The lighting industry has undergone rapid growth in the last decade. Manufacturers are constantly developing more sophisticated and effective luminaires. The consequence has been the introduction of hundreds of fixtures from countless companies. However, this wealth of selections for the lighting designer actually strands him/her in a labyrinth of choices.
Each manufacturer publishes equipment specifications and photometric data in its own format. The information included in these catalogues can range from simple descriptions to complete technical disclosures. In some cases, even basic terminology may be used differently from catalogue to catalogue.
As a student of architectural lighting design, I became frustrated attempting accurate comparisons of various makes of similar luminaires. Having been taught to first develop a concept for the design, then secondarily select luminaires, I assumed that appropriate luminaires are easily found. Such is not always the case. If equipment cannot be adequately compared, such selections cannot be made with confidence. As a result, designers tend to specify luminaires based on personal experience, rather than on impartial investigation. I soon recognized the potential value of a standard format for reporting and accessing this data. With such a tool, a lighting designer could more freely choose equipment depending on the requirements of the project.
The Luminaire Selection Aid (LSA) is a personal computer-based software package I devised to establish a standard format for the organization of luminaire information. Manufacturers’ data is entered on a comprehensive form including pertinent fixture details. The information supplied by the manufacturer is presumed to be accurate. This data is grouped into a directory accessed by specific design requirements. Suitable fixtures are culled from the general listing. Luminaires of similar types can then be compared feature by feature, eliminating selection based simply on experience.
In developing LSA, I discovered a number of problems inherent in manufacturers’ literature. Given the confusing variety of report styles, valuable information is often overlooked because of simple misunderstandings. Some reports lack critical information. Catalogues and binders are often released to only select major designers and specifiers. The huge number of luminaires available makes individual evaluations difficult and time consuming. These problems end up restricting most designers to fixtures he/she has become accustomed to, possibly bypassing valuable options or improvements. LSA is a suggested format for arranging and standardizing the information derived from manufacturers’ catalogues. As such, it demonstrates the potential usefulness of standardization. The purpose of this project is to draw the attention of the lighting community to the potential benefits of such a program. After establishing the format for these reports, I sought an appropriate relational database system to perform suitable overviews of vast quantities of information. The IBM-PC based software INFORMIX was recommended as such a program around which LSA could be built. Neither designers nor manufacturers want to limit lighting possibilities because of difficulties in comparing luminaires. Although experience is an invaluable part of the process, a logical standardizing system like LSA would greatly simplify the complex selection task.