It’s all about watts and lumens, right?

By David P. Drumel P.E.- 3/11/21 

At the last trade show I attended before Covid ruined the party, an ESCO contractor came to the LDS show booth to chat during a slow moment.  He was boasting about a large national-brand project he had won by proposing cheap substitutes for the luminaires specified by a talented lighting designer in our area.  He scoffed at the 90CRI and other requirements the designer had specified for the project; what a waste of money!  “In the end,” he said, “its all about watts and lumens, right?”

That was a year ago, and the comment still bothers me today.

The owner of this project selected a great designer and paid for a great design to reinforce his brand.  Odds are he didn’t get it.  I’m sure that when that project was completed, the owner was underwhelmed by the final result and he probably doesn’t even know why.

It reminds me of an old episode of MASH (look it up, youngsters) where the cook addressed angry soldiers that had spent all summer growing sweet corn during their stay in Korea only to have the cook literally cream it when they gave it to him to prepare.  “Next year,” he states, “you can eat it on the cob for all I care!”

Yes, projects and designs get altered for budget every day- that’s an unfortunate part of the game.  But a blatant disregard, or lack of understanding, for the value of a quality lighting design is disappointing and harmful to the project and our industry in so many ways.   This is not meant to discount the work of ESCO contractors in any way.  But there is a place and time for everything, and its frightening and sad for all of us when the person wearing the blindfold was the one that got selected to drive.


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