The world of eco-friendly materials is extending into lighting design, with more fixtures that use less power beginning to find a place in lighting designers’ arsenals.

With more and more brands seeking value in being labeled as “eco-friendly,” designers are broadening their horizons to find solutions to support a brand’s green label—right down to the lighting elements that illuminate an event or environment.

Case in point: the Emerging Green Builders of New York held a fashion show event earlier this year to correspond with Earth Day, and turned to the lighting designers at Lightswitch to illuminate it with as eco-friendly a lighting setup as possible.

The event featured a runway, a merchandising area, and a party area that needed to be tied together with the lighting design. Lightswitch lighting designer Sarah Jakubasz focused on creating a lighting setup that featured as many energy efficient fixtures as possible. She also focused on renting equipment and reusing fixtures.

“We were going for minimal impact, as opposed to purchasing something for the sake of it being eco-friendly,” Jakubasz says.

Leveraging LED fixtures for color applications and compact fluorescents for decorative and general lighting, Jakubasz also used HID Source Four lighting fixtures, which consume a fraction of the power of traditional tungsten halogen lamps. Lighting supplier ETC donated the HIDs for the project, helping defray some of the costs.

“All those options worked perfect for the application. If you know what you want, you can definitely go out and find the resources and equipment. That’s the challenge—there certainly isn’t the sheer quantity of (eco-friendly) fixtures and options available, but if you know what you want there is definitely a way to work eco-friendly aspects into a design concept,” Jakubasz says.

As with many green materials and building processes, the only drawback to eco-friendly lighting at this point is cost. Generally, these types of fixtures are more expensive all around, to rent or to purchase.

“The trade off is well worth it, because they use less power, produce less heat, and the technology is generally better. But it can be a major challenge to fit as much of this as possible into your budget. This is the highest-end technology available, and in fact it’s not going to be cheap if this is the route you wish to choose,” Jakubasz says.

But with more clients recognizing the value of a green image, more and more are requesting all-green lighting solutions.

The benefits of green lighting solutions can easily be extended from live events to areas such as
trade show environments—and the return on investment could be seen immediately.

“If one can design a booth that is very green in terms of power consumption, it might cost more on the front end to buy or rent those fixtures, but what you save on power charges from the exhibit hall can very quickly make up that difference. You need to weigh the balance,” says Howard Werner, principal lighting designer at Lightswitch.

And as eco-friendly, low-power lighting technology advances, designers can expect less-expensive green solutions. “LEDs have been evolving quite a bit in the past five to six years, and I think four or five years from now we’ll have smaller, brighter fixtures that cost less,” Werner says.