How we at RIDI are taking our lighting responsibility seriously.
Q and A with Mike Attard, Managing Director of RIDI lighting UK
Mike is interviewed by Jo Harding of Hardingconsult.
There are some mega trends in the Lighting Industry currently. Predominantly the great issue of sustainability and the urgent need to drastically reduce carbon emissions and embodied carbon in the built environment. Along with this, the landscape for lighting manufacturing is changing rapidly with guidance advancing on ‘healthy’ lighting, lighting control and other major influences. Mike Attard explains how RIDI are rising to the challenge:
Q: Mike, what made you want to talk about responsibility now in the lighting industry?
More recently we’ve been debating long and hard about our responsibility as a major lighting manufacturer and the meaningful stand we can take in the current environmental climate.
Now, more than ever we want to make a pledge to fully commit to what we term responsible lighting. This encompasses some big ‘stuff’ including sustainability. For us it’s about Sustainability, Ledification; Intelligent Lighting, Wellbeing and Responsible Lighting Design. Ledification- It’s using the best engineered LED luminaire design that is serviceable in the future; Intelligent lighting- about tight integration between fixtures and control to achieve Soft Landings protocol and encourage daylight for wellbeing and energy saving; Wellbeing-having full recognition of the importance of the built environment in producing healthy outcomes, and the role of designers, engineers and manufacturers in creating them. And finally Responsible Lighting Design-means ensuring that we uphold responsible design practices and are aware of ALL factors needed to comply. And where possible go beyond the legislation and guidance.
Q: What could be the major obstacles to circular economy design
Quite simply the challenge is commercial viability. A lot of products can be redesigned to be serviceable but then this inevitably adds cost against a cheaper mass-produced item – even potentially when it comes to refurbishment. At this moment refurbishment must prove commercially viable against replacement unless legislation helps or even insists. I think this is a major challenge for consumer products too, especially appliances. In a bizarre way the current inflation we are seeing applied to most manufactured goods may actually assist with the viability of repairing goods in the future. You can argue that lack of inflation or price deflation in some markets such as computing has led to a throw-away culture.
Q: Do you think there is more of an expectation in the current climate from lighting specifiers and customers that their suppliers need to do more to mitigate climate change and other pressing social issues?
There is growing pressure but for this to happen it must be supported at all ends of the chain. It’s no good if this is requested and then abandoned the minute a low-cost alternative is offered as a project saving. One thing for sure, blue-chip companies want to be associated with sustainable supply chain so it’s up to companies like ourselves to ensure our credentials are known and what substance and difference we can make.
Q: How has the lighting industry’s ‘responsibility’ changed since you started in the industry?
Ironically, it’s the transition to an electronics industry that has caught us out in the last decade. You could argue that the old industry model was kind of sustainable. Generally, we had serviceable lamps, replaceable drivers and because of thermal issues, heavier construction of products. These generally lead to a longer service life. The advent of lower cost self-contained units made it not only difficult to service these electronic products but critically, not economically viable to do so. That’s a tough dilemma as you could also argue that the reduction in costs has allowed everyone at all levels more access to lower energy LED products.
Ultimately the whole Ledification of the industry has been a good thing, not only because of the energy reduction but also because of the flexibility in product design and the ability to integrate LED into buildings. Couple this with smaller body forms and less use of materials, it clearly has been a major advance.
Another key area of huge improvement is that of lighting control. Advances in software have simplified the user interfaces despite the advanced technology behind them. The systems are now more reliable, especially when you now have electronic talking to electronics. The same applies to emergency lighting where once upon a time these were the bugbear of most projects we now see fewer problems since moving away from lamps.
Q: Do you think the lighting industry is sustainable enough to address the climate emergency?
It can be but it will need some sort of legislation to really drive this, not only from the manufacturer perspective but from the demands of the customers too.10 years ago the industry demonstrated that with initiatives like Zaga we could find such solutions, but lower cost pressures have driven this model away. There was also an issue where some manufacturers wanted to be in control of the light engine lifecycle – a problem in the early years when products took exhaustive testing to get to market to then find the main component had been withdrawn or superseded.
The whole WEEE Directive was potentially a huge change to the industry – in theory, but I’ve been disappointed about the lack of substance and awareness and as a consumer it is even worse. Why are we all paying to have goods disposed of when they should be free to dispose of ? However now there is a lot more consumer awareness of global environmental issues we are seeing this area of awareness growing steeply.
Q: RIDI are not the only lighting company championing sustainability and healthy lighting amongst other issues. How do you think you approach things differently?
I personally believe we have many product lines that are built to a high standard that make them suitable for long term refurbishment. If a product is to be serviceable and sustainable then the body/structure must be built to a well-engineered standard accordingly. Also, classic simple product designs are essential to ensure that the product doesn’t date because who will want to refurbish a dated design. This is a big issue in the future as products are often replaced before end of life for aesthetic reasons.
Q: What other new initiatives are RIDI considering to assist with their sustainability goals?
RIDI Group UK are looking to offer a buy back scheme on certain products depending on age and condition. We see luminaires getting removed from Cat A schemes that should be resalable to certain customers. Consumer products have long had schemes to sell certified refurbished so it’s about time we did too. The aim is to offer these back to market, fully tested and with the same warranties but with an appropriate cost reduction.
Read more details On RIDI’s Responsible Light