that are either 3000K or 5000K. In order to create warmer color light, photographers start with the high CCT source and use combinations of filters to get the effects they need. Naturally with the evolution of LEDs as light sources for many application, this is changing so that photographers can have any original light source they need without being constrained by filters or specific spectral power distribution of a single reference source. 

What we found was really interesting, in general the color rendering replicated what we experienced with the eye, and by comparing the photos side by side we were able to articulate the perceptual differences by referring to the histograms. In real life you never see the same subject side by side under different light sources, so this early work helped to establish the importance of high color rendering LED light sources in a way that was easy to see the difference. 

In the image below, which shows a plate of pears shot under both light sources, small differences in the Spectral Power Distribution (SPD) end up making significant differences in perceived color rendering. The histograms of each image as viewed in Photoshop are included for comparison. Histograms in Photoshop illustrate how pixels in an image are distributed by graphing the number of pixels at each color intensity level. The histogram shows detail in the shadows midtones, and highlights, and thus relate to dynamic range. Histograms help the photographer determine whether an image has enough detail to make a good correction.


I have not done enough careful analysis of the relationship between SPD and histograms, but my main purpose here is to illustrate that photographers’ tools for analyzing light bear some important relationship to those that lighting designers use. 

Implications for the Future
For me, seeing Russell’s work again in a different light opened up worlds of possible exploration between architectural photography and architectural lighting. As a quick view of history shows, they’re inextricably connected, but with the advent of increasingly specialized disciplines in our ”modern” age, these connections are often forgotten or unknown. The crossovers and new potential discoveries aren’t just technical, they also deal with aesthetics, experience, perception, and behavior. We lighting people can learn a huge amount by collaborative research and experimentation with photographers, and vice versa. 

Please join us this Thursday at 5:30 pm at DPR Offices, 945 Front St.  to see Russell and his partner Kristen Paulin explore these connections in detail. The event also features food, a hosted bar, and a showcase of the most innovative architectural lighting products on the market. 

Buy tickets here 

I look forward to seeing you there!

-Clifton Stanley Lemon,
President, IES San Francisco Section


CBright Lighting's Theresa Li and Daryl Wong on Sakura Lake Sports Park

We are proud to include on our IES San Francisco Section Board Theresa Li and Daryl Wong of CBright Lighting, based in San Leandro. They were on the team that won the Award of Distinction at this year’s Illumination Awards at the IES Convention in Boston, for the Sakura Lake Sports Park lighting installation.

The project is certainly a lighting installation, but it’s both more complex and simpler than the kind of project typically profiled in the lighting industry media, and serves an an example of the kind of surprising creativity made possible by the combination of technical advancements in lighting and controls and a thoughtful, collaborative approach to interactive design in public art. 

I interviewed Theresa and Daryl recently to get their perspective on the project, and to find out a bit more about the story behind this refreshing and playful installation. 

CL: Who was the client for the project? 

TL & DW: Our client was the municipality of Weihai, a city of approximately 3 million in eastern Shandong province in China, on the Shandong Peninsula directly east of North Korea across the Yellow Sea. 

CL: What were the design requirements that the client asked for? 

TL & DW: Weihai municipality wanted an iconic sculpture to serve as a focal point for Sakura Lake Park, part of a large development funded by the municipality to promote tourism and wellness of residents. The park is located on the city's shoreline with the ocean to the south. It has 6 kilometers of world-standard cycling track along the lake. Connecting ocean and freshwater, it attracts many forms of wildlife to the delight of nature lovers.

CL: Where did the concept come from? What was the inspiration? 

TL & DW: As the park was in competition to host a world cycling competition, the municipality wanted a sculpture that is striking and symbolic. They were interested in something interactive from the very beginning. The concept of lighting controlled by bicycle really sold the project. 

CL: What were some of the technical challenges?

TL & DW: The initial design had six bikes, but the city wanted to increase it to twelve so more people could participate, thus increasing the control complexity. Since it is an interactive game for riders, the rules had to be simple to motivate the riders and also maintain the visual interest for viewers. The lighting effects were developed by Enlighten Projects with our control technical team. It took a while to fine-tune the algorithm to account for a variable number of riders. There are three different competition modes which would be set automatically within a 10-second timeframe based on number of riders at the moment. The mode ran for three minutes, even if the number of raiders changed. Some default rules were added later on so the best lighting effects can be shown periodically for viewers.  

CL: Can you tell me a bit about Sakura Lake Sport Park? How has the sculpture impacted the park? 

TL & DW: The park was well known for its cherry blossoms. However, as it is located at the end of the city, it had fewer visitors than other parks, especially at night. Use of the park has increased dramatically after the sculpture's debut. The lighting sculpture is now an attraction on its own. It has come the symbol to define the area. People can see it from many areas around the lake. People are motivated to come out at night and enjoy the harmonious combination of natural and man-made beauty. Since then, the park has hosted several national and international sports events and has be designated by the government as AAA tourist site. 

CL: Are there any design lessons or solutions from this project that you or others can use for different projects or problems? 

TL & DW: Interactive lighting solutions, if designed properly, can definitely enhance the environment while entertaining and inspiring people. However interactive lighting can be more complex than what we understand today as static lighting control. Lighting designers and technical teams have to work closely to achieve the desired effects and results. 

For more information see this post on Lighting Controls Association website.

-Clifton Stanley Lemon