A proactive coalition of researchers, utility managers, government officials, manufacturers, designers, engineers, and medical experts took an important step forward in charting a new, socially responsible course for the field of lighting.
Gathering in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., these diverse leaders described the meeting as "the First Continental Congress of Lighting." The "Bridges in Light" symposium, organized by the Lighting Research Center (LRC) and an advisory council composed of leaders in the lighting industry and government drew more than 130 participants on October 22, 2003. "No other gathering of the industry's most influential players has ever been called for this type of collective effort," said Mark Rea, Ph.D., co-chair of the symposium and director of the LRC, part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
Symposium participants worked through a full day of discussions, lectures, and presentations focused on identifying challenges facing the lighting industry as well as long-term, sustainable solutions involving environmentally conscious design, high-quality lighting systems that meet society's needs, and campaigns promoting the value of lighting. These campaigns, said Dr. Rea, will include education, communications, advocacy, marketing, and leadership. "Most people view lighting as a commodity," said Rea. "They purchase lighting products, but don't understand the true value of lighting, including its ability to affect our health, comfort, productivity, and even energy savings."
Keynote speaker and business strategist Paul Schoemaker of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania urged participants to "re-inspire risk taking" in the industry and called upon them to recognize the obstacles and drivers of change facing the industry today. "Leadership is about taking the long view and getting the big picture rather than focusing on narrow corporate concerns," said Schoemaker.
Internationally renowned designer William McDonough, recipient of the Presidential Medal for Sustainable Development, spoke about the need for the industry to design environmentally conscious manufacturing methods. McDonough, who was named Time Magazine's Hero of the Planet, demonstrated industrial projects designed to produce no waste or pollution.
Other speakers included light-emitting diode (LED) pioneers Shuji Nakamura, George Craford, and Yoshi Ohno; and Light & Health innovators Dr. Alfred Lewy and Dr. Robert White. NASA astronaut Nancy Currie, veteran of four shuttle missions, was the featured speaker at a dinner following the symposium. Currie spoke about the importance and challenges of lighting in space.
Symposium co-chair Govi Rao, vice president of business creation at Philips Lighting Co., said this event is just the first step of a long journey toward industry change and helping consumers see the importance of lighting in their lives. "Lighting is ubiquitous," said Rao, "but as an industry, we don't do a good job of educating consumers about the lighting that is all around them." Rao said that he hopes this coming-together of lighting industry leaders will result in a collective acknowledgement of the challenges and uncertainties ahead. "If we have a strong acknowledgement, then minds will get together and make a meaningful resolution. I'm looking for a commitment to the journey of change."
"The major accomplishment of this event is that we've stopped saying 'them' and started saying 'we,'" said Rea of the LRC. "Stakeholders in the industry have agreed to move toward a sustainable value of lighting. We started the process, but the destination has yet to be determined."
Members of the Symposium's Advisory Council include: Zia Eftekhar, President of Lightolier, Director & VP of the Genlyte Group; Kathleen Hogan, Director of Climate Protection Partnership Division, United States Environmental Protection Agency; Kerry Kuhlman, President and Chief Operating Officer of Western Mass. Electric Co.; Henny Peters, Executive VP & General Manager of General Lighting at OSRAM Sylvania; Govi Rao, VP of Business Creation at Philips Lighting; Mark Rea, Director of the Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; JF Simard, President & General Manager of Lumec, Inc.; and Peter Smith, Acting President of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
For more information visit the symposium's web site at www.bridgesinlight.org or the LRC's web site at www.lrc.rpi.edu.