People who live in glass houses

Where do you think you’ll find the worst lighting? It might be closer to home than you think

Are you reading this in a badly lit office, a dingy works cafeteria or at home under a banned 100W incandescent lamp?

An old saying in the electrical trade is that you often find the worst wiring in an electrician’s home, and to a degree I’m sure this could be true. If you spend your entire week ripping up floors and wiring up hundreds of GU10 downlights in yet another builder’s gridiron lighting scheme, drinking tea and generally complaining about every other building trade, then the last thing you want to be doing at the weekend is to be installing a few extra sockets and a high-power security light at home.

If it’s unavoidable, you can use up all that old pre-European harmonisation colour-coded cable, and a load of materials recycled from your last job, safe in the knowledge that no other electrician is likely to work on your house.

Not just lighting

I’m sure this is also true in many industries. Health and safety experts with a house full of slip and trip hazards, accountants with unpaid credit card bills, quality managers with a fridge full of meat well past its sell-by date and interior designers with a pair of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen curtains.

However, all this pales into insignificance compared with our own industry. I’ve visited lighting factories, consulting engineers, LED suppliers and lighting designers the world over. If you want to see some inefficient, old and poor quality lighting, the chances are you’ll find it close to home. From an over-lit glare-bomb office in London and a gloomily lit machine shop in Shenzhen to the incandescent reception in Silicon Valley, the lighting industry and its supply chain serve up a rich and varied diet of poor lighting practice.

In catalogues, sales brochures, webinars and conferences, we preach the benefits of high quality, efficient lighting. We moan to government about the lack of regulations and general apathy towards energy efficiency. We spend our time trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: the client who wants to rip out their entire lighting estate and replace it with the latest and greatest kit.

Beacon of best practice

Our industry should be a beacon of best practice, leading the way and pushing the boundaries of energy efficiency. Yet in our own businesses we fail to practise what we preach. If we can’t convince our own business owners and managers to upgrade and replace lighting, then why should we be surprised when our customers don’t?

We all know the excuses, because we fight them externally every day.

‘We only rent the building.’

‘We are moving soon.’

‘It’ll cause too much disruption.’

‘The business is being sold.’

‘It’s too expensive.’

‘We don’t want to have debt showing on our accounts.’

‘There’s no case for investment.’

‘The technology’s still developing.’

It’s well known that artificial lighting accounts for 20 per cent of world electricity consumption, and that moving to more energy-efficient versions could half that. Time and time again we show glowing examples of what can be achieved, and demonstrate the rapid return on investment from investing in good lighting.

Apart from a few glowing industry examples, it’s time to start getting our own houses in order, and pushing our own business owners, managers and landlords to make the shift. If we do, we should all win as an industry and gain some valuable learning about overcoming investment decisions at the same time.

I look forward to visiting LED suppliers with LED lighting installed in their buildings and controls manufacturers who control their lighting.

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