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Exhibitor News

11 Aug 2023

Lighting the path: interview with SLL president Helen Loomes

Lighting the path: interview with SLL president Helen Loomes

Helen Loomes FSLL wants to use her 12 months as president of the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL) to bring science and fun back into the discipline.

‘I want to create a space where we can enjoy each other’s ideas; spark off each other. I want people to feel they can be creative and use their imagination – it’s not just about the standards and policy,’ she says.

The role of president is often described as a figurehead, representing the society at events and chairing meetings. ‘I’m there as a support,’ says Loomes, ‘as most of the significant decisions are made through the various committees.’

As well as creating a platform for the lighting industry at Build2Perform, Loomes wants to use her year in office to organise a new SLL conference, with a particular focus on the science of lighting.

‘Lighting encompasses art and science, and the design side is crucial. However, our big breakthroughs have come from scientific research and evidence,’ she says.

There are fascinating developments in 3D printing and new plastics that can be leveraged. We need to start… getting creative


Planning and executing a conference within one year will be a challenging task, but the structure of the SLL allows Loomes to set the wheels in motion and be around next year to help see it through.

‘I want to bring the fun back into lighting,’ she says. ‘It’s exciting when new discoveries come along; you can create some spectacular designs.’ She feels that the SLL has had a bit of a reputation for being stuffy and just focusing on regulations. ‘In reality, the lighting industry is a fascinating space, with so much going on. I want to show people what we are all about and what they can gain by becoming a member.’

This year, the SLL’s presence at Build2Perform will be bigger, with a dedicated Light2Perform section. ‘Our aim is to foster better connections between the lighting community and the wider built environment,’ says Loomes. Several exciting papers have been lined up, and there will be a daily panel discussion just before lunch, which will get the audience involved and prompt conversations that can continue over the break.



This year, there will be a dedicated area for lighting at CIBSE Build2Perform Live, called Light2Perform. 

Featuring leading lighting manufacturers, contractors, wholesalers and retailers, Light2Perform will have its own dedicated theatre and content programme running over the two days. All technical content will be organised by leading lighters Bob Bohannon, Helen Loomes and Sophie Parry. 

The featured sessions will look at how the lighting sector is responding to eco-design requirements, embracing the circular economy, and working to reduce the embodied carbon in lighting systems.  There will also be a focus on night-time lighting and the impacts this is having. 

To attend Light2Perform, register now


There are certain areas of scientific research that Loomes believes will be important for the industry, and these form the three pillars of the conference’s theme.

The first is health and wellbeing. While we know a lot about our reaction to daylight and how it controls our circadian rhythms, we’re yet to implement this knowledge into a normal lit environment, Loomes says. Projects looking at circadian lighting in care homes for the elderly has demonstrated significant differences to occupants. ‘It’s been fantastic to see scientific progress translating into a practical application. However, there’s a lot more we could do.

‘It’s important to understand the impact of lighting when choosing the right solution. In spaces where you have people mixing for the evening before going home to sleep, you want the lighting to be a warmer colour temperature. Conversely, on motorways, the priority is to keep people awake, and lighting should be bluer enriched.’

Loomes says this links to discussion on the effect of night-time lighting on the planet. Dark skies are a big topic because of the effect that light pollution has on wildlife. ‘We need to look beyond the aesthetics and increase awareness to light responsibly.’

The second pillar of the conference is the environmental angle. ‘Sustainability poses numerous challenges; I believe the answers lie within the research that various academics are doing,’ says Loomes, who feels it is vital to bridge the gap between academics, practitioners, and funding sources. ‘We need better communication about new findings and their possible applications.’

One example is the development of luminaires that can be used for longer and then be recycled easily. LEDs are made with rare earth metals, which are a finite resource, and Loomes says there are lots of exciting new alternative materials emerging that people are not fully aware of yet.

This leads into the third element of the conference: innovation. ‘There are fascinating developments in 3D printing and new plastics that can be leveraged,’ says Loomes. ‘We need to start thinking outside the box and getting creative. For example, we could look at the potential of covering the outsides of our buildings with bioluminescent plants that glow at night, eliminating the need for street lighting.’

She adds that CIBSE is well positioned to help the SLL expand and tackle some of the problems with sustainability and manufacture. One big issue is the installation of lighting fixtures in large office buildings during the CAT A fit-out phase. When a tenant is confirmed, they often want something different, so brand-new light fittings are removed and sent for scrap.

‘We need to work together to revaluate our building model to prevent this,’ she says. ‘We shouldn’t just carry on doing what’s always been done.’

In terms of the energy challenge of lighting and embodied carbon, Loomes acknowledges the value of tools such as TM65 in promoting sustainability. These enable informed decision-making by assessing the embodied carbon of lighting designs and comparing different products based on environmental impact. She stresses the importance of longevity and making choices aligned with specific building or project requirements.

While her one-year term may not change the world, Loomes believes that combined efforts and future presidential terms can make a significant contribution to creating a sustainable lighting industry.


Helen Loomes

Loomes’ journey in the lighting industry began after seeing an advert for a laboratory assistant at a local lighting company. With a keen interest in physics and science, Loomes found she had a genuine passion for lighting. This led her to study illuminating engineering and lighting technology at Southbank Polytechnic. In 1974, she joined the Illuminating Engineering Society – which later evolved into the SLL.

She went on to be involved in various areas of the industry, from sales and marketing to teaching and education, and each role brought something new.

‘It’s important to have a fundamental understanding of lighting to excel in any of these positions,’ says Loomes. ‘This also brings an excitement into the job because I’m still interested in lighting and what it can do.’