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Double (or triple) standards

It’s easy to complain that clients buy on price. But, Phil Marsden of Muse Developments points out, it’s not always easy for the non-specialist to get the information they’d need to make in informed choice – that’s if they have the time or could see the value.

For the vast majority of procurement professionals who have ‘lighting’ on their spreadsheet it’s just another line item on the ‘mechanical and engineering’ – or ‘furniture, fittings and equipment’ list.

Paying for a lighting specialist can seem, in Mark Major’s words, like yet another mouth at the table – an expensive and time-consuming luxury.

If an award-winning expert with a proven track record like Mark still has to battle with that attitude, it’s clear there is a long way to go before those buyers can see the point of paying for lighting advice in the same way they do for the IT and security infrastructure.

Unless of course they have a personal interest and have seen how the investment can pay off many times over – like my recent guests, Erik Askenjoe of industrial components giant Shaeffler, Steve Guy from the Norwich Bioscience Institute, or Iain Johnson and Rebecca Weir, of high end property developers Rigby&Rigby and lighting designers LightIQ.

But for most, like Learning Environment Officer for the Sweyne Park School, Simon Smith, even though he’s seen first hand how lighting can help the students to learn, he’s shopping online on a budget – and then off to sort out the pump for the swimming pool before break. So where do those clients find out what to buy?

The actual standards are all behind paywalls. In the UK, you might land on the ILP page (*). If you’re in the USA or Europe you’ll be directed to the BSI (*). Even if you decide to use part of your budget to download the pdf, they are not exactly an easy read. There are of course excellent research-led resources, including webinars hosted by Dr Karolina M. Zielinska-Dabkowska, many of which are free (*).

But if you just want to know what you need to buy to comply with the new lighting for workplace standard EN12464-1, you’re left with manufacturer-sponsored websites, webinars and industry blogs. The vast majority, understandably, focus on products rather than an efficient integrated approach where artificial lighting is a complement to, and not a replacement for, daylight.

Some of the best ones I’ve come across about EN124641are here in alphabetical order… would be grateful if you could send across others that you rate?

Fagerhult –

Glamox –


Philips –

Zumtobel –

Once you do take the plunge and log on to buy, the array of certification logos is bewildering. LED lamp products exported to the EU need CE, GS and VDE. In the USA it’s UL, ETL, FCC and ENERGY STAR, South Korea look for KC certification. Then you’ve got the low voltage directive (LVD) and electromagnetic compatibility certification test (EMC). Then of course you’ve got the ROHS, Ecodesign and energy ratings to think about. Even for a simple LED panel the only specification that seems to be standard is the colour temperature, the power consumption, lumen output and glare rating – although

It’s hard to blame those hard-pressed buyers for playing it safe – buying replacements for existing lights and negotiating hard on price when it can seem risky and expensive to do anything more.

Until we offer practical, independent – and free – information about what good lighting means, the value it can add to the bottom line – and the opportunity cost of business as usual – we have little hope of improving the quality of the lighting where we and our children – and our ageing parents – spend 90% of our lives.

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