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Bright Ideas

In its quest to improve bottom-line performance by reducing costs and improving physical plant efficiencies, the lodging industry continues to target lighting, a major hotel expenditure, in an effort to save energy while enhancing the guest experience.

U.S. hotels and motels spend an average of $2,196 per available room each year on energy, an amount that represents about 6% of all hotel operating costs, according to the latest report from Energy Star. Lighting represents almost a quarter of all electricity consumed in a typical hotel.

Energy Star’s Building Manual notes that lighting retrofits can reduce lighting electricity use by 50% or more and cut cooling energy requirements by 10 to 20%. Compact fluorescents—or CFLs—were introduced in the 1980s with the promise of saving 75% of the power of incandescent lamps and lasting 15 times longer. 

Now hotels and resorts worldwide are adopting LED—light-emitting diode—technology, which can save up to 50% of the energy used by CFLs and between 20 to 30% of the energy used by fluorescent tube lighting, according to CREE, a North Carolina LED manufacturer. 

Adam Pollock, CEO of Fire Farm Lighting, a 21-year-old custom lighting design and manufacturing company, is excited about the possibilities presented by LED lighting, even though it currently is more expensive than fluorescent lighting. 

LEDs are tiny, emit little heat and operate on lower voltage than incandescent or fluorescent lamps, factors that “multiply design possibilities,” he said. “We are coming up with a system of components, bars that will illuminate and look like a line of light. We are putting together building blocks of basic shapes that designers can use to create their own sculptural elements.”

Fire Farm Lighting also is investigating the interaction of various materials with LED lighting to achieve a more pleasing glow. “If you put an incandescent lamp and an LED alongside each other and look at different materials that diffuse the light, the quality of that material changes quite rapidly,” he said. “I see LED as a grand opportunity.”

Mark D’Antonio, VP of sales and marketing for CSL (Creative Systems Lighting), said his firm is experiencing greater LED lighting demand from the hospitality industry. “Businesses are using LEDs to light common areas, restaurants, corridors and hallways and individual rooms, among other spaces,” he said. “The increased demand has to do with the industry looking for ways to reduce total cost of ownership. We also have increased the sustainability factor by designing LED solutions that are not overly complicated.” 

Jeff Wierzba, VP of contract hospitality sales and marketing for Troy Lighting Contract Hospitality, sees a greater potential for decorative LED applications in guestrooms than public spaces and corridors, where the emphasis is on achieving required illumination levels, a task that is still best suited to fluorescent and downlighting than it is to decorative fixtures.

“When we are getting into room lighting, we find that there are more useful forms of LED lighting, mainly in desk and headboard lamping that would give you reading lights,” he said. “We’ve also designed several motion-sensored LED night lights to go under toekicks and furniture.”


Finish lines


Turning to decor, brass finishes are making a return for hotel lighting fixtures, he said.  “People are using them not as standalone finishes but mixing them with bronze or nickel,” which warms their appearance.

Charles M. Loomis, president and chief design officer for Charles Loomis, Inc., believes hospitality lighting designers are looking for “simple handmade designs with straightforward finishes.” Fixtures with shades have dominated and will continue to do so because they are less costly than glass, acrylic and resin, he said. 

He predicts the new trend in lighting will be unadorned and “less organic” fixtures. “Linear shapes with natural materials and hand-applied finishes, and shade fixtures with unique shapes and materials and minimalistic designs in metal and glass will bring a fresh new look to hospitality.” 

When it comes to sourcing, the U.S. hospitality industry is making a “new push” to purchase decorative lighting from American companies, Loomis said. “After experiencing delayed deliveries, broken fixtures and poor-quality craftsmanship from foreign lighting manufacturers, designers have rediscovered that American manufacturers produce better-quality, unique, hand-made designs, deliver on time and are accountable for the finished product. This trend fits green guidelines, reduces shipping expenses and also saves time and energy.”

Fire Farm Lighting manufactures products exclusively at its Elkader, IA, plant. Pollock said this affords his hospitality clients multiple advantages including the ability to move rapidly from design to fabrication, expedited delivery, flexibility with changes and design quality.

Challenger Lighting Co Inc. also designs and engineers all of its products in the United States, said CEO Bonnie Proctor. “We find our clients prefer being able to talk to our engineering team and work through their ideas or challenges, not through a translator to the remote engineer.” The 40-year-old company, which serves the hospitality market exclusively, manufactures fixtures in Elgin, IL, and offers a value line produced in China.

“Recently, we’re finding clients sometimes prefer the benefit of making a lighter impact on the environment by manufacturing in the U.S. for LEED certification,” she said. “There are still great metal casting suppliers and small businesses producing beautiful glass, ceramic and great wood components to support our manufacturing.”

Troy Lighting Contract Hospitality manufactures a great deal of its products in its new-build facility in City of Industry, CA. “We are really excited about the comeback of domestic fabrication,” Wierzba said. While sourcing materials domestically recently has become more challenging, the company “is seeing more equalization in terms of cost” compared with lighting products made outside the U.S. “It’s not on an equal playing field, but getting much closer.”

And then, there’s the idea of repurposing, Take, for instance, a fixture from iWORKS. Saved from the wrecking ball, the chandelier will see new life in a high-end, mixed-use renovation project, which was just completed. iWORKS CEO Eric Dortch said the Los Angeles-based company worked with a designer to repurpose the hand-blown Italian glass cylinders, creating a more contemporary chandelier. He also noted a trend to re-image existing fixtures, particularly in public area