Wednesday, April 27, 2011

LightFair International | The Latest in Lighting

Looking Back on LightFair International in 2010

2010 was my first trip in several years to LightFair International and I was surprised to see how LED’s had taken over the lighting world. The trade show floor was all about LED’s - from new lamps to retrofit lamps, LED lamps made to look like incandescent and fluorescent lamps, and fixtures made especially for them. This year I am looking forward to seeing what new innovations the manufacturers have to offer, not only with LED’s, but with other types of lighting as well. Incandescent light bulbs are expected to be phased out starting in 2012, so it is important to find logical alternatives for designers and homeowners to rely on in their stead.

Before looking ahead to the 2011 LightFair, let's take a look at some of the information, ideas, and inspiration I returned with from last year's show:

LED’s Everywhere!

The trade show at LightFair International 2010 in Las Vegas was confirmation of the thought that LED’s are taking over the lighting industry. It was LED EVERYTHING, from pin lights to gargantuan flood lights to tubes.

Say goodbye to Edison’s A lamp which has been the mainstay of lighting our homes for the past decade and hello to LED’s placed in glass envelopes made to look like the incandescent lamps our fixtures were made for.

Even fluorescent lamps, the standard for most commercial buildings, and compact fluorescent retrofits for table lamps and downlights, were hard to find. But will the fact that lamp manufacturers are spending tons of money to promote the new technology translate to us buying them for our homes and businesses?

I say, not so fast. Yes, LED’s save power, and for those building owners who are looking for a long term investment, LED’s may be a good idea considering that 40% of energy consumed in the US is by commercial lighting systems. However, the cost of LED lamps and fixtures are still high in comparison to the traditional fluorescent variety and will probably take several years for most of us to see a return. And even though LED’s have been around for a while, the quality isn’t quite there to make them a great investment.

Most of the fixtures and lamps I saw, I would hesitate to invest in. But large, well-known manufacturers like GE and Philips seem to have solved the color and consistency issues that have plagued LED manufacturing for a long time. Other lamp manufacturers that I was impressed with were Westinghouse, ISHIO, Toshiba and Xicato. For those of us specifying LED fixtures, it is worthwhile to obtain samples before deciding on a particular one. It is also important to ask whose LED’s are used in the fixture and to carefully evaluate alternates when it comes to value engineering. I would recommend asking for several samples and closely compare the color and light output with the fixtures specified.

Exceptional Results

An exhibit at the Amerlux booth reminded us not to forget about Ceramic Metal Halide when it comes to efficient, cost effective display accent lighting. The three models dressed identically show the difference in color rendition and clarity between MR16, Ceramic Metal Halide and LED lamps. The 37W MR16 model on the left seems dull on the blue and gray fabric because MR16’s lean more toward the warm color scale. The 12W LED on the right shows better color rendering because its color temperature goes more to the cool colors, but is less bright than the center model. The Sylvania 15W Ceramic Metal Halide lamp in the center is bright, has true color rendition and for the wattage, is a much better choice.

Amerlux also has an awesome LED linear wall grazer that lights a wall from ceiling to floor with minimal fade. A frosted overlay on the lens controls the beam spread to allow grazing down the entire wall.

Other Highlights

Decorative fixtures were few and far between, but here are some out of the ordinary luminaries worth mentioning:

Patinas is a manufacturer of handmade historic replica light fixtures, including Colonial, Victorian, Art Deco, and Arts and Crafts styles. They’re all brass and the glass is absolutely beautiful. Custom fixtures are their specialty and they offer 60 different lamp (bulb) types. Check them out at

Barry Entner is a glass artist who creates unique sculptural fixtures and works with clients to design one-of-a-kind works of art. His museum quality pieces are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Find him at

For those of us faced with small budgets, a solution to retrofitting downlights with decorative ceiling fixtures was presented by Recesso Lights. A locking ring is installed around the downlight and the fixture, with shade, is attached. Matching sconces are available for some styles. See

My favorite, OCL Architectural Lighting, has a new collection of contemporary pendants made in the US, with glass hand-blown by the masters in Germany. Their frosted orbs come ribbed, faceted and smooth and are beautiful even when not illuminated. Ask for their new catalog as these fixtures haven’t been added to their website. Go to

LightFair International – What’s New for 2011?

One of my favorite things about LightFair International is that it provides a diverse collection of seminars and symposiums that teach us everything from how LED’s work to how to use daylight “inside”; technical information that lighting designers need to know and all designers should be aware of. What I am truly looking forward to this year, however, are the sessions about how light affects us and how we perceive our interior environment. Classes, such as recognizing the lighting needs of the aging eye, biomimicry in design, and healing light therapy, are topics that fuel my passion to create functional, comfortable spaces that contribute to the well-being of my clients.

A BIG highlight of this year’s show is keynote speaker Ingo Maurer, lighting designer, artist, and all around Lighting Rock Star. Maurer is well known for his light fixture creations that look more like pieces of art than lamps. His light sculptures are displayed throughout the world and are recognizable by the fun, quirky elements he includes in each one. You can find a small portion of his work at his web site: .

LightFair International 2011 will be held on May 17-19 in Philadelphia, PA. It is the world’s largest lighting trade show and conference. In fact, I recently read that only in Times Square can you find more lights than at LightFair’s trade show floor! I am looking forward to seeing more lights than ever this year, and to discovering new, innovative products to share with my colleagues and clients for inspirational projects ahead.

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