Strengthening a Relationship

August 27, 2012 / no comments

Lighting designers, at some point during a project, are going to interface with electrical engineers. Historically, this hasn’t always been an easy process for many reasons. Very often vagueness in scope and deliverables means frantic last-minute scrambles to fill in gaps in the lighting package by one or both disciplines. It also seems like the transfer of infomation back and forth between lighting designers and engineers suffers, particularly with regards to out-of-date architectural backgrounds. It’s not unusual for the engineer to receive them less than 2 weeks before final documents are due which is understandably a very uncomfortable situation.

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Interestingly, I have noticed that our office’s foray into Revit has provided a strengthening aspect to our relationships with electrical engineers. In an effort to better understand their Revit workflow, I have interviewed several engineers in my network and it has been an eye-opening experience. Quickly I understood how much additional, and unnecessary, work they must do when presented with a rudimentary lighting model in Revit. Like architects, most engineering firms have large libraries of families, including lighting fixture families. The difference is that, typically, architects’ families are simpler with little embedded parameter info (no offense, they just don’t need it for their work). This type of family forces the engineer to map all the architect’s fixture families to their own families that have the correct parameter info. This mapping procedure is time-consuming and prone to problems during the copy/monitor process.

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It became clear that if we can provide lighting models with fixture families that match the engineer’s family parameters, the entire mapping process can be eliminated. Furthermore, if we can include the electrical connector component, the workflow is improved even more.

While this may sound like more work for the lighting designer, it’s actually the same amount of information we’re expected to be providing in our fixture schedules, just in a different format. Taking the time to match and fill out the lighting fixture family parameters gives us more control over our specs and sets us up nicely for future Revit-based fixture schedules.

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Additionally, the improved relationship with the electrical engineers can result in their recommending us for future work because they can depend on a smoother transfer of information. This can also build trust and encourage more collaboration within the project team. My experience is that many electrical engineers welcome the opportunity to pass off work to lighting designers, therefore lighting designers that are willing to match their workflow would be more valuable.

Image Credits: Justin Brown/Lam Partners

A Little Birdie Told Me

September 12, 2011 / no comments

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One of the core fundamentals of the design community is collaboration. Whether it be among multiple designers within a single office, or between the architect, consultants, and of course the owner working towards the goals of a project, a design is never fully visualized and constructed without careful collaboration of resources and ideas.

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As individuals within that community, we constantly strive to gain more knowledge, increase our experience, and share our ideas. Design is a two-way street (sometimes a never-ending rotary), with a constant ebb and flow of concepts and diagrams. Being a singular designer isolated from the richness of team thought and continued education would result in stale work and short careers. That’s why we all attend Lightfair and IALD or AIA conferences, and go to lectures and seminars – to see what others are doing and thinking. These activities are about much more than just earning CEUs; they are also about networking and socializing, for it is these aspects that really stimulate our interests and further our careers.

Every time I attend Lightfair, I’m intrigued by the new products that are coming to market, but I’m always much more interested in, and inspired by, hearing about what others are working on, or seeing projects they have recently completed. Keeping in touch with colleagues and being a part of a community (one that’s much larger than your daily isolated focus on project-specific tasks) keeps us fresh and invigorated to strive for more or to do better work. This is not about keeping a watch on our competition – it’s about constantly seeking inspiration to enhance the built environments that we design.

Unless you’ve been under a rock lately or you still have a dial-up modem, much of this inspiration can be found online or in the palms of our hands.

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For years now, we’ve turned to blogs and websites to share our ideas and to seek inspiration. It is this constant search and self-education that makes design so much fun. There are many bad answers, but there is no single right answer that solves all of our design challenges. If there were, buildings would never evolve, design would grow stagnant, and the design community would be extremely small, populated by the lucky few who first found that ‘right’ answer.

Fortunately, much of what makes design so challenging and fun is the actual process and not just the final answer. So take a minute and view some cool, thought-provoking images, reconnect with a past colleague, or listen for a clever birdie, and you may be surprised by how much out there is useful and influential.

I am certainly not one of those at the forefront of the social networking phenomenon that is upon us (I don’t even know if I am close enough to see the back of it), but I am excited by all of the endless digital media that now exist to generate the same interest, intrigue, and inspiration that I always sought, and will continue to seek, from a global design community. Sharing our ideas, listening to the experiences of others, and trying something new is what makes each of us better designers and each of our projects more successful. I haven’t seen that ‘perfect’ project yet, but I will continue to seek out ideas to improve the built environment that we all create and live in.

Image Credits: Twitter, Inc. (1), William Wayne Caudill (2), public domain (3)