Like other innovations spurred by a combination of technology development and government mandates, solid state lighting (SSL) presents a real triple bottom line scenario — good for the planet, good for profit, and good for end users. According to LED industry analyst Jed Dorsheimer, writing in LEDs Magazine in February 2012, “LEDs will begin as an energy-efficiency story, but will become more about utility: users can do more." This scenario is already playing out, and manufacturers play a key role in making sure LED adoption will hit its full potential.
First, we must rethink our assumptions about how we experience light in the built environment. This is a tall order, and more fundamental research on the behavioral effects of lighting is needed and manufacturers must fund all or part of it. Now that entirely new forms of lighting are made possible by SSL, understanding how we interact with and control light is crucial to our ability to design lighting products that will be adopted, because they make people feel better, not just save energy. We need to see lighting systems not as simple assemblies of components, but as integral parts of all building systems, with improved controls and quality of light.
There are definite historical patterns in the adoption of lighting technologies that can productively inform design decisions today. The most important part of recent lighting history to remember is the failure of compact fluorescents (CFLs) in reaching the projected level of market adoption. This happened because manufacturers rushed the technology to market in order to meet energy efficiency requirements, but completely ignored quality of light. Although CFLs have improved somewhat, their adoption rates have stalled. We can’t afford to make the same mistake again with LEDs. Quality of light must be the first order of business with the design of LED lighting products or adoption will fall short of its potential.