BIM and the Future of Lighting Design

An article recently published in LUX reflects on the role of lighting design in Building Information Modelling (BIM), which is evolving past a 3D construction modeling system to include all services, including lighting. This opens the possibility for BIM to become a new collaborative tool for design teams.

From LUX:

Typically, the lighting design for a building only comes along once the building design is ‘frozen’; everyone has agreed where the walls and the ceiling are going and – if we’re lucky – where all the furniture will be placed. At this point it’s possible for the lighting designer, who might be a manufacturer, to produce the layouts and the supporting performance data. It is the system that we all understand and we know the drawbacks to it.

But that traditional approach brings its own problems. A ‘frozen’ scheme can be unfrozen at any point, requiring a late re-visit to the scheme; manufacturers often find that they’re just one among a number of other manufacturers, with no guarantee that all of the time taken in developing the scheme will result in an order; worst of all, a successful scheme, costed and approved, can still be lost due to ‘value engineering’.

LUX says:

The BIM approach will be different. The higher level of engagement required by the members of the project team will create an inherent flexibility within the process. This will make design changes more organic to the process. The productivity benefit comes from directly supporting design development – a far cry from the phonecall that would once inform designers of major changes.

Click here to read more.

What’s New in LED Drivers

Below is my lighting column published in the January issue of tED Magazine. Reprinted with permission.

The majority of LED lamps and luminaires feature an electronic driver that performs the same basic function as a fluorescent ballast. The driver converts AC supply voltage to DC and drives current to the LED source.

In the traditional lighting aftermarket, electrical distributors select a compatible ballast based on the type of lamp in the luminaire. Form factors and other attributes are standardized. In relatively rate cases, the ballast is dimmable, requiring a ballast compatible with the selected dimming method.

In the LED market, as with fluorescent luminaires, distributors typically select a luminaire with its manufacturer choosing the driver. After installation, the driver may be replaced in the field when it fails if the luminaire is serviceable. This can be more challenging than replacing a ballast for several reasons, including non-standardization of form factors, wide range of driver-LED module pairings, and short product cycles.

“While LED drivers perform a similar function to electronic ballasts, they are not the same,” says Kevin Boyce, Director of Product Management, Universal Lighting Technologies. “More information is needed to select the proper LED driver replacement than was required in electronic fluorescent ballast replacement.”

Driver types

Drivers may vary in regards to output, safety rating, input voltage, programmability, temperature rating, electromagnetic interference (EMI) and form factor.

The industry typically categorizes drivers as constant-voltage or constant-current. Constant-voltage drivers operate LEDs requiring a fixed voltage (typically 12 or 24VDC), popular for applications where the LED load is unknown, such as sign and track lighting. Constant-current drivers (e.g., 350mA, 700mA, 1A) operate LEDs requiring a constant current, and are used in the large majority of LED general lighting. Good performance depends on matching output current and voltage to the LEDs.

Besides output characteristics, the industry also evaluates drivers based on input characteristics. The larger majority of drivers are universal (120-277V, 50-60Hz), but some are fixed or single voltage. The driver must be compatible with the supply voltage.

Drivers may be rated as Class 1 or Class 2. The majority of indoor LED products use Class 2 drivers, which simplifies luminaire construction. The majority of outdoor LED products use Class 1 drivers, which operate more efficiently when high light output is required.

The majority of LED products is dimmable and designed to operate with 0-10V and/or digital (e.g., DALI) controls.


LED drivers are technically advancing as the LED lighting market matures and the technology continues to evolve.

“There are many trends that driver manufacturers are looking into,” says Ethan Biery, LED Engineering Leader, Lutron Electronics. “Incremental improvements in efficiency, variations in size and wattage, increased connectivity options, multichannel drivers for support of color-tuning applications, and drivers integrated directly into light engines.”

Programmability: Drivers may be programmed or tuned (typically at the factory) to set the maximum output for the LED load. This allows precise pairing of the driver and LED module and resulting light output and wattage. A majority of drivers used in indoor luminaires are tunable. Most in the outdoor market are not, though Boyce says demand is growing.

“The industry is moving towards tunable drivers, which allows for luminaire manufacturers to reduce the number of LED drivers they use,” he says. “This also allows distributors to stock fewer LED drivers, though it does require the distributor to tune or set up the output of the LED driver to the requirement of each luminaire. Conversely, some LED driver manufacturers offer quick-ship programs of factory-tuned drivers to alleviate the distributor of the responsibility to tune the drivers.”

In addition to the programming maximum output, some drivers offer programming of dim levels and dimming curves.

Color tuning: As demand for color-tunable lighting such as tunable white products increases, driver manufacturers are investing resources in products to support that market. Says Biery, “New technologies are beginning to deliver multichannel tunable drivers for LED lighting that allows the color to be adjusted almost infinitely to deliver the perfect color temperature for any application.”

