Bright Ideas

Architect David Bergman provides a designer's perspective on mainstreaming energy efficient lighting.

by Mike Matthews, EditorFire&Ice1.tif

David Bergman is an architect, a LEED-AP, a teacher who's lectured at Yale, a manufacturer of lighting fixutures, and a guy who is passionate about energy efficiency and sustainable design. Somehow, he also finds spare time to contribute to several New York area eco organizations.

His company, Fire & Water, creates lighting fixtures that utilize the most energy efficient technologies in common use. But, he's glad to point out, those products don't look self-consciously green. "I have a term I lecture about called 'transparent green.'" he said. "It's the idea you should be able to look at a green product and not be able to tell if it's green or not, because it's just a good design. Green design should not be detectable by a single look."

Bergman describes his own products - such as the Parallel Universe fixture pictured above - as not entirely mainstream looking, but not quite avantgarde, either. "They are design objects that could go into any high-end contemporary showroom, green or not. The Parallel Universe product (which uses a T5 fluorescent) doesn't look like a regular lamp, but it also doesn't give away whether it's green or not." That said, it's worth pointing out that Fire & Water products are energy efficient and contain recycled material.

Bergman has tried to pioneer lighting innovations as soon as they come to market. He created products to utilize the screw-in CFL, then the dimmable CFL, and now the dimmable GU24 CFLs. His impression? "They dim down to about 30 percent," he stated. "That's decent, but you're not going to get down to candlelight levels with them."

One appeal of the GU24 base CFLs to Bergman is that he knows an end-user can never replace the CFL with an incandescent bulb. And despite rising energy costs, some people just don't want to go fluorescent. "I had a mildly frustrating conversation with an interior designer recently who simply refuses to believe that fluorescent lighting or LED lighting could be as pleasant as incandescent," he recalled. "No matter what I said, I could not sway her. There are fewer and fewer people like that, but there is still some convincing to be done."

Fire&Ice2.tifBergman has just designed his first LED fixture: an intentionally funky chandelier for New York's Eco-Showhouse. "I used Color Kinetics color changing MR-16s. It's an expensive system for now because you have to use a special driver. The bulbs are 60 dollars each, which is a lot, but not when you consider the specialty color changing feature," he noted.

Bergman expects LEDs to become the lighting standard in rather short order. "They're not quite there yet, in terms of the output and the throw of the lighting, as well as the cost," he said. "But LEDs today are where CFLs were 10 years ago, and they're moving faster than CFLs did."

At present, his Fire & Water line is entirely fluorescent. "To me, it proves that you don't have to sacrifice design to do the green thing," said Bergman. "You can go green and have really interesting, beautiful light fixtures, a beautiful home, and any other design area you might like."



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