With so many recent proclamations to "Ban the Bulb," politicians and manufacturers seem to have made a cut and dry case against incandescent sources. But is there a legitimate complaint? Are compact fluorescent lamps the solution, as this "Ban" would advocate? Or is it a far more complex issue with numerous factors that go well beyond the simple incandescent lamp itself, which has served us for the last 125-plus years? Jeff Miller, President-elect of the International Association of Lighting Designers, starts the conversation this month.

ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING invites responses from all members of the architecture and lighting design communities. To be considered for inclusion in the June print issue of A|L, responses must be received by May 18, 2007. You may include your comments in the form at the bottom or reply to exchange@archlighting.com or edonoff@hanleywood.com.

Jeff Miller, President-elect IALD, Director | Pivotal Lighting
Edison cried. No not really, but I am sure that The Wizard has been twisting in his grave with news of the current surge of global pronouncements declaring the impending death of the incandescent light bulb. Suddenly it seems the filament lamp has become the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency, where politicians, needing to earn their 'green' chops, have made commitments to replacing the light bulb with 'newer technology.' It's been said, by the likes of Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull that banning incandescent bulbs could cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tons by 2012. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is exploring similar proposals, and in early March 2007, Philips announced support of a "phase-out of inefficient incandescent light bulbs by 2016." Unsaid is that the proposed bulb ban, is a distraction from the real environmental damage caused by automobiles and dirty coal-fired plants worldwide.

What has also not been said is that people hate fluorescent lighting, that LEDs represent an immature technology which may never yield great energy savings, or become a general illumination light source, and that no one will be using metal halide in their boudoir. Attacking the incandescent light bulb is easy, but misguided, as it is an inextricable part of modern living.

The incandescent light bulb, yes, the plain old warm, dimmable A-19 lamp is a cultural touchstone. The cool compact fluorescent lamp will never be the intimate friend that is Edison's (and Swan's) lamp. Maybe this is nostalgia, after all commercial and institutional buildings have been lit primarily as fluorescent for more than sixty years. Who needs the bulb? Maybe only eccentric romantics.

It can also be argued that the incandescent bulb is quite environmentally friendly. Unlike higher technology lamps, the simple filament bulb does not require rare earth gases and phosphors, leaches no mercury, and requires no proprietary manufacturing patents. The incandescent light bulb is produced worldwide, and is often a local product, which requires less packaging and less fuel for transport from low-wage factories to high-profit markets. Take a look at your next compact fluorescent package and see if it wasn't made in Hungary, China, or Vietnam. If total embodied energy were included in the calculation, would the compact fluorescent lamp still be the great white hope?

But let's be grateful for this debate, as it has awakened many professionals, and hopefully members of the general public to a certain sustainable myopia that has grasped the microphone, a monologue focused mostly on ecological sustainability and less on the necessary balance of economic and social sustainability goals.

The Three-Dimension Concept as outlined in the United Nation's 1992 "Declaration of Rio on Environment and Development," recognized that sustainable development was a balance of three dimensions: environmental protection, economic growth, and social development.

Indeed, in their Declaration of Interdependence for a Sustainable Future, the Union of International Architects (UIA)/American Institute of Architects (AIA) World Congress stated in 1993, "...Buildings and the built environment play a major role in the human impact on the natural environment and on the quality of life; sustainable design integrates consideration of resource and energy efficiency, healthy buildings and materials, ecologically and socially sensitive land-use, and an aesthetic sensitivity that inspires, affirms, andennobles; sustainable design can significantly reduce adverse human impacts on the natural environment while simultaneously improving quality of life and economic well being."

In our world of lighting design, this means that Quality of Light must receive greater attention, as a balance to those committed to regulating light as a quantity. This is a critical time for our profession to broadcast its most knowledgeable and passionate voices, as we are in a full swing round of new energy code revisions that threaten to be a serious assault on the visual environment. Does "banning the bulb" and reducing lighting power densities really "...improve quality of life and economic well being?"

With a narrow stringency and utility, government rule makers are in an expedited flurry to further lower lighting power densities (LPDs) across many building types with little regard for the quality of lighting environments these regulations will produce, giving little acknowledgement to the cost of these actions to businesses and the citizenry. Many of the proposals represent significant cuts—20 percent reductions for California Title 24 rules for retail lighting, and 30 percent across-the-board cuts for ASHRAE 90.1, effective 2010.

I fear that buildings designed under these code conditions will be compliant spaces that may 'hit the numbers', functional but without celebration, embracing an ethos of gray scarcity rather than a future filled with color and vitality. It is possible to create lighting designs that are energy efficient without degrading the quality of the places where we live, work, and associate? Fortunately there are many people in our lighting community who are advocating wisely for the broader use of daylighting strategies, incentives for the wider use of lighting controls, and abandonment of LPDs, which address only connected loads, in favor of methods that focus on actual electrical usage. These professionals know that light is more than the electricity that produces it, and sustainability is about more than carbon footprints.