How many architects does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

According to Coffee with an Architect blog, the answer is "21".
Louis Poulsen “artichoke” luminaire.
One to sketch out the concept;

One to model it in Revit;

One to question the concept… “Does it have to screw?”;

One to write an addendum informing the contractors;

One to find the spec section and ASTM standards for screwability;

One to fill out the LEED paperwork for said lightbulb;

One to suggest a “stainless steel” lightbulb;

One to suggest a skylight instead of the lightbulb;

One to research alternate methods of screwing on the internet (Don’t google that while in the office);

One to suggest having a charette to brainstorm ideas about screwing in lightbulbs;

One (intern) to build a chipboard model of the lghtbulb;

One to suggest recessing the lightbulb;

One to issue addendum # 35 to have the contractor reverse the swing on the door in the room so the light switch for the lightbulb can be relocated to the other wall;

One to ask the design principal in charge to call the client to let them know we’re screwed;

One to call the structural engineer to see if the beam running through the lightbulb can be moved;

One to render the space showing a Louis Poulsen “artichoke” lamp instead of the lightbulb;

One to ask: “what the lightbulb wants to be?”;

One to discuss Le Corbusier’s use of lightbulbs throughout Villa Savoye;

One to google “Snohetta / lightbulbs”;

One to remove the boundary between the interior and the exterior of the lightbulb;

     And finally;

One turn off the light while muttering “less is more…”
The answer above was written by an architect.  Otherwise, the answer might have been:
"None". The architect depends on a contractor to realize the design intent.
The site also sells tee shirts. Here is my favorite:

Learning from Lighting

Even if you do not make lighting products, any building product manufacturer can learn something from these excerpts from this article:
Lighting industry business leaders reflect on
market evolutions and product innovation.

In 1986, lighting designers and specifiers working on a job reached over their drawing boards and pulled a manufacturer's 4-inch binder off the shelf, filled with a thousand cut sheets of product details. If the date on the page was more than a year old, the designer would have to call their local rep to verify the technical data. The rep would then call the factory to check the information. It could be days before the lighting designer received the information that they were looking for, a process that could be repated multiple times until the job was complete.

...there was often little time available to explore different design options and alternative product selections. Today, the situation is somewhat reversed and while the design/buid process is faster and more integrated, which provides more access to product information, there is still a lot of pressure to make timely product selections that maintain the projects integrity.

I am struck by the fact that many younger lighting designers have never laid a hand on a pencil or a piece of paper in their design work. Their world is on of electronic design and calculation tools.

It used to take lighting manufacturers three to four years to develop new products. It wasn't urgent to speed to market because products were around for 20 to 30 ears. Today, if you took the same amount of time, you would miss the entire product life cycle.

Since light sources can now last upwards of 50,000 to 60,000 hours... there is an extreme amount of pressure on winning bids because it could very well be four times as long until a building owner considers lighting renovations.

...few borders remain. Solid-state technology is the primary force behind a new cycle of global industry consolidation, and this is opening up world markets to small and large companies alike. Voltage differences, country to country, are no longer an issue.

New lighting companies are being formed, and grown, often with the intent of being primed for acquisition to a larger conglomerate.  ...As companies consolidate around the world, it will actually result in innovation and new lighting technologies reaching [the] market even faster.

You must have an international perspective on product development and the supply chain to be competitive.

Douglass Baillie
Architectural Lighting MagazinePublication date: December 1, 2011

Mining Data from Illustrations

Forgive the pun title for this post -- but it this illustrations brings two topics to mind.

1. Mining is a huge market for construction materials! It is frequently overlooked by building product manufacturers more tuned into above ground construction. Mining -- particularly underground mining -- requires concrete and other structural materials, lighting and communications, plumbing and ventilation, tools and equipment, and more.

Most products used underground have to meet severe service conditions including dust, moisture, physical abuse, and fire/explosion resistance. Yet many of our clients have found that, with appropriate product modifications and a disciplined sales and marketing effort, new opportunities can open beneath their feet.