Flicker concerns:
Flicker concerns have focused industry attention on the driver, its interactions with dimming controls, and metrics that can be used to evaluate and compare drivers. These metrics are likely to be released this year.

“The LED driver plays a very significant role in delivering flicker-free, high-quality dimming performance,” Biery notes. “Recommend digital drivers whenever possible, as they generally use more robust filtering components and are less prone to noise and external interference that can cause flicker. Simpler, less expensive, less complex drivers generally have fewer filtering components and use analog instead of digital circuitry, making them more prone to undesirable modulation in their output and to external electrical noise sources, which can manifest as flicker.”

Replacing the driver

The goal of driver replacement is that the new driver provides the same functionality as one it is replacing. The new driver’s characteristics must match the replaced driver. This is critical as mismatching can cause operating failure or performance and/or safety issues. Further, with the majority of luminaires, the driver is installed in the luminaire, requiring a form factor allowing installation. Many commercial luminaires permit field replacement, with some featuring quick disconnects for easy servicing. However, a lack of standardization can make finding the right replacement driver challenging.

“There is little effort being put toward standardization of LED driver form factors or technical capabilities,” Biery says. “The number of options demanded by fixture makers is too great. The best advice for distributors who want to stock drivers is to work with a quality manufacturer who demonstrates a commitment to having short lead times as well as supplying products with a long product lifecycle.”

In 2016, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) published LSD 74, Considerations of Field LED Driver Replacement. This whitepaper provides recommendations for driver replacement.

If using the same manufacturer’s driver, replacement can be simple. Send the model number and programmed current level (on the label or on a second label) to the luminaire or driver manufacturer. If using a different manufacturer, determine the LED module’s rated current; the manufacturer may provide a list of suitable replacement drivers. If the type of LED module is unknown, take a photograph of it and submit it to the driver manufacturer. If using a tunable driver, note the programmed current typically does not transfer from one manufacturer to another, so tuning can be difficult to replicate.

Finally, be sure that the replacement driver is a quality product made by a reputable manufacturer. “Characteristics of high-quality LED drivers are high efficiency, high reliability and stable output,” Boyce says. “Due to the long life of LED modules, all replacement drivers should be high-quality.”

Jim Brodrick on a New Lighting Facts Tool

Republication of Postings from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solid-State Lighting Program by Jim Brodrick, SSL Program Manager, U.S. Department of Energy

DOE’s LED Lighting Facts® program has come out with a handy new tool for lighting designers and specifiers, which can make their job a whole lot easier. The LED Lighting Facts Specification Tool provides a customized platform for specifiers to search and filter products from the LED Lighting Facts database — which now includes more than 54,000 LED lighting products from over 1,400 manufacturers — and manage lighting projects.

The tool offers a customized workspace that saves project details with associated products and is accessible to colleagues in the same firm. It also allows users to:

• Filter the LED Lighting Facts database for the desired information and save selected products to a project or “favorites” list, with the option of saving those same filter specs
• Create “tags” that associate products to projects in the works
• Communicate directly with manufacturers to ask them questions about their products
• Assign products to a project fixture schedule
• Add time-stamped product or project notes that are accessible by colleagues
• Generate spec sheets, fixture schedules, project summaries, and product filter downloads

The LED Lighting Facts Specification Tool is the direct result of a roundtable that DOE convened in Chicago in December 2015 with a group of lighting designers and specifiers, to determine how they worked and what they needed from an independently verified LED lighting database. Lighting specifiers and designers play a key role in driving innovation in product design and application, and their feedback is critical to DOE’s SSL Program. One thing high on their wish list was more product data about drivers, controls, color, and optics — plus photos, spec sheets, graphs, and other helpful visuals. In addition, they said they needed the ability to interact with manufacturers and reps, to share project workspace with colleagues, and to generate fixture schedules and uniform spec sheets. So DOE went to work and rolled out a beta version of the new specification tool at LIGHTFAIR 2016, where the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Several months of fine-tuning then paved the way for this week’s launch.


Since its inception in 2008, LED Lighting Facts has evolved in response to changes in the market as well as to stakeholder feedback. For example, in March of this year we updated the product submission form, grouping the various metrics in related, user-friendly chunks to make it easier on manufacturers. We’ve also redesigned the submission process to be as automated as possible, with the system pulling data from standardized electronic files and reports rather than requiring it to be entered manually. The idea is to maximize the amount and availability of the data while minimizing the burden on manufacturers — and, of course, to make the database as useful as possible to end users. That’s why it’s designed to reflect only the current market, with superseded products being archived away from the searchable database. Due to changes in the market as well as in replacement-lamp testing requirements, LED Lighting Facts is no longer listing replacement lamps, and will remove all of them from its database by December 16. Only luminaires and retrofit kits will be listed from here on in.

More than 40% of the products in the LED Lighting Facts database were listed in the past year, and 2,000 new products on average are submitted each month. The program has grown threefold in the past two years alone, and has become the primary way manufacturers submit their products for DOE’s Next Generation Luminaires™ design competition, as well as for the DesignLights Consortium’s™ Qualified Products List. The LED Lighting Facts database is also the source for a wide range of DOE Snapshot reports, which examine SSL performance trends.

