Stephen Lisk

17th August 2018

Following the election of the ‘Lighter’ Stephen Lisk as CIBSE (Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers) President, arc talks to him about his career, his love of lighting and the major theme for Lisk’s year in office – the importance of collaboration between all the professionals whose experience should influence the design of buildings.

How did you get into lighting?

I have always had a passion for design and technology, but like a lot of young people never really knew a career in lighting existed.  I joined a lighting company in Auckland called Fisher Vogue Lighting, who were the local distributors for Staff Lighting, later to become Zumtobel. I was hooked from day one.

Describe your lighting career so far?

I have been incredibly fortunate to have worked for some of the world’s leading lighting manufacturers, and with some of the most talented, creative people I could ever have imagined. Starting my career in New Zealand, and studying illumination engineering almost 30 years ago, lighting design was very much in its infancy. I knew pretty quickly that I was a ‘Lighter’ and I joined the Illumination Engineering Society of Australia and New Zealand (IESANZ) and became Chair of the Auckland Chapter. I was amazed at how generous people were to give of their time and share their experience.

When I emigrated to the UK in the late nineties, I knew I wanted to get involved in the Society of Light and Lighting, I found that the same generosity around knowledge sharing and an amazing spirit of friendship existed in the UK too – lighting was truly a global passport, and what’s more we spoke the same language.

How and why did you establish One Eighty Light?

Working with some of the most iconic brands in the European lighting market, I was and am, extremely grateful for the experience and education in lighting I have had.

I learnt how to connect products to projects, in a technical way, but I wanted to explore if a different way was possible and in 2009 founded One Eighty Light. A one eighty degree shift – being design led rather than product led, offering a business model that linked design and product choice together.

What brands do you use at One Eighty Light?

One of the things I am most proud of at One Eighty Light is the partners we work with. We work with some truly amazing partners, partners who believe what we believe, a philosophy and a culture of light. Working with fantastic brands such as Occhio, Davide Groppi, iGuzzini, Delta Light, viabizzuno and Bega every day is very rewarding.

What made you decide to go for CIBSE President?

I was honoured to be elected President of the Society of Light and Lighting in 2009, the same year that Past President of the SLL Mike Simpson took over as CIBSE President.

What I saw was the SLL being part of a bigger Institution, where the Façade Designers and Daylighting Group could interface with lighting in a much bigger way. The conversations that we were having with the SLL’s Young Lighters was the same story within CIBSE and the Young Engineers Network. If we talk about collaboration with external organisations, it is essential  to continue to foster the same collaborative culture within CIBSE.

What do you want to achieve during your presidency?

My theme for my year as President is ‘Adapt to Change’, and I believe passionately this is what we need to do. And when we talk about change, we need to look at ourselves as Professional Engineering Institutions first. John Uff QC, in his wide ranging review of the Engineering profession,  produced some far reaching recommendations. He identified the ‘lost three million’ – the three million people who could belong to an Engineering Institution but don’t. He also highlighted the need for a less siloed approach and more working across disciplines, and this is something I want CIBSE to lead.

How do you see the lighting industry changing?

Before my inaugural address as CIBSE President, I wanted to explore more about the disruptors that would have the biggest impact in lighting – changes in technology, changes in the geo-political context as the UK approaches Brexit, but overwhelmingly the message I was hearing was the change to our industry with AI. We must equip our future lighters with the tools they need to adapt to these changes, and initiatives like CIBSE’s newest Society, The Society of Digital Engineering reflect this.

You are discussing Human Centric Lighting at darc room. What do you think about this subject?

I, like others, first learnt about ‘biodynamic lighting’ and ‘circadian lighting’ many years ago, and I wonder how much our knowledge of the subject has moved on since then. There has been a great deal of communication on the subject, but I am very interested in the factual research from academics, and where that will lead the standards in my own Society of Light and Lighting, and more broadly the WELL buildings conversation. It is not so much what we know, as what we don’t know.

Stephen Lisk, CIBSE President