Sports Lighting 101

Below is my contribution to the August issue of tED Magazine on the topic of sports lighting. Reprinted with permission.

Since 2000, an average 60 percent of Americans have identified themselves as a sports fan, according to Gallup. In 2016, U.S. construction spending on amusement and recreation facilities (not including those built as part of educational facilities) increased nearly 10 percent to about $22 billion. In regard to lighting, new and renovated facilities are a juncture of venerable best practice, robust regulation and new technology.

In 2015, the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) published an update to RP-6, Sports and Recreational Area Lighting. RP-6 states, “The goal of lighting for sports is to provide an appropriate luminous environment that contributes to the visibility of the playing target (ball), the competitors and the surrounding backgrounds.” Put another way, sports lighting should deliver optimal light levels and visual comfort for play and spectating.

Achieving this goal requires addressing quantity of illumination, or providing minimum maintained horizontal and/or vertical light levels. It also requires addressing quality of illumination, which incorporates a range of factors such as uniformity, glare, modeling and color quality. Care should be taken to minimize light trespass and skyglow in outdoor installations as dark-sky communities continue to grow across the U.S. Finally, selecting efficient luminaires, avoiding overlighting and using lighting controls can achieve good lighting while minimizing energy consumption.

Lighting the Bridgestone Arena. Photo by John Russell. Image courtesy of Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting.

Recommendations are geared by venue, sport and classification of play. Venues include both indoor and outdoor spaces—arenas, covered stadiums, athletic fields, field houses, gymnasiums and pools. Sports include aerial (e.g., baseball, basketball, football) and ground level (e.g., hockey, boxing, skating). Classification of play includes Class I (competition play with 5,000+ spectators), Class II (competition play with up to 5,000 spectators), Class III (competition play with up to 2,000 spectators) and Class IV (competition or recreational play with limited or no spectators). Some facilities are used for different sports and classifications of play, and therefore should be able to address the requirements of all uses.

Class I facilities, of course, impose the most complex requirements. Not only do these facilities have special design requirements, often broadcasting is involved. Sports organizations and/or broadcasters may impose detailed lighting requirements regulating everything from light levels to color.

Let’s look at a football field as an example. This sport is multidirectional, combining aerial and ground play. Typical lighting includes aimable floodlights mounted on crossarms fixed on poles. For nighttime play on a Class I field, IES recommends 100 footcandles (fc) of maintained horizontal illumination, measured or calculated 3 ft. above the field on a 30-ft. x 30-ft. grid. It is important the light distribute uniformly across the playing area. The Uniformity Ratio (UR), expressed as a ratio between the highest and lowest calculated or measured light level values, should be 1.7:1 or less. The Coefficient of Variation (CV), which expresses a weighted average of all light level values, should be 0.13 or less.

These recommendations become less stringent for other classifications: 50 fc, 2:1 or less UR, and 0.17 or less CV for Class II; 30 fc, 2.5:1 or less UR, and 0.21 or less CV for Class III; and 20 fc, 3:1 or less UR, and 0.25 or less CV for Class IV.

Continuing our example, luminaires are often mounted on poles typically varying in quantity as four, six or eight poles. These poles commonly install along the sides of the football field behind the bleachers to ensure clear spectator views. With larger setbacks, more luminaires and taller poles may be necessary.

Floodlights should be aimed out of the players’ line of sight to avoid direct glare. Each floodlight’s beam spread should place the highest quantity of its light output on the field without producing a “hot spot,” and with coverage overlapping the distribution of adjacent luminaires. A range of beam spreads is available, with luminaires typically designated as Beam Type 1-7 based on the NEMA sports luminaire classification system. This system is being challenged by LED luminaires, which offer the ability to precisely tailor beam spread based on the application.

Comparison of HID luminaires (right) with LED luminaires combining a base TIR optical array with advanced optical features to minimize glare and optimize light control (right). Image courtesy of Musco Lighting.

An eight-pole configuration might include four on each side, inset 30 ft. from each end (around the 0-yard line), spaced 100 ft. apart and set back 15 to 45 ft. A six-pole configuration might include three on each side, inset 30 ft., spaced 150 ft. apart and set back 45-74 ft. A four-pole configuration might include two on each side, inset 90 ft., spaced 180 ft. apart and set back over 75 ft. Major stadiums may see installation of floodlights in four lighting towers (one at each corner) or mounted on architecture such as an overhead steel truss system.

