Lighting Designers Play Vital Role in Product Specification

Aug. 31, 2020
In a post-COVID world, lighting can help ensure social distancing, disinfection, and reliability—and lighting designers are a key part of meeting these requirements. 

Photo: Quality and reliability are critical in lighting specifications, particularly in demanding environments like this outdoor amphitheater. Look for products that carry the National Lighting Bureau’s (NLB) Trusted Warranty Evaluation program that validates a company reliably stands behind its warranty.

COVID-19 has brought many unexpected changes to the world. The lighting industry—and specifically lighting designers—are helping America get back to work with products that monitor social distancing and luminaires that help to disinfect public spaces.

As such, it is more important than ever to work with a professional lighting designer, preferably one that is Lighting Certified (LC), when considering lighting specifications for commercial applications.

Lighting for Health and Safety

Lighting companies are now offering lighting products for social distancing that can sense the number of people in an occupied space and send an alert if too many people gather in one area. Signify has a system called Interact Office that has this capability, and Acuity Brands has similar software with their Atrius Solutions. Keeping people apart is obviously important for health and safety but having technology that helps monitor the social distancing also makes workers feel safe and can improve attendance.

A second contribution lighting designers are making on projects is specifying products with UV-C light that cleans the air and disinfects surfaces. There are several types and applications for UV disinfecting, and the market seems to be gravitating to two types with very different uses. The first is a 222-nanometer wavelength product that can be used continuously, as it is safe to humans so long as it is filtered. Ushio recently launched this type of application, for example.

The other type of UV-C technology that is in demand is a 254-nanometer, which is more effective than the 222 nm, but it is dangerous as it can harm the skin and eyes. Therefore the 254-nanometer should only be used in unoccupied spaces or in occupied spaces where people and pets are not directly exposed. Professional lighting designers can help clients determine which type of product to use and where to use it.

[Related: The New Normal of Lighting in Interior Spaces]

Combining the various products seems to be the best approach. A designer will specify filtered UV-C 222-nanometer for continuous cleaning in occupied areas and UVC-254 nanometer for deep cleaning in high traffic areas at night when the spaces are unoccupied. In addition, 254 nm UV-C luminaires have been added to HVAC units near the coils to help kill viruses circulating in the air. Further, many manufacturers now offer 254-nanometer UV-C products in upper air fixtures. These luminaires will disinfect the air above eye-level so there is no direct eye-to-source contact. 

A typical maintenance person or purchasing agent won’t have the expertise or education to put this package together, thus the need for the professional lighting designer. In fact, incorrect specifications can do much harm in a few ways. First, the users can be injured if exposed to UVC 254-nanomenter product. Second, they may have a false sense of safety assuming the UV is disinfecting when the wrong product has been specified and not enough UV reaches the surface to properly disinfect.

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Ensuring Quality and Reliability

Another critical role of the lighting designer is to specify high quality and reliable products. This is when the National Lighting Bureau’s (NLB) Trusted Warranty Evaluation program comes in. In short, this program validates that a company reliably stands behind its warranty. Products carrying the NLB Trusted Warranty logo come from companies whose warranty departments have been audited and approved by the NLB.

The Bureau was ready to launch the program March 1, but due to the pandemic, the launch date has been pushed out. It is currently processing applications from OEM’s, and will be conducting the audits beginning in the fall. 

Any company that sells products in the U.S. or Canada and that meets the objective criteria set by the NLB will be approved by the program. Seeing that the fixtures carry this logo gives the end user peace of mind, knowing the luminaires have met quality standards. What’s more, this logo tells users that the product meets at least eight of 10 criteria within five specific areas of interest.

The first set of criterion looks at the company’s formal warranty and evaluates three criteria:

  1. The warranty must be found easily on the company’s website within three search clicks from the homepage or within one click using search.
  2. The company should also have specific documented procedures for their warranty that keep its management informed of warranty issues.
  3. Either an employee, department or third party must be tasked with managing the warranty, and their contact information must be readily available.

The next area of interest examines the warranty language. The warranty must be written in a way that the average person can understand and follow it. Additionally, the warranty must specify its start date. Oftentimes, warranties are filled with technical language that the layperson cannot understand. These criteria ensure that the company’s client understands exactly what the warranty does and does not cover.

[Related: Must-Know Facts About Specifying Materials for Furniture, Fixtures and Millwork]

Next, the company must either a) have been in business longer than the length of the warranty, or b) possess insurance that covers its warranty obligations. This prevents companies from offering warranties which they don’t have the financial means to back. Furthermore, by offering the option for warranty insurance, newer companies are not discriminated against.

The fourth area includes a technical evaluation. Two SKUs (stock keeping units) will be chosen at random for reliability validation. A point will be awarded for each SKU that has reliability documentation. While the NLB does not conduct product testing, it ensures that the company has information that allows it to confidently stand behind the quality of its products.

Finally, the NLB will assess three claims for evaluation. Specifically, each of the claims will be assessed from first notification until when the claim was complete with the NLB monitoring the speed with which the claim was dealt.

Knowing that a third party, non-profit company has evaluated a particular warranty program should give the designer and the end user the confidence to move forward with the project worry-free.

Read Next: How to Specify: Sustainable Furniture

About the Author:

Randy Reid is the executive director of the National Lighting Bureau.

*This How to Specify article was sponsored by Interface Inc.

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