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!

2 Comments