John Bullock Lighting Design
John Bullock Lighting Design
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When clients learn too much . . .


This is how it usually goes when a lighting designer sits in front of a client, selling a project concept. “No – there’s nothing to worry about on that score. We’ll only be specifying standard product – nothing bespoke and certainly nothing that hasn’t been proven in general use.” Yes, that is my burning pants I can smell.

Regardless of how much of a design freebooter we may pretend to be (arrr!) we all want some degree of firm ground on which to posture when we’re making our pitches. But what happens when it feels as though everything is on shifting sands? And what happens when we see the same look in the eyes of the manufacturers that all designers rely on to provide the robust spine of our specifications?

I’m hearing new questions being asked by clients; questions that I may not know the answer to, but which I hope can be answered by one of my technical pals at the other end of the phone. Idiot questions are best not committed to e-mails; you never know who might see them.

How sustainable will my lighting be?

Now this really is a new one. Though some of us have been banging the drum for years for a more sustainable approach to building design, its only recently that sufficient traction has been created that the issue has gone mainstream.

My lights won’t flicker, will they?

By comparison, here’s a really old question – its just the source that’s changed. Many people still associate fluorescent lamps with flicker, despite the problem being effectively designed away many years ago. We should be concerned that the LED may get tarred with the same brush because reports of poor installations are making themselves felt.

How should I control my lights?

This could be anything from a fevered wish to shove everything in the house up the Pipe of the Internet of Things to 2don’t even think about any of dimming malarkey”. And, of course, it all comes down to the fear and uncertainty being generated from an industry that doesn’t know itself what it should be doing. Do we listen to the IoT tyros, or swing behind the low power mesh network – or nip round to the wholesaler for a bagful of rotary dimmers?

LEDs – they glare and the colour is awful!

Sad but true, in so many instances. Here we are, fighting against some of the drossier elements of the LED revolution and having to reassure clients that LEDs and good lighting go together like . . . a horse and carriage.

Can I connect my lighting to my Alexa?

To hear the Internet of Things fans talk, you’d think the world was held together by magic, rather than old-fashioned lengths of cable. Don’t these people realise that the design elves have work to do before you can talk to your lights?

I’ve heard that hackers could watch me in the shower if I use LED lighting

Well, I think we have to be prepared tolerate a certain level of insanity among clients, but this kind of conflation of ideas does give cause for concern. Of course it can’t see you, but it can probably buy a new bar of soap for you.

I just want you to do the design – my contractors will take over after that.

And for the price of a few site visits, the job was lost. All that money spent on a superbly crafted piece of lighting design excellence flushed down your IoT-connected WC because you trusted the contractors not to switch the specification. See where that got you – if there was enough light to be able to see anything, that is.

And so it goes. 

RIBA CPD in 2015

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John Bullock Lighting Design
4 Miller Way

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