Charles Knuffke
VP & Evangelist for Wattstopper BUILDING CONTROL SYSTEMS

Charles graduated from Rensellaer Polytechnic University in 1985 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, and the hope that he would be able to find a job path where that particular degree wouldn’t be required. Luckily, during a college Co-Op assignment at GE’s Gas Turbine Plant he was asked to program an early version of GE’s Networked Lighting Control System. Because of that early exposure to Lighting Controls, he was seen as the ideal candidate when GE was looking to hire for a Lighting Controls technician to be based on the West Coast in 1986.

As luck would have it, both of Charles’ parents were teachers, and he inherited their love of educating people on any subject, especially one as unknown at the time as lighting controls. For the first three years in his position, his job was mainly to calm down concerned building engineers who had somehow ended up with a Lighting Control System in their new building, make sure that it was completely operational, and teach these folks how to program what was primarily a sophisticated timeclock. What he learned in those early years – working with nervous facility engineers who were trying to get through endless punch lists so they could get their facility up and occupied - would be the foundation for his next 30 years in the business:  That there’s no single right way to teach an individual, so be flexible and try different ways of communicating to suit their needs. Be ready with visual handouts, so the attendees can review the system at a later time when they’re not so rushed, and document everything.

In 2000, GE Lighting Controls decided to split the group off that had been the brain trust for product, and in the summer of 2001 that group was purchased by The WattStopper. This allowed Charles to expand his controls curriculum so in addition to time based controls, he was now teaching engineers and contractors across the Western US about Occupancy Sensors, Daylighting and Photocells, and other types of Networking.

There are many memorable events after joining the WattStopper Team, but two stand out. First was when the DALI protocol was first introduced in the US.

WattStopper had developed some DALI variations of their standard products and HOK in San Francisco had decided they wanted to have one of the first large scale DALI installations on the West Coast in their office in SF. The chose to use a mix of DALI devices to showcase its interoperability, including those from WattStopper, but they needed someone local to work with the engineer at HOK to ensure that the hardware was started up and working. That’s how Charles met Rick Miller, and over a period of many weeks working together to get the HOK Project started up, Rick became one of Charles’s best friends in the industry. After three weeks working with products from multiple manufacturer’s, the HOK office installation was completed, and became the basis of many technical presentations on DALI, including those at IES SF, and at LightFair.

The second major event was one that happened over many years. During the early 1990’s Charles had been exposed to the workings of the California Energy Commission, joining industry leaders as they worked with the CEC to determine the best approach to conserve energy by reducing lighting loads. During the late 1990’s not much had changed in the code, but by the 2000’s, the code started taking a leadership position regarding lighting and lighting controls, and many new requirements were added. Charles began attending as many code meeting as possible, and became a key educator around California on the Title 24 Energy Code. Whether a small lunch and learn sessions to speaking to large audiences at IES meetings, Light Affair, LightFair and LightShow West, Charles has spent countless hours educating people on the code. For the 2013 Title 24 code cycle, at least 2,500 individuals attended one of Charles Code Presentations.

Charles Knuffke has been focused on Lighting Controls in the Bay Area since 1986, first with GE Lighting Controls, then with Horton Controls and most recently with WattStopper.  WattStopper has allowed Charles to lead multiple educational efforts that helped the Western US Lighting Community.

A few examples of presentations that Charles has done:

  • Presentations on the Digital Addressible Lighting Interface (DALI) summarizing findings after the first large scale installation of DALI products at HOK’s San Francisco Office. (2004 – 2006).
  • Presentations on Emergency Lighting and recommended methods of Automatic Control to educate on the multiple codes that dictate the use of emergency power and code compliant ways to control emergency lighting circuits. (2005 – 2008)
  • Presentations on Basic Electricity and Controls. The Basic Electricity presentation used innovative power point animations and was created to help educate people new to the electrical industry. The presentation was freely provided to the consultants (Rick Miller) helping to author the California Advanced Lighting Control Training Program (CALCTP) to help with their creation of Lighting Control Modules. (2002 – 2016)
  • Presentations with examples on the importance of creating Sequence of Operation Documentation for Lighting Controls, a topic that has become especially important as Energy Codes have forced more complex Lighting Control scenarios for non-residential spaces. (2014-2016)
  • Presentations on Calfornia’s Title 24 Energy Code for Lighting Professionals. Charles first presentation on the Energy Code was created in 1993, and has been updated and adapted for every code cycle including the most recent 2016 version. For the 2013 Code Version, which included some the most significant changes ever introduced, presentations were made at multiple IES Meetings (including San Diego, Orange County, San Bernardino, San Francisco, Santa Barbara), PG&E’s Light Affair, LightShow West, as well as innumerable meetings at the offices of Electrical Engineers, Electrical Contractors, Developers, Electrical Distributors, and Facility Engineering Groups. Charles estimates that before the code went into effect on July 1st, 2014 at least 2,500 individuals in California attended on of his Energy Code Presentations.