11th August 2020

As the issue of sustainability becomes more prevalent across the lighting industry, one designer is going above and beyond to ensure that she leaves as minimal a footprint as possible.

Alongside running her own lighting design practice, Temeloy Lighting, Tiphaine Treins has for the past three years been committed to the pursuit of more sustainable, eco-conscious lighting solutions, culminating in the formation of the Lighting for Good charter – a scientific rating system that assesses the environmental impact of light fittings.

“I believe sustainability is a universally overriding and compelling issue for all aspects of our way of living,” said Treins. “Our current impact on our overpopulated planet is not sustainable.

“I have long questioned the waste in the lighting industry. Yes, LED technology is more efficient, but in the end, we may have a fitting that costs £200 and cannot be repaired or re-used.

“While we can still use the table lamps our grandmothers used – if the bulb goes out, we simply replace it – if we want to use new overhead lights or new fittings, we better hope they never break because there is no way to repair it. Something is not right there. We have to change the way we are using our new technology.”

In her efforts to raise awareness on the issues of sustainability within the lighting industry, Treins prepared a draft for an eco-lighting label in 2017, and contacted Nicolas Martin, Lighting Manager at LVMH for help. “I knew that he had built an established network of high-end, capable suppliers, and I thought that this connection could be a good platform,” Treins explained. “Nicolas was interested and decided to commit to the project. Without his support and the dedication of the LVMH suppliers, it would have taken years to get to where we are today.”

While the Lighting for Good charter was the first piece of work that the pair produced, the collaboration has since led to the launch of their own website, where they propose a free certification process to further develop a lighting community around eco-design. Here, designers can use an “eco-design spec sheet template” to calculate the environmental impact of the fittings that they want to specify.

The pair also established a “think tank” with 12 lighting suppliers, that Treins believes “enables us to collaborate in a pragmatic and efficient way”. This think tank includes manufacturers such as formalighting, Orluna, Flos, Lucent, Molto Luce, Reggiani, Self, Zumtobel, Delta Light, Luce5, Nopoc and Bluelite, who regularly hold discussions on ways in which the lighting industry can improve its sustainability efforts.

“This year, the chief project for the Lighting for Good think tank has been to develop a 35mm LED module that can be used as a market standard,” Treins explained. “The silhouette will be the same for all the suppliers, so that it can be interchangeable, like we used to do with lightbulbs.

“The vision is that if you have a building using 5000 modules, or the 500 shops of a brand using this module, you can refit the modules when needed, but you can also keep them when you refit the shops or change the lighting equipment. In this model, the light engine can be refit and re-used indefinitely. We are dealing with a closed loop. The business model, in this case, can be based on a product-service system.”

Through all of her work with Lighting for Good, Treins is hopeful that it will lead to a sea-change in the way that lighting fixtures are assessed, although she conceded that there is still some way to go.

“In the lighting industry, I think the issue is complex because the tools that we are using to quantify the environmental impacts of the fittings need to evolve,” she said. “At the moment, the Life Cycle assessment that calculates the impact from production to the end of life has limitations. One of the most important limitations is that whatever toxic material we are using is considered obsolete in comparison to the energy consumed during the life of the fitting.

“In this model, the impacts of the material are almost negligible. Does that mean that it’s OK to use plastic for wrapping or plastic for some parts? The answer is no, not at least until we have a better way to recycle plastic. We need to understand that any piece of plastic will take around 1,000 years to decompose (depending on its composition), and that process generates an enormous quantity of toxic microparticles.

“And again, you can use your grandmother’s lamp when your kids won’t be able to repair the lamp that you purchased this year. Are we relegated to using old things? Why do new fixtures have so many drawbacks? This take/make waste system inherent in new lighting fixtures does not make sense.”

The success of Lighting for Good culminated in the Lighting for Good awards at the end of 2019, where manufacturers such as formalighting, Delta Light, Lucent and Bluelite were recognised for their work in using sustainable materials and processes throughout the manufacturing process. Following the success that it has had already, Treins is hopeful that the Lighting for Good movement will continue to gain momentum as sustainability becomes a bigger concern within the industry.

“The aim of Lighting for Good is to develop a community around eco-design and lighting,” she said. “We are now looking at how we can enhance it, as we want it to be based on collaborative culture and collective intelligence.

“Through our experience over the last three years, it is evident that eco-design is an efficient engine for innovation and a drive to reduce production cost. This is one of the reasons why we created the Lighting for Good awards – we wanted to create a strong opportunity/synergy around eco-design and present it as an engine for innovation.

“If we all take steps at our respective individual scale, it will amplify the movement and the opportunity to create new solutions and new standards.”

Before setting up Lighting for Good, Treins founded her own independent lighting design studio, Temeloy Lighting, in Paris in 2009. With a background in the art world, Treins had previously interned at a well-established contemporary art gallery, before going on to work for one of the artists represented in the gallery – Fabrice Hyber.

“I worked for him for eight years and was in charge of managing the production of his installations and exhibitions,” Treins explained. “Fabrice created a very diverse range of artwork, which enabled me to learn about a broad spectrum of media. 