For a 160-ft.-wide standard football field, a setback of 30 ft. would typically entail a mounting height (measured from ground to the bottom of the floodlight crossarm) of 50 ft., according to IES. For a 50-ft. setback, a 60-ft. mounting height. For an 80-ft. setback, an 80-ft. mounting height.

Equipment should be selected appropriate to the application requirements. Light output, beam spread, shielding, color quality, ease of maintenance, energy efficiency, aiming, ingress protection and other factors must be evaluated based on the application. As with other applications, LED technology offers some significant advantages and is being rapidly adopted; in 2015 and 2017, the Super Bowl was played under LED lighting. Notable benefits include significant energy savings, longer life, spectral tuning, controllability (including dynamic events such as halftime shows), and optical options enabling superior glare control and a wide range of beam spreads. Another advantage is instant-ON operation, a critical consideration in resuming play after a power interruption, particularly during televised events. During the 2013 Super Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the stadium went partially dark, delaying play for about a half hour on account of the metal halide luminaires taking time to resume full brightness after power was restored. In 2016, the Superdome upgraded to a new LED system.

Another advantage of LED sports lighting is the ability to incorporate color and control to implement dynamic shows, as shown here at the U.S. Bank Stadium. Image courtesy of Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting.

Sports lighting is one of the more complex but rewarding lighting markets, imposing varying requirements based on type of play, venue and classification. As such, it pays to become educated about the basics and new product offerings so as to recommend and select appropriate solutions.

Product Monday: Obscura by Focal Point

Focal Point’s Obscura is a distinctive linear suspended luminaire. Illumination emanates from within its angular open housing, combining with a clean modern aesthetic.

LEDs reflect light off the geometric figure onto the thin frosted acrylic blades, achieving 80% indirect and 20% direct distribution. The optical design creates a wide batwing distribution for increased spacing between luminaires (up to 16 ft. on center). Efficacies up to 129 LPW). Individual lengths available from 4 to 12 ft. in 1-ft. increments and modern finishes: White or Palladium Silver exterior body and White or Infinity interior end caps.

Obscura also integrates Focal Point’s Power-Up technology where power is delivered through the aircraft suspension cables, eliminating the visual cutter of power cords.

Click here to learn more.

Philips’ Susanne Seitinger Talks Liberated Pixels

In a recent post at Edison Awards (not to be confused with the GE lighting awards), Philips Lighting’s Susanne Seitinger talks about illuminated drones used at the 2017 Superbowl Halftime Show and other special events, a concept she calls “liberated pixels.” Combining LED lighting and control with drones creates new opportunities and challenges for outdoor event lighting.

Check it out here.

tED Magazine Launches LightED Website

tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED, recently launched, a website dedicated to lighting.

LightShow West Registration is Open

LightShow West recently announced the opening of online registration for the trade show and conference at Kentia Hall in the Los Angeles Convention Center, Oct. 11-12, 2017. The biennial event is geared toward professionals seeking relevant education and the latest solutions from leading manufacturers of lighting, controls and related technologies.

Attendees will be able to participate in a selection of more than 50 peer-reviewed educational sessions, including six free on-floor workshops, 27 free seminars, 16 fee-based roundtable sessions and a new Control Systems Summit on October 12 (sessions scheduled throughout the day). Led by the industry’s top speakers, the sessions will cover subjects pertinent to professionals in the fast-changing world of commercial lighting. Of special interest to the California market will be the numerous Title 24 seminars covering codes, controls, retrofit and new manufacturing testing requirements. LightShow West is a registered education provider will offer a variety of learning units, including AIA, IDCEC, ASLA and NCQLP.

LightShow West 2017 will also feature some 300 lighting manufacturers showcasing their newest products.

Click here to learn more and register.

Product Monday: Linear Luminaires by Ketra

L3I Indirect Linear Pendant: This indirect pendant offers clean uplighting for commercial and hospitality applications, and it comes in several housing colors and customizable lengths. Changeable optics ensure fine control over light output and spread width. Also offers end-to-end connections, allowing for continuous lines of light.

Click here to learn more.

L4R Recessed Linear: This 4-in. recessed linear luminaire provides continuous lines of light. Designed for ease of integration, the recessed linear installs neatly into ceilings or walls, with customizable trim styles and a variety of mounting options. It is compatible with multiple ceiling types, including T-bar and hard ceilings. The tunable-spectrum single point source produces wide range of white, pastels and saturated colors.

Click here to learn more.

