When Specifing German Lighting Fixtures Falls Short

Existing (4) lamp T12 surface mount


As a profession, the lighting designers are often tagged as the design team member that “blows the lighting budget” when brought into a project. For now we will set that debate aside for another day when we can really dive into the finer points of project budget expectations.

Today I only want to present and talk about one simple lighting solution for a simple office, that had to meet the high expectations of a client that has very definite opinions about budgets, light levels, light fixtures, and happens to be me.

First, some background on the project. This office, our Champaign design office, is unlike our Chicago and Houston offices that have a very contemporary modern feel. Chicago for example includes transparent polygal walls with fluorescents gelled in a very cool CharterSills Greenish Blue. The Champaign office on the other hand is located out in the country overlooking 40 acres of either corn or beans. The building itself was an old lumber /hardware store. Our offices sit above the old hardware store, and the lumber warehouse. For a firm that develops cutting edge lighting solutions, it’s a nice departure from our big city offices.

So, the client, me, simply wanted to replace two very old, 4 lamp T12 surface mount wraps, with something more in step with the character of our space. As the client, I already knew I preferred spaces with lower light levels, not the intensity that replacing 8-40T12 lamps would bring to my small office. As a cost saving measure, I decided to reuse two Birchwood F21T5 miniature strips we had in the back, samples from a previous project. My plan was to replace (4) 40W/T12’s with (1) 21W/T5. The next idea, was to embellish the plain fluorescent strip with materials that were reminiscent of the old lumber/hardware store. I decided to use a small section of an old galvanized metal stud as a channel cut the same length as the fixture, and mount this to the ceiling as a cradle for the strip. To finish the fixture design, I added a cage made out of scrap small animal fencing I had in my barn. Yes, I have a barn.

An evening of cutting , forming, re-cutting, forming again, and I had a fixture that would look at home in any rustic chicken coop. Success, and a happy client.

(1) F21T5 strip fluorescent surface mounted in a metal stud, wrapped in animal fencing. Click to see larger image.

As you can see in the picture of the finished fixture, this custom creation is not on par with the German excellence we lighting designers always crave on our projects from companies like Hess, Bega, or We-ef. This fixture, my budget driven, built from leftovers fixture, met all the client requirements. The finished lighting installation demonstrated that all of us designers and lighting consultants have the “built from the ground up design muscle”, we just need to exercise and use it when the opportunity presents itself.

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