Architecture Billing Index Rebounds

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) returned to growth mode in February after a weak showing in January. 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 February ABI score was 50.7, up from a score of 49.5 in the previous month. This score reflects a minor increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).

The new projects inquiry index was 61.5, up from a reading of 60.0 the previous month, while the new design contracts index climbed from 52.1 to 54.7.

“The sluggish start to the year in architecture firm billings should give way to stronger design activity as the year progresses,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “New project inquiries have been very strong through the first two months of the year, and in February new design contracts at architecture firms posted their largest monthly gain in over two years.”

Key February ABI highlights:

• Regional averages: Midwest (52.4), South (50.5), Northeast (50.0), West (47.5)
• Sector index breakdown: institutional (51.8), multi-family residential (49.3), mixed practice (49.2), commercial / industrial (48.9)
• Project inquiries index: 61.5
• Design contracts index: 54.7

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

Regulatory Roundup

In a recent column for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, I provided an update on the 179D energy efficiency tax deduction, ENERGY STAR V.2 Lamps criteria and V.2 Luminaires criteria, and metal halide rules taking effect.

Check it out here.

A recent blog post on tEDmag.com talks about a more recent Department of Energy ruling on general service lamps, in which DOE expanded the definition of lamps that will face energy standards in 2020. This was a curious ruling. DOE appears to remove several significant lamp exemptions, while appearing to include reflector lamps, which are separately regulated. Meanwhile, DOE did not produce new energy standards by the deadline, which means, according to the language of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008, that general service lamps will face a backstop energy standard of 45 lumens/W in 2020. This situation appears to be in flux, and I’ll cover it in detail as the situation becomes more clear.

Check it out here.

Electroindustry Business Confidence Soars

In moving from 72.2 last month to 76.5 in March, the NEMA Electroindustry Business Confidence current conditions index reached its highest level since September 2005.

Although some executives remarked on confusion in Washington and flashes of social unrest, signs of a strengthening economy noted by others were apparently widespread among panel members. The share of those indicating better business conditions increased by 9 percentage points to 59% this month, and all of that increase came as a result of a 9 percentage point drop in the “unchanged” conditions category, from 44% in February to 35% in March. Like last month, only 6% reported worse conditions.

Don’t Tread on ENERGY STAR, Says ACEEE

The Trump Administration’s recent budget outline proposes a 30+% cut in Environmental Protection Agency funding, which threatens to defund the ENERGY STAR program.

In a recent blog post, Steven Nadel, Executive Director the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), disagrees, stating, “ENERGY STAR has been very successful in its current form; why risk this success with dramatic changes that have a good chance of failing?”

In his post, Nadel points out that ENERGY STAR has produced a good return on investment, producing $400 billion since the program started, $34 billion in 2015 alone. All for a budget of $50 million per year. More than 5 billion products have been certified under ENERGY STAR since its inception.

He also argues that ENERGY STAR should not be spun off to the private sector. ENERGY STAR’s strength is its independent brand based on recognition and trust. The operating budget of $50 million per year is far too large for nonprofit organizations in the electrical industry. It also depends on the work of other Federal agencies.

Click here to read Nadel’s post. More here from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In another post, ACEEE states the budget proposes to cut the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office by $516 million for 2017, about a quarter of its total budget.

Product Monday: Focal Point’s ID+ 3.5″ Adjustable Accent

Designed for residential and commercial applications, Focal Point’s ID+ 3.5″ Adjustable Accent is the latest addition to the company’s LED downlight family. Intended for both grid and drywall ceilings, the low-profile housing with a 3.5″ aperture accommodates round and square die-cast trims and trimless reflectors in six finish options.

Installation and maintenance are simplified with tool-less adjustability and below-ceiling driver access. It provides precise aiming with 362° rotation and 0° to 35° vertical tilt, while maintaining a maximum height of 3.12” at full tilt. Four field-changeable beam spread optics: spot, narrow flood, flood and linear spread. Center beam candlepower (CBCP) up to 12,360 candelas.

Click here to learn more.

IESNYC Selects Two Winners for Second Annual Scholarship

The New York City Section of the Illuminating Engineering Society has selected two winners – Marta Casarin, who will earn her MFA in Lighting Design at Parsons New School of Design, and Evan Wilson, who will receive an MSc in Lighting from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) – for the second annual IESNYC Scholarship.

This merit-based scholarship, which is open to first-year students currently enrolled in a full-time graduate program as a degree candidate in the field of architectural lighting at an accredited college/university in New York State.

The scholarship has a monetary value of $25,000, which will be evenly distributed between the two recipients.

Intertek Launches New Horticultural Lighting Certification Program

Intertek’s new Horticultural Lighting Certification Program addresses the unique requirements for horticultural luminaires, offering manufacturers an efficient path to launch products into this growing market.

Due to the unique environments where these products are installed, they are subject to environmental testing above and beyond general use lighting. In North America there are no safety and performance standards specific to horticultural lighting. As a result, Intertek has created a unique certification program to help manufacturers comply with current standards as well as plan for standards still in development.

Click here to learn more.

Jim Brodrick on LED Streetlighting

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

Last year, DOE devoted two Postings (in June and October) and a webinar to the topic of LED street lighting and its potential effects on human health and the environment, in order to lay out reliable information in the wake of news stories generated by the American Medical Association’s (AMA) community guidance on street lighting. The news stories have continued, and it’s clear that as discussion of these issues has become more widespread, so have many misperceptions and mischaracterizations of the technical information, with the difference between what has and hasn’t been scientifically established often blurred well beyond the squinting point.

