Last week, I had the honor of serving as a judge in the 2011 Lighting for Tomorrow  Design Competition. The awards, which are jointly sponsored and organized by the American Lighting Assn.  (ALA) and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency  (CEE), recognize excellence in design and performance of energy-efficient products, specifically lighting control devices, and solid-state fixtures and replacement lamps.
I joined 9 other judges, along with Eileen Eaton from CEE and ALA Director of Engineering Terry McGowan, at UL University  in Raleigh, NC. At the kickoff dinner, I felt a little intimidated by the technical expertise that surrounded me — one of the other judges had even assisted with the first Energy Star®  specification for lighting — but I quickly realized that each of us represented an important perspective to the collective process. It was kind of like a lighting design version of “The Breakfast Club,”  and who cared if I was there to fulfill the role of the “basket case”?
Over the course of two full days, we judged two lighting control entries, 11 LED bulbs, and 39 LED fixtures and portables. One surprising observation I made, particularly since my eye is more attuned to fashion than footcandles, is that the competition draws very few truly decorative products. I was not aware that all entrants are expected to be Energy Star-qualified within a year. Energy Star efficacy requirements are apparently too stringent for many LED decorative fixtures to pass muster, which is a shame since I’ve seen some that incorporate SSL technology in truly innovative ways worthy of this kind of recognition.
Of course, the winners and honorable mentions we selected bring plenty of innovation to the table. It’s just unfortunate that the field is not wide enough to allow for more style in this emerging space. Our top picks will be revealed at the ALA Conference  at The Breakers  in Palm Beach, FL, Sept. 11-13. And once again, you’ll find exclusive, simultaneous print coverage of the winners in the September issue of Residential Lighting .