P4 Direct Linear Pendant: This direct pendant is an elegant, high-performance stand-alone pendant with a variety of finish styles. It offers soft direct view lensing or glare control louvers to optimize visual comfort.

Click here to learn more.

RPI Names Mariana Figueiro New Director of Lighting Research Center

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has named Professor Mariana G. Figueiro, Ph.D., as director of the Lighting Research Center (LRC), after serving as the center’s acting director over the past year. Figueiro is assuming the directorship after Professor Mark Rea, who has served as LRC director since 1988. Professor Rea will continue as professor of architecture and cognitive sciences in the School of Architecture.

Figueiro has been with the LRC for 21 years, where she started as a graduate student in the LRC’s M.S. in Lighting program. She continued as a staff scientist at the LRC and in 2004, obtained her Ph.D. from Rensselaer. In 2006, she was offered a tenure-track position as an assistant professor and in 2014, was promoted to full professor. She has served as LRC Light and Health Program Director since 1999.

Figueiro is an expert in the area of light and health, with a focus on bridging science to practical applications aimed at improving human quality of life. She has made a significant impact on this developing field and continues to actively expand her influence through translational research and teaching. Figueiro is principal investigator of various research projects within the LRC, including two R01 grants from the National Institute on Aging and one R01 grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as grants from the U.S. General Services Administration and the Office of Naval Research. She regularly collaborates with lighting industry leaders such as Acuity Brands, Cree, Current by GE, Ketra, OSRAM, Philips Lighting, and USAI Lighting.

She has brought attention to the significance of light and health as a topic of public interest through her recent TEDMED talk, among numerous other invited presentations and outreach. She is the author of more than 80 scientific articles in her field of research, and is regularly featured in national media including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Scientific American.

Over the past three decades, the LRC has grown from a 3,000-sq.-ft. office on the Rensselaer campus to a 30,000-sq.-ft. laboratory space with more than 35 full-time faculty and staff. During this time, the LRC has received more than $130 million in external research contracts and industry support.

Electroindustry Business Confidence Indexes Decline Sharply but Remain above 50

NEMA’s Electroindustry Business Confidence Index for current conditions slid by more than 20 points from the near-term high of 76.5 reached in March of this year. As recently as last month, the current conditions index topped 60 but fell 7.2 points to reach July’s value of 53.3. Most of the change came from a larger share of respondents – 67% in July versus 58% last month – who reported unchanged conditions. The share of those who noted that conditions are worse increased by only 2 points to 13 percent this month. Some respondents mentioned sluggishness in key markets, while others noted improving economic conditions overall and the seasonal boost typical of summertime.

The future conditions index fell even more dramatically than the current index. In January 2017, the six-month ahead index stood at 91.7 but dropped 35 percentage points since that zenith. July’s reading clocked in at 56.7 points, down from 68.4 last month.

Lighting’s Creative Destruction

Below is my contribution to the July issue of tED Magazine on the topic of change in the lighting industry. Reprinted with permission.

At this year’s Strategies in Light conference in Anaheim, California, two notable speakers talked about how LED technology is disrupting the traditional lighting industry. tED caught up with them to ask how this disruption is impacting electrical distributors and what distributors should do to remain competitive in the LED and intelligent lighting era.

Creative destruction

Robert F. Karlicek, Jr., PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, sees the industry going through a process called creative destruction. This term, coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942, describes the process of innovation destroying old economic structures and creating new ones.

“In the lighting industry, the creative aspects involve high-efficiency LEDs that have long lifetimes and can offer new lighting-based services,” said Karlicek. “The disruption is to all forms of old non-LED lighting and disruption of legacy business structures, supply chains and distribution channels.”

In the existing building market, LED retrofits offer high efficiency, longevity and other benefits. However, this longevity is eroding the replacement market that traditionally provided steady lamp sales. Karlicek also pointed out the low wattage of LED makes energy-saving lighting controls more difficult to justify.

In the new construction market, prevailing energy codes require both high lighting efficiency and extensive automatic controls. Here, the economics are more favorable to extended capabilities such as intelligent connected lighting, dimming, tunable-white lighting, Internet of Things (IoT) integration and others. However, these capabilities are redefining lighting, necessitating education. Meanwhile, widespread innovation and less standardization have resulted in very short product cycles, wide variation in performance and limited serviceability.

Karlicek said two emerging metatrends are pointing to further creative destruction in lighting’s future. These include circadian lighting and the IoT.