So to redress the balance, DOE has assembled a list of helpful resources, including Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that look at the matter in considerable depth, providing accurate and useful information to the discussion and clarifying the state of scientific understanding as it presently exists.

A quick clarification is needed from the start. We hear much discussion about the health effects of “blue” light, but reference to that particular color is really being used as simple shorthand for a broad range of wavelengths that exert varying levels of influence on health. Because the relevant wavelengths for most effects actually extend beyond any generally accepted definition of “blue” on either end of its associated spectrum, we instead favor the term “short-wavelength” light. To put a finer point on it, wavelengths, rather than specific colors, are responsible for the biological (and other) effects that are the focus of current concerns.

Present in sunlight, short-wavelength light is a fundamental component of the natural environment. Ongoing medical research has demonstrated the ability of some of these wavelengths to stimulate biological responses, such as affecting circadian rhythm (the 24-hour biological clock). Because of the rise in the use of LEDs for outdoor lighting applications, and their relatively higher content of short wavelengths compared to the high-pressure sodium (HPS) products they typically replace, the concern is that a potential for greater exposure to those wavelengths at night may ultimately be detrimental to health.

However, all light at night can potentially contribute to the biological responses and related health concerns raised by the AMA. White light sources have a greater potential ability to stimulate those responses than non-white sources, but none of the factors or concerns are unique to LEDs. At any given wavelength and intensity, there’s no difference between light emitted by an LED and that emitted by another type of light source. All nominally white light sources used for street lighting (mercury vapor, metal halide, fluorescent, induction, LED) have spectral power distributions (SPDs) with a greater proportion in short wavelengths than does the non-white HPS lighting that’s been the dominant type for street and roadway lighting for the last several decades.

What’s more, short wavelengths are a fundamental component of the visible spectrum and have their benefits, ranging from aesthetics to safety. White light sources containing short wavelengths render colors outdoors at night more naturally for human vision, aid in identification of people and objects, and improve contrast between an object and its background. Short wavelengths are also acknowledged to provide enhanced peripheral vision at the low levels of illuminance typically associated with street lighting. And it stands to reason that improved visual performance can bring associated safety benefits, which are a significant tradeoff when eliminated and often get short shrift in the ongoing debate. All this is not to say, however, that there aren’t applications where the benefits of omitting the blue wavelengths outweigh any detriments from doing so. But unlike most conventional light sources, LEDs lend themselves especially well to engineering the spectral content to precisely match the need, whatever it may be.

Another complicating factor is that SPDs with very different component wavelengths can produce the same CCT, which makes CCT only a rough gauge of the actual spectral content of a given light source. This in turn also means that CCT is only an approximate gauge of the potential health and visibility influences of a light source. Although it roughly tracks with short-wavelength content (with higher CCT usually corresponding to a higher content of short wavelengths, and vice versa), the individual SPDs of different light sources vary enough that CCT is not a reliable indicator of the specific wavelength content. For example, there are some 4000 K LED light sources that are actually lower in short-wavelength content than some 2700 K LED sources (or, for that matter, than a 2800 K incandescent source — see the FAQs). Again, the issues under discussion are associated with specific wavelengths, not with colors.

Although some of the media coverage has given the impression that LED street lighting is the cause of the issues being raised, in fact it offers key solutions to those issues. That’s because, unlike conventional street lighting, LED systems can be adjusted to provide only the level of illumination needed at any given time, and when well-designed they also offer a high degree of control over the direction in which light is emitted, which makes it much easier to reduce glare, light trespass, and uplight. This improved control also means that an LED streetlight can often meet the illumination requirement with just half of the lumens of the conventional system it replaces. All of this offsets much of the effects from any increased short-wavelength content in the LEDs — and may even more than offset those effects. But mention of this is typically neglected in most news stories.

Lighting is an essential part of our civilization. While some of its effects are only beginning to be understood, it’s crucial that in choosing the best course of action, we be guided by science, not sound bites. That’s the purpose of the new FAQs. We think you’ll find them useful.

LEDs Magazine Announces Sapphire Award Winners

LEDs Magazine hosted its third annual Sapphire Awards at the Strategies in Light conference in Anaheim, co-located with The LED Show and Lightspace California. This was my first pilgrimage to Strategies in Light, and I found the conference fascinating and valuable, though at this stage of industry disruption, there remain more questions than answers.

A highlight of the conference was the Sapphire Awards, in which LEDs Magazine recognized innovative solid-state lighting products.

Check out the winners here.

Sculpt Accent luminaire from Axis Lighting, which won in the Indoor Ambient, Track, and Accent SSL Luminaire Design category.

Product Monday: Fluxstream by Philips Lighting

Philips Lighting’s FluxStream family of LED linear luminaires primise high-quality, more uniform light versus fluorescents for a greater range of applications, notably commercial and light industrial.

These simple striplights deliver up to 133 lumens/W of general-diffuse illumination with multiple CCT 3000-5000K), 80 CRI, 120-277 or 347V, 2,000- up to 14,000-lumen packages, multiple lengths, multiple mounting methods, and standard 0-10V dimming.

Click here to learn more.