“Following my experience with him, I worked in a lighting design studio as a project manager, and decided to specialise in this field.”

After establishing Temeloy in 2009, Treins moved the studio to London in 2013. “I was looking for ways to continue to learn and develop new possibilities with lighting, and London is a vibrant centre for the lighting industry,” she said.

Working regularly with “very creative, like-minded people” throughout her career, Treins believes that this collaborative approach has had a lasting impact on both her work, and her design philosophy.

“I have been lucky to have had profound relationships with a variety of professional people in my life who I consider as mentors – individuals who have given me a better understanding of what it is that makes us conscious human beings – understanding that there are multiple complex layers to working with people and to ending up with the best possible result. I have learned that a good relationship with my team and with my clients always enhances the experience and the end result.”

Speaking more on her creative process, Treins said: “It always starts with a blank page and the feeling of knowing nothing. I listen carefully to understand the story behind every project, as well as what makes the client tick, before I start having ideas. It’s this process that helps me propose a solution.

“For example, the brief for the dome at Elephant Paname Arts & Dance Centre in Paris was simply: ‘We want something special’, then after many questions, I started to understand what the space needed.”

This approach, Treins feels, is what has resulted in Temeloy working on a broad range of projects, from residential and museum lighting, to exterior schemes and even yacht designs and what Treins refers to as “augmented architecture”. Because of this, it’s hard for Treins to pin down a particular ‘signature style’ across her work. “I will say that we are specialised in Mouton à 5 pattes (French for a five-legged sheep.” However, she says that she always strives to bring a human touch. “I feel that it’s possible to infuse a space with ‘soul’ – something that can be felt but not seen, and where the eyes are seeing more than the mind can grasp,” she said. “The tricky part is that there is no recipe for this.

“It requires a difficult dance between the creative process and the production. The sense of beauty comes from the result, but also the process with all the persons involved.

“There is magic when people start to understand that they are working on something unique and outstanding, and let go of any personal limitations to commit to the project fully. This is where the ordinary becomes extraordinary.”

Temeloy’s ‘Augmented Architecture’ is a means to develop lighting solutions that interact with their surroundings – examples from Treins’ portfolio of work include the Renault Motor Show in Paris, for which Temeloy did all the technical development, in 2012, alongside the aforementioned Elephant Paname dome, also completed in 2012. The approach is an attempt by Treins to create something more emotionally investing for the public.

“When walking in a city such as London or Paris, one is always marvelling at the obvious landmarks – for most, it is simply seeing the ‘hero shot’,” she said. “With augmented architecture, I strive for a more multi-dimensional experience where urban spaces or public realms are infused with moments of poetry.

“A couple of examples are the living façade of the Grande Épicerie in Paris, whose living storefront plays very differently depending on the time of day or time of year. For the Moonstone superyacht project, the colour of the sunrise or sunset can be captured to animate the hull. It’s also possible to play with the caustic effect of the reflection of the water on the hull.”

Moonstone stands out as a favourite project for Treins as it represented her first patent. “It took five years to develop a technical solution to this design. The process required a lot of commitment, as there was no precedent for what we developed. We created everything from scratch.”

Other highlights for Treins include the chandelier aboard the Aquila – an 86-metre yacht. “This was an extremely complicated and exciting piece,” she said. “We only had ten days to install it, and the metalwork that was delivered was faulty. It took an extreme amount of personal fortitude and courage to find a solution and the resources to finalise the installation on time.

“My understanding is that in these intense situations, you can either give up or be grateful for the adrenaline rush where all your energy escalates from 100% to 200%.”

The standout project for Treins though, is the Elephant Paname dome. “It’s one of those projects that might not have happened at all,” she explained. “There were so many obstacles. We knew that we were working on something extraordinary.”

Looking forward, Treins revealed that she’s currently developing an exciting concept for Givenchy Parfum entitled La Lumiere du noir. Alongside this, she continues to put plans in place for Lighting for Good, including the 2020 awards, and the expansion of the Lighting for Good charter.

Speaking of the current situation, Treins believes that the Covid-19 pandemic could act as a wake-up call for the lighting industry, and she has urged more designers and manufacturers to think about their environmental footprint and sustainability efforts.

“Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has touched everyone around the world,” she said. “In the wake of such an international crisis, we are all reassessing our lives and what is essential. It is without question that we have more concern now than ever regarding sustainability, because we all feel we need to look for solutions.

“We need the lighting industry to push the boundaries of sustainability and be a model for other industries. We need to design fittings so that their parts can be re-used, transformed or recycled into the replacement fitting. Zero waste is ambitious, as LEDs are using precious metals, but some solutions are starting to emerge like the laser LED, which is four times more efficient than actual LED, and uses fewer precious materials.

“All of us have the power to co-author a distinct new future. We can do so by creating solutions for problems that we are directly confronted with. If we each do our part, then together, we can create a successful synergy that will propel all of us toward a sustainable future.”