“LED lighting is uniquely suited for circadian and human performance management,” he said. LED lighting enables control of both intensity and color output (spectral power distribution), tools that may influence the human circadian system. “However, I believe there is still a lot more research needed to properly define optimal LED lighting wavelength distributions for optimal human outcomes.”

Karlicek also pointed to the IoT’s emergence as another major trend that will impact lighting. “Traditional sales channels will need to become savvy about lighting standards, wired and wireless networking protocols, and computer and network systems,” he said. “For the time being, however, properly serving this emerging field will be difficult because of the wide variety of proprietary systems and lack of interoperability.”

All of this is developing, necessitating monitoring the market and agility to invest in capabilities at the right time. “Ultimately, distributors will need to become—either alone or through partnerships—both an electrical and networking systems supplier,” Karlicek said. “Start investing in re-educating your workforce so they can be skilled at AC and DC power distribution systems, networking and advanced controls.”


Dan Ryan, VP Product, IoT Solutions, Acuity Brands Lighting, sees the lighting industry undergoing a process called bundling. Bundling is defined as aggregation of individual services to create new value for buyers and sellers in a market. Buyers can access more services at a lower cost, while sellers can more profitably access a larger market.

He points to the computing and consumer electronics industries for examples of bundling and unbundling in action, drawing parallels to the lighting industry. Microsoft bundled services into Windows, the Internet unbundled them again across the web, technology giants like Google and Amazon rebundled them into their platforms, and now some unbundling is occurring as some services are being peeled off.

While industry analysts tend to focus on product, bundling also occurs in distribution. Consider video content distribution. Cable TV providers bundled and sold video content. Then video streaming from the Internet became feasible, resulting in an unbundling event. Today, consumers can access a wide variety of online content providers such as Netflix.

Ryan believes strong parallels for lighting can be found in the Apple iPhone, which bundled numerous services—phone, camera, etc. Similarly, the lighting industry is going through a bundling phase in which lighting projects are being bundled with IoT services and building management systems. “The world is starting to recognize that lighting is uniquely positioned to be an aggregation point for the delivery of IoT services,” he said. “This is due to its ubiquity in the as-built environment and the proliferation of networked lighting control systems.”

As a result, lighting manufacturers are starting to bundle new digital services with lighting such as indoor positioning, asset tracking and occupancy analytics. The overriding goal is to leverage installed lighting hardware and networking to collect data and use it to improve processes. The result will be larger and higher-end lighting projects. This bundling will continue until standardization and interoperability enables a new services layer, which will result in some unbundling.

For electrical distributors, Ryan sees opportunity in a role that for the foreseeable future will remain the same as it is now. “The powerful economic principle behind bundling is that both buyers and sellers benefit,” he said. “So in that sense, when you apply this to the lighting channel, electrical distributors will benefit. The sale of higher-end systems will lead to larger project sizes and help fight the commoditization and price erosion that we’re currently seeing in the traditional lighting market. For those distributors who strive to move up the value chain, there will be opportunities to develop deeper end-user relationships.”

The wildcard is the IoT’s impact on how lighting projects are specified and sold. Ryan points out that channel and access to market remain the most important drivers in activity in the lighting market, not technology. As the IoT enters more specifications, how projects are specified and sold may evolve, but Ryan sees opportunity for distributors who can deliver value.

“I think the real question for distribution is where the intersection is between IoT service sales and the traditional lighting sale,” he said. “At one level, distribution will sell higher-end systems and will see benefits there. There are also some lighting-channel-specific IoT services—such as preventative maintenance and lighting asset management—that will unlock new opportunities for selling to the traditional buyer. But I think it’s still very much an open question of how value-added IoT services will actually be sold and what role the traditional channel will play there. The majority of new services being developed are really orthogonal to what distributors do today. Regardless of how it all plays out, I expect traditional distribution to play a huge role.”

Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Make 179D Tax Deduction Permanent

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress that would make permanent a key energy efficiency tax incentive for owners and designers of energy efficient buildings while expanding its benefits to designers of hospitals, schools, tribal community facilities and other non-profits.

H.R. 3507, introduced by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), also modifies Section 179D of the tax code – the Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Deduction – to make small to mid-sized architect firms organized as subchapter S corporations eligible for the deduction.

Section 179D allowed qualifying building owners and businesses to receive an up to $1.80 per square foot tax deduction for their energy-efficient buildings placed into service during all open tax years. It was originally passed by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and had been extended several times until it last expired at the end of 2016.

On July 27, 2017, the bill was referred to the Ways and Means Committee. You can follow its progress here.