Hotels and the abuse of standards

Standards are a good thing, but users must be aware of the ruses that more unscrupulous manufacturers will employ to ensure their products appear to comply, says Gordon Routledge

To quote an old Al Murray pub landlord joke, where would we be without rules? France! And if we had too many rules, where would we be? Germany!

As the lighting industry gets ready for Light + Building in Frankfurt, a big concern for the many new members of the Lux team has been on the type of hotels available. My suggestion is not to worry because all German hotel rooms are the same. If you disagree with me on this, please send me a tweet.

The room will be functional, clean, the bed will be about 5mm from the floor, formed from two single mattresses, the bed linen will be crisp and white, the duvet will be too small and too thin, you’ll only have one pillow. The floor will be wood or industrial grade carpet and you’ll find a small packet of Haribo on the pillow when you arrive.

Standard hotels

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a German DIN standard for hotels. An attempt was made to standardise British hotels in the late 1980s. Happily the standard didn’t catch on, but many of the hotels that adopted the draft standard are still there today, often branded as ‘traditional’ hotels, and you’ll know when you’re in one.

There are plenty of examples around Cambridge, Oxford and, particularly, the NEC in Birmingham. The light switch will be brass with a rope edge, to match the picture lights. The room will be small with a  oral print wallpaper.

The room temperature will be tropical in summer and sub-zero in winter. Biscuits will be Walkers shortbread and every room will be equipped with the world’s most useless electrical device, a Corby trouser press. Service like breakfast, Wi-Fi and parking will be an expensive extra.

Standards are important, and a trawl of the British Standards website brings up a rich tapestry that reflects daily life: BS 4034: 1990 – Specification for Vitrified Hotelware, that’s cups and plates to you and me; BS 1970: 2001 Hot Water Bottles manufactured from Rubber and PVC.

Even a cup of tea has been standardised in BS 6008: 1980 Preparation of a Liquor of Tea for use in Sensory Tests. These standards mean that hotels can be sure the plates they buy will stack and the Daily Mail isn’t full of stories about exploding Chinese hot water bottles.

Also, there is an extensive list of lighting product standards. Just because technology is changing doesn’t mean they don’t apply, which may come as a surprise to many producers of LED fittings.

BS EN 60598 is the main standard you should be looking for – it covers every type of light fitting from portable hand lamps to stage and TV lighting. This standard isn’t so concerned about efficiency and general lighting performance, but is specific about construction and safety.

You may not know that a fitting specified for outdoor use, such as a floodlight or architectural luminaire, should not be supplied with PVC cable and it’s amazing how many products miss this subtle requirement.

Perhaps the most abused standard in the world is the CE mark. It’s supposed to be a declaration that a product complies with all the standards that apply to it. Everything from safety and EMC to product markings. It’s often said that CE means Chinese Export because it does not provide the assurance that is associated with the UL mark in the US.

The established and trusted manufacturers in the lighting industry invest signi cantly to make sure products comply with relevant standards. If you’re concerned about the products you are specifying or being offered, ask the manufacturer to provide a copy of an EC declaration of conformity.

This is a legal requirement under the CE regulations, the document must list the BS/EN standards with which a product complies. In many cases you’ll find it included with product instructions or data sheets.

Gordon Routledge, LEDs expert and publisher of Lux
Follow Gordon on twitter: @gordonroutledge

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