Residential Lighting: How have the entries evolved since the first competition?
Monty Gilbertson: The improvement has been wonderful. We went from basic, “look at this” engineering technology to “look at what we’re doing now.” Four years ago, the reality of a socket-size ballast was revolutionary. Now, it’s the norm.
The designs look like incandescent fixtures. But instead of having a porcelain socket, they have a GU24 base. The spiralux bulbs are smaller, and the intensity is brighter.
If there is a stumbling block, it’s color rendering and control capability. The good news is the winners of this year’s competition, versus the first competition, have better control and color.
RL: What makes a design a winner in judges’ eyes?
MG: The big thing is marketability. Can this go out to the general public and sell for a reasonable price, perhaps matching the price of an incandescent fixture? Sure, it has to look good and meet efficiency standards, and dimmability and good color are a plus. But the most important thing is marketability.
RL: Were there any standout innovations or trends among this year’s entries?
MG: There was a contemporary wall bracket that was very clean. The fixture looked like a flying saucer, and it had a gorgeous and bright lens. When we took the lens off to see the bulb, the light did not diffuse outward; it shined down. It became a Dark Sky light.
Most came as a family. If there was an outdoor wall mount, there were two or three sizes and a post light. If there was a chandelier, there was a foyer light and a semi-flush, too. They weren’t in the competition just for one fixture.
RL: How pleased were the judges with entries in the new LED category?
MG: That’s where I got the most excited. For example, there were some nice wall-mounted LED fixtures, and the color rendering was good. But we’re talking efficiencies over the board; I mean, my goodness, only 3W or 4W to get plenty of light. Controllability is a concern—and the same with color. But the winner had a light intensity for the wattage used that was terrific.
RL: Is it marketable?
MG: In this case we might have raised the bar a little. LEDs are expensive. A 39-inch section of undercabinet lighting can retail for $160, so you keep it in perspective. When compact fluorescents came out, their price tag was high. LEDs will come down, but for now we’re opening the gates to see what happens.
RL: Is the competition fulfilling its goal to inspire more design-oriented eco-friendly designs?
MG: Manufacturers [don’t currently] have a lot of them, but they’re making more. This competition is making people think. Manufacturers are investing in tooling, and as time goes on, more companies that have sat back are getting involved. So, I hope the Lighting for Tomorrow competition is what’s driving it.
Monty Gilbertson, CLC, is Manager of Lighting Design by Wettsteins in La Crosse, WI, and has served as a judge both for the first Lighting for Tomorrow design competition and again in this year’s contest.