John Bullock Lighting Design
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What makes a Sustainable Lighting Manufacturer?


Today (and every day) I�m asking the question: what should I expect from a �sustainable� lighting manufacturer? This is not an abstract � angels-dancing-on-pinhead piece of philosophy; I really mean it. What DO I expect from a sustainable lighting manufacturer.

1. Tell the truth.
If any manufacturer says to me; �we operate a 100% sustainable business� then I know I�m being lied to. If you�re making things, then you�re in a negative relationship with the store of the planet�s resources.
I expect a manufacturer to say to me; �we�re doing our best to reduce the inevitable impact that we�re having on the planet�s material, energy and human resources.� 
I also expect a manufacturer to provide honest data on the performance of the fixtures and, hopefully (though probably one for the near future) an Environtmental Product Declaration that confirms the fixture's bona fides.

2. Control the Output.
Lighting is one of those services that just keeps on taking. Every time you switch on a fixture, that�s energy being used, right there. It�s often said (though its not particularly helpful) that the only sustainable lighting fixture is the one that you don�t switch on. You might expand that to �the one that didn�t get made in the first place�.

But if we need lighting fixtures, and we surely do, there are a few ground-rules � a couple of lines in the sand - that we may as well explore.
1. A minimum efficacy for lamp and control gear across the manufacturer's catalogue, based on current legal requirements of things like Building regulations: Part L.
NOTE: leave the luminaire efficacy out of this; it�s a different debate.
2. A fixture design philosophy that means that nothing has to end up in landfill; that everything within the fixture can be recycled; that a goodly proportion of the fixture can be re-used as it is, without the need for melting down and re-making.
3. A fixture that is �future-proofed� against redundancy (and that�s one for the crystal-ball gazers)

3. Control the Input.
I was once handed a new spotlight fixture. It was made of plastic and it felt like a hair-dryer; but that was because it was made by someone who designed hair-dryers. It was a totally disposable product and a product absolutely of its time.
The ability to satisfy those baseline output requirements means some clever thinking at the creative end of the process. Can we make one component that serves more than one requirement?
Can we design components that are flexible �over time� � that can be used again and again through several iterations of a product�s development.
Can we design housings that can be retro-fiited with later generation light sources?

4. Have traceability throughout the process.
The lighting industry buys a lot of its equipment from third-party sources, and there are occasions when those sources don�t play by the rules of the game.
Child labour, even slave labour, is being recorded in a number of countries. It�s not a sustainable situation because one day those companies will disappear and leave their (dodgy) customers wondering where their next batch of components will come from � and at what price.
Sustainability means having control over a process that � as far as any of us can foretell � has longevity and stability into the future.

5. Deal honestly and fairly in its sales practices.
Being crooked can bring short-term advantages, but winning contracts via plain brown envelopes to the client/developer/contractor might bring you to a stretch inside and a disqualification on being a director for a few years. That's not a sustainable situation.
Just play fair.

6. Have a programme in place that supports a localism agenda at home.
Like the man almost said; � No lighting manufacturer is an island.� We all rely on the services and resources of the broader community. Working within the community can engage everyone in the sustainability process; it gets more people asking the right kind of questions, like �� what should I expect from a �sustainable� lighting manufacturer?

And that's it I guess - for now; though I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who would like the list to be developed a bit further.


RIBA CPD in 2015

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John Bullock Lighting Design
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