Sustainability pays:

A report released in 2003 asserts that financial investment in a green building can pay for itself 10 times over. The report concluded that sustainable buildings lower operations and maintenance costs between $50 and $70 per sq. ft., or about 10 times the additional costs associated with green buildings.

U.S. Green Building Council

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) started in 1993. It administers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Several points in the LEED system pertain directly to lighting design.

Other key players include:

AIA Committee on the Environment

International Dark Sky Association


Lighting Research Center

Sustainability Home Page

Service Lamp Home Page

Sustainability is good business

Any business should be sustainable. What is the alternative?

Thinking in terms of "sustainable lighting" is motivated by the answer to a simple question, "What is the alternative to not having a sustainable business?" The answer logically follows that if your business is not sustainable then you will have no business at some point. A sustainable business requires a sustainable thinking in each business area.

Your lighting and delivery service should be sustainableIf you operate delivery trucks you need to plan for a future that includes higher fuel costs. If you rely on a delivery service you should find out if they are thinking about sustainability because if they are not you may be without a delivery service.

We usually hear sustainability used in the context of resources-- scarce resources. Service Lamp understands that concept and has applied it to every aspect of our business model.

For example we asked the question, "What is the alternative to not having a sustainable customer?" We came back with the answer that we need to do more to help our customers understand sustainable lighting. One of the things we have done is join the Sustainable Furnishings Council. They remind us to spread the word on sustainability. We are doing that by discussing sustainable lighting with each of our customers.

Sustainability Defined

Sustainability has gained acceptance recently but is not a new concept. "Sustainability" dates to 1987, perhaps earlier, and is defined as "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainability became reality to me when I read what Walmart said:

During the past 50 years, the demand for seafood has increased five-fold. As a result, three-fourths of the world’s fisheries are being fished at or beyond sustainable limits. As the world’s largest retail seller of seafood, we know that by working to offer sustainably-harvested seafood at affordable prices, we can impact not only our customers, but the industry as a whole.

Walmart wanted to have a good fish business and that meant it had to be sustainable.

Sustainability describes a state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely and that sometimes requires extraordinary effort. Indeed the Walmart fish story was not to maintain today's level of business but the take actions necessary to grow business in existing stores and in new stores.

We will revisit Walmart for more examples of sustainability and sustainable lighting. Sustainability is now a central business philosophy at a number of companies large and small.

Cradle to Cradle Thinking

  • No longer "cradle to grave."
  • A framework that is essentially waste free (1970's)
  • Products can be reused or recycled to make new products.

Some of the basic thinking that goes into a sustainable business strategy goes back a long way. At one point we thought about all the stages a product goes through during its life cycle. We called it "cradle to grave" thinking because the product not only had to be "born" but disposed of as well. We knew we should consider disposal as we came up with new products.

Cradle to grave thinking became obsolete in the 1970's and started to be replaced by "cradle to cradle" thinking. Cradle to cradle meant we didn't want to dispose of products but to recycle them into new products. In some cases that means making new soda cans out of used soda cans or, in a lighting example, new fluorescent tubes out of recycled fluorescent tubes. In other cases cradle to cradle means making patio decking our of recycled plastic rather than treated lumber. There are other examples of design thinking that forms the foundation for sustainability.

Sustainable Design

  • Minimize the depletion of natural resources
  • Minimize damage to the environment and biodiversity

Sustainable design includes grounds, structure, mechanical systems and lighting

Sustainable design is designing products, buildings or lighting systems to make sure each element is a sustainable product. Sustainable products minimize resources used in production, the damage we do the environment while using products, and the potential damage to other living critters.

Sustainable Building Design

  • Producing building components
  • Construction process
  • Life cycle of the building (heating, water and electricity use, carpet cleaning etc)

Sustainable building design conforms to the cradle to cradle concept. Sustainable design reduces the impact of producing the buildings components, the construction process -- the way those components are put together, and what it takes to operate them when the building is occupied. Almost everything over the life of the building is addressed from water to flush toilets to water for the flowers.

The U.S. Green Building Council started to focus on these concepts in 1993. USGBC developed and administers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. LEED was in the development and introduction phase for ten years and is now gaining wide acceptance.

The whole concept of sustainable design is described in news releases like this:

JCPenney is the first retailer to earn the ENERGY STAR Award for Sustained Excellence in Energy Management by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). JCPenney has invested more than $100 million in the past six years to install energy-management technology, lighting retrofits and high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in its stores. More than 800 stores are now equipped with an Energy Management System (EMS)...

You may have seen reference to new buildings earning "Platinum" or other designations because of their low environmental impact. The best of the best would make sure there is no water run off during construction, minimal irrigation requirements that are met by containing rain water or condensation and that "flushless" waste systems are used in the buildings.

Several points in LEED rating systems pertain directly to lighting and lighting design.