September 12, 2007

LED Lighting Revolution: Why Gucci Snatched Up These Light Fixtures

Oh, boy! I'm steamed! Months ago I specified new state of the art LED lighting fixtures for a green-conscious forward-thinking client. When it came time to ship the order, the manufacturer said, "Sorry, all of our inventory was sold to Gucci for their new store in New York."

I know that my client had personally ordered those fixtures over three months ago because they told him it was a long lead item that could take 12 weeks. We were able to get a different LED fixture as a substitute but it was not my first choice. That just chaps my hide, as they say in Texas!

The question is: why did Gucci throw their weight around to snap up all those fixtures for their newest store? Why are manufacturers scrambling and failing to meet the demand for these new LED fixtures?

LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology has been used in some products for years, like laptop screens and flat screen TV's. Until recently LED's were cost-prohibitive for general lighting products. Now at last LED lighting fixtures at justifiable prices are available to the commercial construction and consumer markets.

Why have designers been chomping at the bit for LED's? Take a look at the upside and the downside of using LED's in your next office.


When burnt-out fluorescent tubes hit the garbage can, the inert chemicals and glass in them end up in our landfills. They cannot be recycled. LED's are a sustainable lighting product, which nearly all other lighting products are not. Many of the materials used in their manufacture can be recycled.

The light source lasts for 10 years or more. That means no bulbs or tubes to throw out and replace. Nothing goes into landfills during the useful life of the fixture.

Initial costs are higher than conventional fixtures, but over the long run you get lower utility bills and zero replacement bulb costs.

LED'S provide a solution to the long-standing problem of heat produced by halogen lamps. Halogen display lighting held the title of "king of display lighting" ever since it was introduced. It produced the whitest and brightest light for merchandising difficult products like eye wear and jewelry.

LED's are clearly superior when it comes to the heat problem. Their heat emissions are practically non-existent compared to halogen or incandescent.

The color rendering (how true colors look) of the light was poor in early LED's, being either too warm or too cool. Bright, well-balanced white light is required to bring out the colors and details of eye wear.

Now you can get LED's with the kind of light that we could only get from halogens in the past. So, not only has the heat problem been solved, the color rendering problem has been solved too.


Although prices are gradually coming down for LED's, they are still more expensive than halogen lighting. But as more manufacturers jump on the LED bandwagon, prices will come down. If you invest in LED's now the lower energy usage can make them less expensive than halogen over time.

As of this writing delivery time is 12 weeks or longer for the few manufacturers who are actually producing these products. There is no telling when the supply will catch up with the demand, but eventually it will as the factories get into gear to produce mass quantities.

For years I scoured our trade shows and industry magazines for the retail designer's holy grail: lighting that was white enough and bright enough to make eye wear spring to life but doesn't produce all that heat.

Just like any other technological wonder the first products weren't perfect and were relatively expensive to boot. As manufacturers raced to solve the color problem, I knew it was just a matter of time until they got it right and brought the prices down. When they get the availability problem solved, we will be able to light our homes and workplaces with light that is good for us and light fixtures that are good for the environment.

From now on all my clients are getting LED lighting wherever it is appropriate. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that many LED's can be dimmed without expensive transformers or special switches. That means you can have money-saving LED's in exam rooms and data collection areas too!

The manufacturers are working hard to get more product produced in their overseas factories now, so the lead times will shorten in the coming months. In the meantime I'll be pushing clients and their contractors to get their LED orders in super-early, before the plans are even submitted for permit.

Just because we're not a multi-million dollar fashion house, that doesn't mean we can't have the same state-of-the-art lighting for our offices and shops. So there, Gucci!

Learn more about LED lighting at these websites:

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