We created the LED Lighting Facts Specification Tool to leverage the value of this robust, extensive, and highly useful repository of data about LED lighting products that are currently on the market. The tool is fast, easy to use, and absolutely free of charge. You won’t find a better bargain anywhere. The new Specification Tool is available to all Lighting Pro Partners. For more information, contact

Product Monday: ZipThree Wall Mount by Vode Lighting

Vode Lighting’s ZipThree Wall Mount 707 is a bi-directional ceiling wash and wall-grazing luminaire. The luminaire delivers up to 2,691 lumens/ft and 137 lumens/W at 84 CRI while maintaining a minimal design aesthetic. It is compatible with industry-standard dimming protocols and available in 2700K, 3000K, 3500K and 4000K color temperatures.

As a bi-directional fixture, the ceiling wash and wall graze channels can be independently controlled and dimmed, allowing designers to light a space in a variety of ways from a single luminaire. Alternatively, ZipThree can also be installed as a ceiling-wash-only or wall-graze-only fixture. Vode drivers may be remotely mounted up to 72 ft.

Click here to learn more.




ConstructConnect Forecasts 5.5% Growth in Construction Spending in 2017

The first of the construction forecasts are rolling in. ConstructConnect did a fairly good analysis of the economic factors driving construction spending and produced a forecast. They’re forecasting growth in put-in-place construction spending in every market in 2017 except industrial/manufacturing, for which they’re predicting a significant decline.

Overall, they’re forecasting 5.5% in nonresidential construction spending and 7.4% in residential construction spending.

Check it out here.

LUX Names Russell Foster 2016 Person of the Year

russellUK-based lighting publication LUX is becoming a must-read magazine for me along with LD+A.

The magazine recently awarded 2016 Person of the Year to Professor Russell Foster. Foster’s team at Oxford University discovered the eye’s third type of photosensitive cell, which connects to the circadian system. This discovery created the possibility of practical circadian lighting.

Click here to learn more.

SeventhWave to Host Outdoor Lighting Webinar


SeventhWave will host a webinar on LED outdoor lighting on January 18, from 1-2 PM CT. It will be presented by Crystal McDonald, Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of Energy.

High-performance LED outdoor lighting technologies offer up to 50+% energy savings compared to traditional technologies in addition to maintenance and other benefits. This webinar will highlight three key challenges of outdoor street and area LED lighting conversions in the public sector—financial, technical and regulatory—and describe proven solutions to overcome these obstacles.

Click here to learn more.

Architecture Billings Index Remains in Positive Territory (Barely)

Coming off a modest increase after two consecutive months of contraction, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) recorded another small increase in demand for design services. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate 9- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the November ABI score was 50.6, essentially unchanged from the mark of 50.8 in the previous month. This score reflects a slight increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.5, up from a reading of 55.4 the previous month.

“Without many details of the policies proposed, it’s still too early to tell the likely impact of the programs of the new administration,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “However, architects will be among the first to see what new construction projects materialize and what current ones get delayed or cancelled, so the coming months should tell us a lot about the future direction of the construction market.”

Key November ABI highlights:

* Regional averages: South (51.3), Midwest (50.9), Northeast (50.8), West (48.6)
* Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (51.7), mixed practice (51.3), commercial / industrial (50.4), institutional (49.5)
* Project inquiries index: 59.5
* Design contracts index: 50.2

(The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.)


Product Monday: Smart Street Lights by EnGoPLANET

NY-based startup EnGoPLANET’s Smart Street Lights provide roadway illumination powered by a combination of solar and kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is harvested from pedestrians’ footsteps via kinetic energy pads.

The street light is also equipped with sensors that collect real-time data. USB ports and a wireless charging pad incorporated into the pole provide service to pedestrians.

The product was recently installed in Las Vegas. Four luminaires and eight kinetics pads were installed in the Arts District plaza.


ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Publishes Article on LED Flicker

My contributions to the December issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR included a prominent feature on flicker in light sources, notably LED. What’s being done about it at the industry level and what specifiers can do about it to ensure good performance.

The article begins:

flickerFlicker in light sources is an old problem made new again in the LED age. Its effects range from annoying to debilitating, and solving it can be challenging. Even defining flicker is difficult. Whether a problem is likely to occur depends on the light source, lighting conditions, how sensitive occupants are to it and the tasks being performed.

The solution is to ensure proper installation to minimize chances of electrical noise, choose LED products with high-quality drivers, and pair these products with compatible dimming controls.

Last year, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) issued recommendations for minimizing flicker based on existing metrics, though this data is underreported in product information. New metrics are on the horizon that should help manufacturers test and describe their products. Meanwhile, specifiers should evaluate partners and their products carefully and test products for themselves.

Click here to read it.