2. A good illustration is an invaluable sales tool. When I had had to learn about the mining business in a hurry, I realized I was in over my head. It began opening to me when I found this illustration, in Shotcrete magazine. Within minutes, I was able to grasp important mine construction concepts and familiarize myself with terminology.

Of course words are also important in marketing. Sometimes a single phrase can change a person's entire attitude. It happened to me when I saw this phrase:

 I can dig it!

10 Trends To Watch - part 1 of 4

Developing systems and methods are shaping the future of construction.

Chusid Associates endeavors to identify trends that will shape our client's future business.  We have observed a number of recent developments worth watching, and we present them here, with products emblematic of those trends. Some are still in early phases of laboratory development; others have been lurking in the periphery of construction and are now poised to leap, fully grown, onto the architectural stage. What they have in common is that they challenge our thinking and help us anticipate construction's future.

We present 10 trends in a special, 4-part post.  Watch for parts 2, 3, and 4 over the next 2 weeks.

1) Lighting Beyond LED
After a long gestation period, light emitting diodes (LED) have finally become commercially viable. Yet, even before they have risen to their full potential, the next wave of illumination sources is on the horizon. Particularly significant are a trio of new technologies for producing very thin, flexible sheets of illuminating material. Unlike LED panels that are made up of hundreds of point light sources ganged together, the new technologies provide even illumination output over their entire surface.

Organic light emitting diodes (OLED) are already seen in flat TV screens, monitors and smart phones, and several companies are racing to turn them on in the lighting market. ( Light emitting capacitors (LEC), developed by Ceelite Technologies (, are being used in back-illuminated signs to create thin fixtures with even light distribution. And quantum dot light emitting diodes (QLED), developed by QD Vision (, are crystalline semiconductors that can be tuned to emit very pure colors of light.
Rapid progress is being made towards improving longevity, improving efficacy, and larger sheet sizes. Costs should decrease once these light sources are produced on high-speed "printers," as currently proposed.

 Their flexibility and thinness suggest new ways to design with light: Creative new forms for luminaires. Walls and ceilings liberated from the need to use surface-mounted or recessed luminaires. Glass that is transparent by day and light emitting at night. Cabinet shelves that illuminate their content. Doors with illuminated faces to aid emergency egress.
OLEDs used a window blinds
GE proposes that thin, flexible OLEDs can be used as window blinds.

Recommendation: Look for innovative ways to incorporate lighting into your products

2. Robots Rising
Robots are already in use in building product manufacturing. For example, Boral Brick uses robots to stack green brick for kilning, and to pack finished brick for shipping as palletless, minimally-packaged cubes. The news is that robots are moving into the field. For example, robots are being used to lay bricks in elaborate patterns that would be quite labor intensive to do manually.  (For example, see

Theometrics has a fleet of mobile robots that measure a building interior in three dimensions, capturing more data points than would be affordable with manual surveying, and automatically generating a model of the structure. Equipped with a marker, it will mark the layout of conduit, partitions and other work. Equipped with a drill, it will assemble components.

The pace of robotic research is quickening. Southern California Institute of Architecture's robot lab, for example is exploring "freeform additive" fabrication and onsite construction in "unprecedented emulation, simulation and animation environments in which computational geometry, material agency and fabrication logistics merge." 
Robots at SCIARC Lab.
Large industrial robots configured in a multi-robot work cell are exploring the future of robotic construction.
Recommendation: Robotics will change the ecology of construction.  How will you evolve to survive?

Sustainability and Built-In Obsolescence

LED modules, like these from CREE, may offer an alternative to obsolescence
A lighting sales rep gave recently visited my office to demonstrate his new line of LED light fixtures. The product has outstanding performance in most of the ways I expect from a commercial-grade luminaire: uniform and controlled light distribution, good color balance, an attractive housing, and the amazingly high efficacy (illumination/power) of the latest breed of LED.

Then I asked the rep where I could get replacement LEDs when the current ones fail.  He hemmed and hawed and then admitted the manufacturer did not have a program to sell replacement lamps or electronic drivers. "But that doesn't matter," he said, because the components are warrantied for five years, and by then there will be better technology and you would just replace the entire fixture.

