Sparc 2015
Day 2 – Thursday 28 May 2015
by Leela Shanker


A definite highlight of the day, and indeed the conference as a whole, was Thursday night’s Pecha Kucha session.


Hosted by Murray Robson, former principal of Haron Robson and continuing Visiting Lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Illumination Design program, the tone was set for a highly entertaining and highly charged evening.


Creating opportunity for a bright, young set of emerging lighting designers to take the stage and share their energy and insights, we were spun through a range of topics – all about light and at light speed.


From reflections on genius loci – the spirit or soul of a place – to fly-throughs of recent public space, commercial and residential projects, waving the banner for the role of presentation skills and running out through the back rooms of Vegas hotels and clubs, this was the session that gave SPARC its name.


Noting my peers from Pecha Kucha had all generally arrived for the “evening shift”, without having had time or opportunity to attend the day’s proceedings, I did wonder if it was a sign of the size of the ball and chain that keeps them to their desks at this stage in their careers, or a comment on employers’ perceived relevance and cost of industry events for young designers; even one of the biggest on the local calendar.


I was one of the fortunate able to take in some of the earlier sessions. First in the day, Dr Yoshi Ohno, NIST Fellow, Sensor Science Division at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, gave us a preview of the new colour rendering index about to be published publicly by IES, a colour fidelity metric using 99 samples to move from the old index originally developed for fluorescent light to the LED operating context. He also explored the distinction between colour fidelity and colour preference. It represents a further evolution of the way we represent and communicate about colour accurately with the evolution of new technology and given inherent variables in light conditions and each individual’s perception.


In his presentation on Daylight in the Built Environment, Antony Di Mase raised a particular issue that has resonated with me for some time. Stressing the significance of daylight as a precious resource, particularly in the context of increasing population density and growth of the vertical city, he asked how do we as an industry continue to raise the profile of light on the public agenda. In addition to the work of our industry bodies, how else can we ensure light is valued alongside water and other utilities and that strategy is formulated to address allocation and access to light for the community as a whole. Is it through general education that we can imbue young people with an awareness and appreciation of the role of design and lighting in improving quality of life? Public events such as Vivid may go some way in profiling light as a medium. Could we, Antony postured, also imagine a festival of daylight? Or one that integrates both electric and daylighting? Demonstrating through several Melbourne-based residential projects that capture “the art not just the science of light”, we were also encouraged to consider the scale at which good design, harnessing light for human well-being, is occurring.


Later in the day we ploughed into research of Dr Christophe Martinsons, Head of the lighting and Electromagnetism Division at the Centre for Building Science and Technology (CSTB), who presented evidence supporting concerns over the proliferation of blue LED applications without sufficient regulation to prevent health risks. He warned of the risk of retina damage being greatest for children and the elderly, amplifying the need for consumer education and product labelling or instruction.


The importance of effective consumer communication was also emphasised by Dr Ines Azevedo, Associate Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and Co-Director at the Center for Climate and Energy Decision-Making (CEDM). Her compelling research related to environment impact as affected by Consumer Choice for Lighting Products and the Feasibility of DC Circuits for Lighting. Showing statistics that lighting accounts for 20% of electricity consumption in the United States and 7% of its CO2 emissions, she argued there is huge room for improvement to move to more efficient lighting technologies, namely white LEDs.

Dr Azevedo also presented evidence that new labels introduced by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S., showing estimated yearly energy cost, do indeed lead consumers to choose lower energy consumption and longer lifetime bulbs. This prompts the question: how soon can similar labelling be introduced worldwide to give consumers the power to make better informed decisions to have real impact for the planet? Dr Azevedo also proposed the economic model to encourage switching to more energy efficient LEDs should involve a reduction in the upfront cost of bulbs despite LEDs’ longer lifetime. And as repeated in her comments on the final day panel with Mark Pesce, Dr Azevedo also put forward that as an industry that can be highly technical, communication with consumers should be kept simple and clear, separated from CRI or other indexes that may be indecipherable to the average buyer.


Sparc 2015: Day 1 – Wednesday 27 May 2015 by Leela Shanker

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