This month, Designs for Lighting (DfL) are celebrating our 20th anniversary. Over the last 20 years there have been many changes to the lighting industry, from the impact of environmental changes to the changing role of consultancy, and the business has had to adapt to these to remain successful. Our Marketing Assistant, Becca sat down with the directors of DfL to ask them about the last 20 years within the industry and what their hopes are for the future.

Please can you explain what DfL’s business principles are and how do you deliver on them?

Our vision as a business is to create both innovative and practical design solutions for our clients, principles are based around delivering innovative quality to the client backed up by excellent customer service and whilst this doesn’t make us unique, as this can be replicated by all businesses, we carry out a lot of work with innovation, competency and research and development behind the scenes to make sure we provide the best service to our clients. We deliver on these principles by recruiting the best staff, training them and pushing them into improving their qualifications. We have a clear strategy and direction that we want the business to follow. We also have a strong structure which is evident within our staff retention rates and the business has shown continued growth throughout any economic cycle that it faces.

It is widely known that DfL is always looking to evolve and promote the next generation, how do you go about this?

Objectively, looking at the industry, we can see that there is limited capacity for the younger generations coming into the sector, so we actively encourage bringing them into the industry. We understand that to do this we need to invest in them from a time and training perspective. As with anything in engineering, innovation comes from breaking down existing ways and creating new processes and new ways of doing things and that I why we look to bring in new talent with new ideas. There is a concern regarding the skills gap across the whole of engineering as it is an ageing sector and we are consciously trying to break this mould by trying to bring in younger generations with different ideas to support our innovation.

One member within our team would be Ryan Carroll. Ryan came to DfL as a university student and from there we have promoted him into the ILP where he now presents at Technical meetings. He has gone from Uni Grad to industry trailblazer in the space of a few years both within the business and the ILP. Ryan now sits on the ILP Technical Committee and is a shareholder at DfL.

Over the last 20 years the business has had to adapt to factor in the changing role of consultancy, how have DfL done this?

When the company started, standalone specialist consultancy was not in demand as local authority lighting departments were much stronger and had their own lighting department and often their own direct labour teams. This meant that they were able to do everything themselves. As local councils started to cut back in terms of personnel and stopped investing in their staff, there became a skills gap in local authorities and the requirement for consultants became much more prominent. One significant point in time was when PFI contracts were introduced that required consultants and a lot of authorities split themselves into teams and started to rely on consultancy. This became the new norm for local Authorities, we see more and more that the Authority engineering teams are seeing the value in the call off services DfL offer.

How have environmental aspects impacted on DfL’s role over the last 20 years?

Significantly. When we started out there was a greater emphasis on uniformity and designing to high lighting levels to make sure that everything was lit to the British Standard. This has changed as local authorities realised that they need to save energy. It has also changed because the environmentalists have become stronger and reducing obtrusive light has become of high importance. As a result, our role has changed in many respects, we now have our own environmental lighting department which concentrates solely on lighting impact assessments and environmental lighting. But also, every design we do is now focused on minimising energy consumption and minimising our impact on the environment. The biggest difference over the last 20 years is that environmental is now probably the biggest input into lighting design whereas even 15 years ago it was often not a consideration.

What would you say are the benefits of adding a consultant to a local authority team or contracting team?

If they pick the right consultant, it is massive, but the wrong consultant can be bad news. One of the key things is objectivity, initially what springs to mind can be that the public sector work is very status quo and they are often required to follow proven process. When you bring in an outside sounding board you get an objective view of what you are trying to achieve and with that it can bring new processes to complete a task more efficiently. Particularly with DfL, we are specialists and we can take the information we gain from lots of different authorities and apply that to the authority in question. This can ensure that they start thinking outside the box. For contractors, they don’t always have the specific skills required for designs, so we can allow them to have a design presence where they wouldn’t otherwise have it and give them some good technical input into anything that they do to ensure designs are the best they can be.

What do you hope the next 20 years will bring for both DfL and the lighting industry?

We want to do more of the same. Our fundamental principles are that we are an independent, quality consultancy and this is something that we want to retain. We want to continue to be a business that offers the integrity that our clients need. The service and solution might change with trends, but we started in lighting and we will always be anchored to lighting and we hope that the lighting industry retains its importance. Our hope is that lighting becomes a real specialism that is a catapult for smart cities.

Thank you to Alistair Scott, Andrew Longman and Richard Jackson for their time in answering these questions and a very happy 20th anniversary to DfL.