While the company's literature touts how much energy its fixtures would save compared to fixtures with older and less efficient light sources. Yet the literature is silent on the environmental costs of replacing the housing and other components that could, feasibly, last for decades.  Making the matter worse, the housing was not designed for ease of relamping, further reinforcing the throw-away mindset.

I learned about lamp obsolesce the hard way.  Years ago, at a yard sale, I found some funky looking, gently used, industrial grade fluorescent light fixtures for what I thought was a bargain price -- perfect for the dark basement I was fixing up.

It turned out that the units required a size and style of fluorescent tube that had gone out of production. Sure, replacement lamps were still available, but they cost more than replacing the entire fixture with newer models.
Hubbell Roadway RF LED Retrofit Kit
Some lighting manufacturers are trying to address this type of problem. Some, for example, make LED elements that can be used to retrofit their older products. Looking forward, other companies are developing LED modules that can be used interchangeably in a variety of luminaires. As LED technology improves, the company can offer upgraded modules that do not require entire fixtures to be replaced.

I believe innovative solutions like these provide a better value to buyers, reinforce the manufacturers' green branding, and create a platform that can carry the manufacturers further into the future than they would get with throw-away products.

The marketing take-away from this is that manufacturers claiming to offer green products must look at the entire product life cycle, and offer a strategy to minimize the impact of improved technology.  As a species, we can no longer accept the culture of planned obsolescence.

The Ultimate Roll-Up?

I was recently asked about the attractiveness of having a single company provide all elements of the building envelope, including roofing, foundation, exterior walls, cladding, windows, curtainwalls, entrances, storefronts, insulation, vapor barriers, and the rest. The question came from a business strategy firm, suggesting that some group of investors is seriously contemplating such a move.

At least one company is already well on its way to being able to offer complete building envelopes. Oldcastle is one of the company's that is well on its way toward offering a complete package, with strong positions in masonry, concrete, glass and glazing systems, curtainwalls, doors and skylights. Add a roofing manufacturing line, and they have it.*

The past few decades has seen strong trends towards "roll-ups" -- bringing many small producers under one corporate ownership -- in attempts to gain economy of scale and improve competitiveness by dominating an industry and combining related products into package.

Roll-ups are well established in some sectors. In lighting fixtures, for example, Hubbell has acquired over 20 previously independent brands, and electronic giant Philips recently acquired the sixteen brands that had been rolled-up by Genlyte. Assa Abbloy and just a few other firms now dominate door hardware.

While roll-ups do have important competitive advantages, many suffer from the following syndromes:
  • They lose the edge in innovation to smaller, more flexible and entreprenurial business.
  • Promotion of individual brands suffer from having to follow a corporate model. For example, some of my clients have to use corporate websites that focus on selling to investors instead of to designers and builders.
  • Managers, striving to improve the profits of their division, become jealous of and competitive with each business units, to the detriment of the overall company.
  • Product offerings become so diverse, that individuals within the firm are unable to cross refer prospects or identify opportunities for other brands.
  • Size dilutes the expertise.  What salesman can be an authority on glass AND roofing AND insulation? In smaller companies, a prospect can deal directly with a principal or other senior personnel with true expertise in a field.
Indeed, I have been a consultant to many large firms and roll-ups that crumbled due to their mass, and were more competive when unrolled.

Further, roll-ups have to compete with companies that do not manufacture all parts of a system, but assemble or "package" products from multiple vendors into bid packages that also create economies of scale. Packagers also have the advantage of using the "best" product or a job without the limitations of having to use those from sister companies. They also have the flexibility to take advantage of attractive spot pricing.

In the final analysis, every general contractor is a packager, and already offers all elements of the building envelope.

* Pre-engineered metal building manufacturers do already offer a complete envelope, including walls, roofs, structure, and accessories. But that is a subject for another blog post.

