John Bullock Lighting Design
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The Meat in the Sandwich


Office lighting is fast becoming the meat in the sandwich in a row that's developing between the providers of the two principal lighting sources for these sectors: so its LED versus fluorescent lighting, and its the clients who are being put through the mincer as a consequence. That metaphor got a bit unpleasant, but I think the image stands. So what's going on?

Offices have long been the natural home for the fluorescent lamp. Yes, you might still find a few stray metal halide uplighting schemes but let's put that down to youthful enthusiasm on someones part. The game has belonged to the fluorescent luminaire industry and they have got on with it very well and produced very many fine results.

Let's not forget the reason why we do this stuff in the first place. It's only ever been about allowing people to get on with their jobs efficiently and in a degree of comfort (the HR department will be quick to tell you what happens when efficiency and comfort are compromised, because they're in control of the situations-vacant budget). But as desktop technology has changed, so has the need for computer-friendly lighting and the loosening of performance specifications has certainly rattled the industry.

But as well as undertaking that traditional task of delivering light in an approved manner that's fit for purpose, we've also been chasing up the efficacy of light fixtures and driving down the energy per square metre. And this is where the current argument is getting really heated;

* the fluorescent manufacturers claim that light delivery is best achieved with the latest fluorescent technology, in particular the (relatively) new T5 generation of linear tubes.
* the progressive part of the LED industry is claiming that the rapid development in LED outputs has outstripped fluorescent performance
* the retrogressive part of the LED industry says what the hell and offers to put fluorescent-tube-shaped linear LEDs into conventional fixtures

As ever, there's far more heat than light being generated over this one. The client is left wondering who to believe and NO ONE comes out of it with a good word to say about anything.

Industrial lighting is no better off. The same arguments are pulled out, shaken down and used again and when you add metal halide hi-bay lighting to the argument then it can become a real toxic mix (and who ever thought that those mighty lamps would ever be put under such threat!).

So let me end with the usual note of caution for everyone out there who is considering re-lighting their premises; there are VAST amounts of snake-oil for sale at the moment. Be sure to get solid advice, because the wrong decision can cost you fortunes further down the line, as fixtures intended to last for twenty years fail after five, and lighting performances guaranteed to maintain illumination levels over that time dwindle to a tiny spark.

There is some phenomenally good stuff out there be sure that's what you end up with.


RIBA CPD in 2015

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John Bullock Lighting Design
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