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Losing Tools

July 8, 2011

Concerning the incandescent lamp ‘ban’ – the world-wide
movement to eliminate certain kinds of light sources in the name of energy efficiency
– taking away tools doesn’t necessarily drive innovation. Being dictated to by a government
rarely creates exciting new technological breakthroughs because the innovators
are too busy working between the given margins. What’s the minimum we have to
do to meet the code? Don’t do too much or that will set the bar even higher for
next time.

Once we start down the slippery slope of legislating away
products that don’t measure up to others based upon a single given metric – energy
efficiency in this case – where does it stop? If 60 lumens-per-watt is good
wouldn’t 120 be better?

Suddenly, the primary evaluation of a light source is how
many watts it uses versus the amount of light it produces, a valuable and
necessary consideration to be sure, but should it be the first one? Shouldn’t
we be looking at the efficiency of the system,
not just one part of it, the light source?

Legislation like this is often written for political
expediency. It makes us feel like we’re doing something valuable without
challenging people to think deeply on all sides of an issue. It makes it easy
to work to the minimum level; “hey, the lighting could’ve been better but
we had to meet code”.

The fact is, people are already demanding higher efficiency
in their buildings. Design teams and product manufacturers that are able to
deliver goods and services that provide the greatest energy efficiency for
their purpose are the ones that will grow and prosper. The ones that aren’t
pushing that envelope will flounder.

Instead of legislating away valuable tools, how about
an effort to educate people about the value of good design?

I’ve always held that good design is about using materials
wisely, being respectful of resources while satisfying the needs of the people who
will inhabit the project. These are not mutually exclusive goals; to the
contrary, they are tightly woven. Simply put, good design doesn’t waste. And good design doesn’t necessarily happen
because there are fewer tools in the toolbox.

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