10 Best New Building Products of 2010

At the end of each year, the staff at Chusid Associates nominates and votes on its list of the Ten Best New Building Products of the year.  Our intention was to blog about all ten, but we got busy and only managed to write about a few of the winners. Without delaying the project further, here is our truncated list:

The pace of innovation continues. The tough economic times are actually proving a boon to some companies, as they use the opportunity for research and launching new products that, in the continual press of sales during a good year, would normally get buried. Several of this year's entries are innovations on ages-old problems, while others represent the intersection of several cutting-edge technological developments. A few were included not because the actual products were significant, but because of the trends they represent.

1. Plasma Lighting: Solid state lighting, in the form of LEDs, have been a major trend for the past few years. Now plasma lighting is taking the spotlight, offering in some cases twice the lumens per Watt of LEDs. Right now most of the plasma lighting available is for stadium and street lamp-sized installations, but miniaturization to commercial and industrial scale seems inevitable.

Multiquip's H2LT Hydrogen Fueled Light Tower drew a lot of attention at World of Concrete for combining low-energy, high-intensity light with quiet, low-polluting hydrogen fuel cells. The plasma light bulb produces 22,000 lumens while consuming only 255 watts, with a life expectancy of up to 50,000 hours. Beyond its energy efficiency, the tower made our list for one simple reason: it is sparking imaginations. At the show, people were walking away from the Multiquip booth discussing new ways and places they could use this technology, sewing the seeds for the next generation of innovations.

This all-glass wall is energy efficient.
2. Phase-Change Insulated Glass: Another ripe field for innovations is combining multiple successful technologies into a single high-performing system. This becomes especially important in sustainable design when building systems often need a higher level of flexibly to meet multiple design objectives simultaneously; natural daylighting is advantageous, for example, but too much interferes with the building's thermal performance and energy use.

Glass-X, from Greenlight Glass, addresses exactly this problem. The core of the system is phase-changing glass that stores or releases thermal energy in the process of converting from solid to liquid states. Glass-X controls thermal transfer, essentially creating virtual thermal mass to help warm or cool the interior as needed. A prism system takes advantage of seasonal changes in the sun's position to reflect hot summer light, while allowing more light, and heat, transfer in winter months.

Glass is one of our favorite building materials around the office; the amount of versatility and innovation in glass construction is staggering, and the trend looks set to continue for the next few decades. The next winner is another glass product.

3. Bird-Visible Glass: When I was five I once ran full-speed into a closed glass door, face first, so I have a lot of sympathy for birds flying into windows. The problem is so prevalent that it has become embedded in our culture; birds hitting windows is an instantly recognizable slapstick troupe. But the real-world side is not funny; estimates are that almost 1 billion birds are killed by window collisions in the US each year.

Ornalux glass has special ultraviolet patterns that are visible to birds, but not detectable by the human eye. This means birds see the window and identify it as an obstacle, and humans get to enjoy natural lighting and an unobstructed view.

Click here for our 2009 list. And stay tuned for our best of 2011 list.

Product Inspiration from Neocon

I salute the spirit of innovation that moves the building product industry forward. Here are just a few of the things I saw at Neocon that suggest new opportunities and may inspire innovations in your product line.

Chairs from TMC Furniture with digitally printed graphics remind us that new options are available for decorated surfaces.

White LED light continues to be improved, more affordable, and more practical. Look at how even and brilliant these cove lights from Tempo Industries are. Watch for LEDs to be inserted into all sorts of building products.

The design of this table lamp is not what interests me, it is the design process. This was stereolithically printed by the designer, Kevin Willmorth, as part of his campaign to design and produce a lamp a week for 52 weeks.

In addition to LEDs, there are other new ways to play with lighting. I think you have to see these Sensitile panels in person to appreciate how they play with light and create the illusion of motion.

New installation methods abound. For example, ceramic tile with an interlocking, floating installation to keep tiles aligned, reduce installation time, and protect against cracks in a concrete slab from telegraphing through the tile.

