Lighting for Tomorrow: Making High Tech High Design
Lighting technology has progressed by leaps and bounds since Edison inserted a tungsten wire in a vacuum and ran electricity through it. Modern light sources use a fraction of the energy, put out light in a range of colors, and waste much less energy as heat. But these new sources require some adaptations. Engineers may have been successful technologically, but in order to get efficient fixtures into homes, CEE recognized that a little design pizzazz was needed.
Along with the American Lighting Association and the US Department of Energy (represented by the Pacific Northwest National Lab until 2010, when UL came on board), CEE initiated Lighting for Tomorrow, a design competition that invites lighting manufacturers to compete for awards that recognize the very best energy efficient lamp and fixture design. Over time, competition events have targeted specific market deficiencies—areas where the technology existed but there were no decorative options, where the technology was emerging but traditional fixture manufacturers had no experience incorporating it within their designs, or where the technology was incompatible with existing equipment such as dimmer switches and other lighting controls.
Starting with fluorescent fixtures in 2002, the competition has since expanded to include dimmable efficient fixtures, families of fixtures, and outdoor fixtures. A solid state lighting fixture competition was introduced in 2006, which encouraged the development of LED fixtures for suitable applications. In 2010, manufacturers were asked to compete by offering designs for lighting controls that work well across multiple energy efficient technologies. 2017 categories included ceiling fan lights, LED retrofit kits, and connected lighting.
CEE provided lighting manufacturers with an enticing opportunity to showcase technologies that might otherwise have taken much longer to reach the market. At the outset, coming up with attractive fluorescent fixtures was among the bigger challenges, but with advances in both the design and technology, Lighting for Tomorrow has been able to move steadily to address newer technologies and design challenges.
The award brochure that Lighting for Tomorrow produces annually finds its way into hundreds of lighting showrooms nationwide, and from there into the hands of consumers. Press coverage of the awards is far-reaching. In addition to broad distribution of press releases regarding the competition, major interior design and architecture portals report on the winners. Individual manufacturers also highlight the awards as a way to promote their products.
What started as a way for efficiency program administrators to increase the supply of well-designed, efficient fluorescent fixtures has become a platform for lighting manufacturers to move the design of their most technologically advanced products into the market.
CEE seeks opportunities to create market infrastructure supporting efficiency. Lighting for Tomorrow drew on a mutually recognized need for efficient, well-designed lighting products to benefit both manufacturers and program administrators. Through careful analysis of the marketplace, CEE members were able to recognize the need and creatively respond with a high-profile event that is now widely anticipated throughout the industry.