This “employee-owned” Massachusetts-based company has been designing high performance lighting systems for more than 65 years. Marianne Sullivan takes a look at the engineering and design capabilities that have placed Litecontrol ahead of its competitors.
Back in 1936, Wallace Danforth and Irving Jennings combined their engineering expertise with their interest in developing innovative lighting systems to create Litecontrol.
First based in Boston, Litecontrol grew from a local maker of incandescent lights to a national manufacturer of high performance architectural fluorescent lighting systems with installations throughout North America.
Headquartered in Hanson, Mass., with a second, fully integrated facility in Plympton, totaling 450,000 square feet, Litecontrol is now employee-owned and is recognized for its high-quality, high-performance lighting systems and excellent customer service. With more than 65 years in the business of lighting commercial and institutional spaces, the company designs, develops and manufactures fluorescent lighting fixtures to meet the needs of commercial and institutional building owners and the many professionals who design and build those buildings. The Litecontrol engineering and customer support staff assists architects, lighting designers, contractors and many other customers with layouts, lighting calculations, product recommendations, mockups and alternative design options.
A Leader in Lighting
The company is an acknowledged leader in the architectural lighting segment of the industry, but doesn’t let up on innovation. It continues to utilize new lamping technology, optical systems, and materials while it employs strict quality assurance standards, said Litecontrol’s President and CEO Veda Clark.
Litecontrol’s lighting products are used primarily in commercial and institutional businesses, including offices, classrooms and other educational spaces, cafeterias, auditoriums, libraries, healthcare facilities and laboratories. Its products come in a variety of styles and offer primarily indirect (up-light) or indirect/direct (up-light and down-light) lighting. Uniform light distribution and high performance fixtures provide even lighting throughout a room or space without dark areas, without shadows on work surfaces, and without harsh glare on computer screens. “This overall capability is the performance advantage that makes Litecontrol the leader in its industry,” explained Clark.
In a space with direct lighting from the ceiling, a person can create shadows on their own work, because of the geometry of the work space and the distribution angle of the direct lighting. Worse yet, a cubicle in an office may be located such that it receives very little light. “With indirect (reflected off the ceiling), you don’t get those shadows, because the lighting is diffuse, coming from all different directions rather than directly from above,” said Clark. The Litecontrol engineering staff can determine the precise light distribution and foot-candles (light levels) for any Litecontrol product through a combination of photometric testing and lighting calculations for any customized space.
Litecontrol engineers are able to measure the distribution of light from all different angles, the direction that light travels and how it disperses upward, sideways and downward. Litecontrol is one of only a select few lighting manufacturers with its own in-house photometric testing laboratory. They are also able to determine the percentage of light that reflects off of all room surfaces – ceilings, walls, and floors – and actually gets to the work area where it is needed. “There are numerous calculations that can be used to show the distribution of light and how uniform it is across a given space, but Litecontrol works hard to maintain consistency in its lighting calculation procedures in order to conform to generally accepted industry practices while providing customers with the most accurate information possible,” explained Clark.
Litecontrol differentiates its products from other product alternatives by incorporating the latest technologies in design and materials to produce highly efficient lighting products that offer style and performance with reduced energy consumption for long-term savings. Sustainable design features built into Litecontrol products include material and design options, easy installation procedures, plus simplified packaging and shipping methods.
A history of innovation
Litecontrol has been perfecting its product line through the years. In the 1940s, it first introduced recessed and surface fixtures. During World War II, Litecontrol manufactured switch boxes for U.S. Navy destroyers and submarines. And, in the same decade it developed fixtures for its first big customer, F.W.Woolworth. In the 1960s, Robert Danforth and Charles Jennings, the sons of the founders, took over the company. In that same decade, Litecontrol became the first company to offer fixture colors in its LiteColors™ line; it unveiled its first architectural products – Mod-66™ and Wall/Slot® fixtures – both of which are widely accepted and used today. The company also introduced its first library stack light in the 1960s.
More than 65 years later, Litecontrol is still innovating. Most recently, it introduced its line of Inde-Pendants™, an alternative, individual round pendant fixture design that offers the high performance characteristics of the company’s established linear lighting products. For libraries, it has recently introduced its Staklite 500™ product, the latest fixture design and optical system technology for library book stacks and adjacent reading areas. This new fixture presents a small cross-section with semi-circular shaped blade baffles to create a feeling of increased openness in confined spaces such as stack areas.
With its LC-93™ series, Litecontrol offers an indirect/direct fixture with a unique “designed edge” appearance. The product is offered with new, high-efficiency T8 lamps, includes distribution and diffuser options and is easy to install, making LC-93 an excellent choice for school classrooms, labs and open offices. LC-94™ is a sister product to LC-93, offering the same optical system, options and performance in a classic elliptical architectural shape for a more traditional look. This product offering is an example of how Litecontrol will develop a unique optical system, and package it with different appearances to meet different architectural needs.
Suspended indirect lighting systems have generally been considered a higher quality, higher cost form of lighting for commercial and institutional buildings when compared with traditional recessed parabolic lighting fixtures, which are still commonly specified for new buildings and building design upgrades. But in recent years, with advances in lamp technology and fixture design, Litecontrol has been able to reduce both the cost of installation and operation to the point at which the “installed cost” of its products is now sometimes less than traditional direct lighting, said Marketing Manager Ron Arsenault. Long-term advantages can also come from energy savings in the form of reduced energy consumption and resulting lower cost of electricity, fewer lamp replacements, and lower general maintenance costs over time. But the most significant advantage is user satisfaction and productivity.
“So it is first cost versus installed cost,” Arsenault said. “What we sell is a value-added product. It is not the lowest priced product in the marketplace, but it is generally the best performing product, from cost to worker productivity issues.”
Litecontrol has also added a good, better, best product offering, to respond to the budget requirements of building owners. “Good” products are of basic construction, simple design, and relatively low cost, but with high performance capability. Then there is better and best, with the best being more sophisticated in terms of style and architectural design. In this way, the company is able to offer its customers a selection of pricing, performance, design, lighting and distribution options, which they cannot otherwise find.
In terms of new technology, the company’s in-house research and development team has produced many groundbreaking designs in the lighting fixture business over the years and the company now owns numerous patents. The Litecontrol New Products Group is responsible for developing new designs, and working with the engineering and manufacturing departments to make sure the best product is put forward.
“We generally try to develop three to four new products per year,” said Vice President of New Products and Marketing Paul Duane. “New products are developed as we explore and come to understand the challenges that design professionals are facing as they respond to their customers’ – the building owners’ – needs. Others are innovative ideas developed in response to new architectural design trends.”
While customers’ needs vary, they are all looking for one thing: effective, comfortable lighting in a space. “There are all kinds of choices from purely decorative to high performance fixtures, direct or indirect lighting, different lamp types, and specific fixture designs to meet architectural requirements,” said Duane. “The factors involved in making the decision can range from sophisticated to simple, from integrated design to quick shipment, and from design driven to cost driven.”
While the choices for fixtures and lighting styles abound, Litecontrol constantly tries to ensure that its architectural lighting products always offer style, performance, and value with a tradition of innovation. And by offering these advantages, along with products to meet a variety of budget needs, Litecontrol hopes to keep it customers coming back for another 65 years.