I have written before about the trendy use of tessellations, and they were very evident at the show. This product, Clouds from Kradrat, is composed of stiffened fabric tessellations of triangles joined together by elastic bands. It can be used as an acoustical wall or ceiling covering, or just for fun.

Also see my earlier post about the growing variety of dry erase marker boards.

Seeing the Social Media Light...At LightFair

The editor of Architectural Lighting, Elizabeth Donoff, posted the following comment about the recent Lightfair tradeshow:
"What did excite me about Lightfair this year actually had nothing to do with lighting. Rather it was the way so many in the industry—both on the design and manufacturing side—were embracing different forms of social media. For example, a year ago if you had asked someone if they were on Twitter, they would have looked at you with a blank stare. This year lighting manufacturers galore had set up Twitter accounts and were Tweeting from the show. In fact Architectural Lighting organized the first ever Tweet-up at Lightfair. A chance for people who communicate regularly via this social network platform to meet in person and connect, about a dozen folks gathered at the Design Lounge on the show floor A|L was sponsoring this year. It was a fantastic way to connect with our readers and stay true to what A|L is all about: promoting dialogue through different forums."
She is probably ahead of the digital media curve, due to her experience publishing an electronic newsletter and a robust online edition. The question, however, is: What is the most effective way for you to embrace the new media?

LEED-ND: How Does Your Product Fit In?

LEED for Neighborhood Developments is now available for project registration. As one might expect, the emphasis is on sustainable sites, but there are opportunities for many building materials to contribute to LEED-ND points.

First and foremost, LEED-ND requires at least one building in the development to be certified under a green building rating system such as LEED for New Construction. In addition, 90% of the buildings, excluding single-family homes, must meet the minimum energy efficiency prerequisite, similar to the LEED-NC energy efficiency prerequisite. Together, these two prerequisites bring the top LEED priorities for materials and energy efficiency right into LEED-ND. Additional credits are available for increased energy efficiency, so envelope materials that improve building performance are still well-rewarded in LEED-ND.

That perennial favorite of green designers, recycled content, is alive and well in LEED-ND. Not only is it involved in the certified-building prerequisite, but it gets its own credit, too, for neighborhood infrastructure. If you make a paving, utility, or landscaping product with recycled content, your product contributes to a LEED-ND credit.

Products that assist with stormwater management have the potential to affect several credits in LEED-ND. Not only are there directly applicable credits for maintaining or restoring the site's pre-development hydrology, but systems that can reduce the overall footprint of development can also contribute to several credits. If your product combines stormwater management within the footprint of another function like paving, several credits may become available.

Exterior lighting products can contribute to two credits if they are both energy-efficient and glare-reducing. Roofing and paving materials that reduce the heat-island effect contribute to a credit. There is even a credit for centralizing the heating and cooling of multiple buildings in a single district plant.

LEED-ND is worth exploring for building product manufacturers, but especially for manufacturers of landscape, utility, and paving products.

Suggestion for New Lighting Fixtures

 Architectural Lighting Online asked its readers to suggest "Lighting Product Areas in Need of Further Development". Here are two ideas I suggested:

1. Illuminated signage and exit lights built into the body of doors, entrances, and storefronts. With LED lamps, reduced fixture thickness and lower power requirements should make this feasible. In retail, there are great merchandising opportunities for illuminated signage right at the point of entrance and exiting. Integrated into emergency systems, programmable fixture could offer up to the moment information about the safety, for example, of using a door. I see other opportunities in hotels to illuminate corridors and provide room identification.

2. Automatically tracking spotlights for ballrooms and lecture rooms.  As a frequent presenter at industry conferences, I am frustrated that I can not readily aim fixtures to suit my required room layout. Please give me spots that I can aim without calling on building maintenance. There are already lights that can be refocus this way for use in surgical suites; the surgeon uses an "infrared wand" to aim the light fixtures. This may suggest a way to accomplish this.

Chusid Associates has worked with many lighting fixture manufacturers to develop and launch new products like these. Call me if you would like to discuss these suggestions.

As an aside, this type of question can also be posed by building product manufacturers as a way to engage with customers. It is a great form of social media.