Communicating Changes on Lighting Design Projects
Creating an “e-mail trail” will ensure you’re not the last to know when someone tampers with your specifications.
The flat ceiling of this kitchen was changed to a barrel vault ceiling during construction, but the lighting designer was not informed, requiring a last-minute change in the lighting specifications.
Randall, lighting showrooms work hard to understand clients’ needs and project challenges. We design a lighting plan that includes everything that the contractor needs. Yet, it never fails that during the electrical walk-through, we find that details have been changed so dramatically that the lighting design won’t work, and no one has bothered to contact us about these changes. We often have less than a day to make revisions. Then when the project is coming together, we visit the site again only to find the lighting layout has been changed by the electrician or contractor, and again no one has notified us. This is so frustrating! Aren’t we all on the same team?
Feel free to vent, that’s what I am here for. Yes, we are all on the same team, and it is frustrating that so little gets communicated between team members. I came up against this for many years. What changed everything for me was the advent of e-mail. It is an easy way to instantly let all the players on a project know that something has changed. In the past a “change order” was issued between the contractor and the homeowners that put into writing a modification. Or, more commonly, a decision was made on site and perhaps agreed to by phone. Either way, often no other people connected with the project got the word. For example, simply changing a door swing can alter the door hardware and influence the location of the switching. It can also possibly affect the furniture placement, which in turn may impinge on the location of floor plugs. It really can be a domino effect. The flat ceiling of this kitchen was changed to a barrel vault ceiling during construction, but the lighting designer was not informed, requiring a last-minute change in the lighting specifications. Now, every time a change is made on a project, a mass e-mail goes out to all the team members—even if it may seem unrelated to some of the players. Not only does it keep everyone in the loop, it also provides what I call an “e-mail trail” for all the changes that occur during the construction process. It keeps everyone updated, allows the plans to be corrected to “as-builts” and is a valuable record of all the requested changes made by the homeowners that will change the actual cost of the project. It is this last point that really encouraged the contractors to do the mass e-mailings. I convinced them that without this e-mail trail, the homeowners often have selective recall on changes they requested or approved and may contest the extra charges. I knew that the way to a contractor’s heart is through his bottom line.
Randall Whitehead lighting designer
Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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