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Designer Lighting: When a Distributor Just Won’t Cut It

Designer Lighting: When a Distributor Just Won’t Cut It

Every major lighting project needs a distributor, but when is it time to call in the lighting designer?

Al Thomas is the director of Lighting Design Services at North Coast Electric/North Coast Lighting. He is in the unique position of being both a distributor and designer. He says, “The need for design services varies from project to project. Sometimes a project just has a generic design that the owner wants more detail.” He says the same holds true for high-end residential, where the owner, builder, designer, or electrician sees the need to have a concise, detailed lighting plan with controls developed. This often expands to whole house control or automation, including motorized shade control, voice interface, and remote access to system just to name a few.

Thomas says most “non-residential” projects require lighting and controls design due to the energy code requirements. However, custom homes also benefit from working with lighting designers as opposed to a generic lighting plan. According to Thomas, this assures the maximum potential of a project and gives the client exactly what they want.

Mike Craft, Senior Custom Lighting Designer at Metro Lighting, offers another distributor’s perspective. Craft says professional lighting designers are usually autonomous and not attached to a particular distributor, but work with distributors based on the job and the architect. “However, in the rare case this type of undertaking would begin with a distributor, we would definitely call in a lighting designer for grand-scale projects such as lighting a monument, planning the architectural lighting for a civic-building or stadium and even smaller projects that need the expert eye of a professional lighting designer.”

But what is the designer’s take? Lisa Reed of Envision Lighting Design says, in order for the partnership to run smoothly, there must be a good line of communication between the designer and distributor.  “I can imagine a scenario in which a distributor would enlist the services of an independent lighting designer on projects, or at least recommend a lighting designer to the project owner if there isn’t one on the project team,” Reed says.

Both distributors we talked to agree with Reed, saying there must be a “team approach.”

Craft adds, “The role of a distributor in a project with a lighting designer is a partnership with the goal of enhancing the relationship.”

Thomas echoes that thought by saying the team extends much further. In his experience, teams typically include architect, designer, contractor, and owner working with a lighting designer to assure all design elements and visions are addressed.  He says in their situation there is no doubt partnerships are powerful. So much so that over 90% of their business is driven by the practitioners listed above. No doubt that a solid relationship between all parties is crucial to success.

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Diane Duenez

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