Home: Questions for a Green Designer

By Deborah Snoonian

Let’s talk about one of your areas of expertise: lighting. You say that fluorescent lights aren’t just for office buildings anymore. Why is that?
A lot of people are scared off by the old issues with fluorescents: the buzzing noise, the greenish light, the flickering. But the technology has come a long way, and those things aren’t a problem anymore. And more manufacturers are making decorative lights for homes that use fluorescent bulbs.

Plus, there is growing regulation in the area of home lighting. I’m doing a project in California, where a new standard requires the use of high-efficiency lighting and/or dimmers and motion detectors almost everywhere in the house. So fluorescents will be a part of that, naturally, since they’re so much more efficient than incandescent bulbs. Their standard will drive the market for innovations, since California is so huge—whatever happens there happens elsewhere a few years later.


Do you really need special fixtures, though? Can’t we just use compact fluorescent lightbulbs in our old lamps?
Well, yes. Technically, the ones you screw into the fixtures you already have are called replacement CFLs, because you can swap them for incandescent lightbulbs. The downside is, replacement CFLs can be re-replaced with those old inefficient bulbs. To prevent that, Energy Star has just come up with a new standard for bulb sockets for CFLs. The standard will make it easier for manufacturers to make CFL-ready lamps and light fixtures, and the bulbs with the new sockets will start becoming more widely available, too.

How about light-emitting diodes? People seem to be really excited about them.
LEDs are edging their way into home lighting, but there are still problems with them. They have the potential to be a lot more efficient than they are now, for instance. And the color they give off used to be very blue and cold, but that’s getting better too.

I’m using LEDs in one of my projects to light up a stairway to a loft bedroom. For that kind of application—low-level lighting—LEDs are wonderful. But what’s most exciting is the design potential they offer. With CFLs, we’ve been reinterpreting incandescent fixtures, where you still have a bulb that emits a single source of light. But with LEDs, you’ve got tiny pinpoints of light, so you can arrange them in clusters, bands, curves, all different shapes. I think they’re going to change everything in terms of what new light fixtures look like in five or ten years

Issue 25

Sign up for Plenty's Weekly Newsletter