Lighting society elects new president

July 14th, 2014, Published in Articles: Vector


On 1 July this year, Robert Henderson succeeded Greg Marcia as president of the Illumination Engineering Society of South Africa (IESSA). Vector spoke to him about his long association with the society, what the future holds for the lighting industry, and about the changes in store for the society.

Robert Henderson

Robert Henderson

Henderson joined the former Institute of Lighting Engineers of Southern Africa (ILESA) in 1978 and, two years later, the committee of the South African National Committee on Illumination (SANCI). In this capacity, he served as the South African representative on the Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage (CIE), Division 7, Education and Technical Vocabulary.

He started out as a part-time lecturer for ILESA in 1979 when that institute presented a six-month intermediate lighting course based on the City and Guilds course at the then Technikon Witwatersrand. He has remained part of the Illumination Education Committee to this day and has served on the IESSA Development Committee as chairman and member of the Technology Committee until 2012 when he was elected the association’s vice president.

He became an alternate member representing South Africa in CIE Division 3, Interior Lighting, in 1998, when Division 7 closed and the education portfolio was divided between the various divisions. He also served on the SANS standards committies in the fields of lighting and cables and served on the SANS energy-efficiency technical committees.

On the challenges facing the lighting industry at present, Henderson notes that, with the introduction of LED and other energy efficiency lighting systems into South Africa, the numbers of suppliers who have very little or no lighting or electrical knowledge have increased.

These suppliers, he says, have caused end-users to be dissatisfied with the results and the quality of these products.

“Regulation has attempted to protect the customer but there are insufficient knowledgeable inspectors to monitor the market and to monitor the ports of entry. IESSA is working with these suppliers to reduce the risk of unsafe products entering the market and will provide users with guidelines.”

He says the association has also introduced identification cards to its members to validate them as professional practitioners after they submit their credentials and recent experience.

In terms of promoting energy efficiency, performance and quality of product, IESSA will “continue to promote good lighting, not only for safety under the OHS Act, but for improved, productive lighting under the National Building Regulations and SANS Interior Lighting – Artificial Lighting.

“I cannot imagine a world without artificial light, so IESSA will promote the necessity of good lighting, but users must look at the qualifications of their suppliers before accepting the lowest quotes.”

LED technology has taken the lighting industry by storm in recent years but Henderson believes that LEDs have not yet reached their peak: “Their light output will continue to improve, their size will continue to shrink while heat dissipation and control will improve.

“LEDs’ ease of control will also encourage designers to make use of daylight and so provide green buildings and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This would also reduce the need for new power stations.

“The lighting world is a fascinating industry which has provided me with over 30 years of rewarding employment. I can only encourage members and non-members to pursue illumination engineering.”

Henderson, who joined Eskom as an illumination specialist on its power stations and later became a technical specialist on cables, racks, earthing and lightning protection as well as on illumination, currently works in the Demand Side Management (DMS) section of Eskom’s Sustainability and Innovations division. He is a graduate electrical engineer from the University of the Witwatersrand and a professional engineer. He obtained his Government Certificate of Competence, Factories, while working at the then Johannesburg Electricity Department.

Henderson is a fellow of IESSA; past president of ILESA and SANCI. He is also an honourary vice president of the former SANCI. He says his mentors included industry stalwarts such as Robbie Yates, Mike Dempster, John Grundy, John Gosling, Brian Kelly and Prof. Tony Britten.

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