Responsibility In Design
Shelley Wang of WAC Lighting melds designer principles with green technology
Shelley Wang doesn’t move at the speed of light. Even so, the youthful president of WAC Lighting still manages to beam herself around the globe with high efficiency. We caught up with her on a recent morning when she was boarding a flight from New York to London for a conference on organic LED lighting and nanotechnology—the use of microscopic objects to accomplish full-sized tasks. Four days later, we tracked her down at a trade show in Dallas. She had been working the room all day, but her energy seemed undiminished.
Based in Garden City, New York, WAC Lighting is one of a small but rapidly growing number of manufacturers that specializes in low-voltage lighting. Wang’s basic pitch is that LEDs and other forms of low-voltage lighting are not just for earth-firsters, but designers too.
The idea that low-voltage lighting can be beautiful is an important point of sale for her. In the past, some architects and interior designers looked askance at lighting products labeled as sustainable. Low-voltage bulbs were more expensive than conventional incandescent bulbs.
More to the point, the earliest “green” lighting products were not exactly great at their task. Designers complained about the unrealistic “color rendition” of some earlier lights, which did not bring out the natural colors of objects as well as sunlight or what had formerly been sunlight’s best imitator, the incandescent bulb.
Lighting, particularly WAC Lighting products, has improved greatly in recent years. The choice is no longer one between being green and designer lighting. “You should not have to sacrifice quality of life to achieve energy efficiency,” says Wang. “It’s not a zero-sum game.”
Although Wang’s parents started the family-owned company 25 years ago, she has been the trailblazer in pairing WAC Lighting with sustainability. She coined the company’s “Responsible Lighting” slogan. “We were responsible before it became cool to be responsible,” she says.
As a saleswoman, she adds, “we have to educate the customer, the client.” And she must demonstrate that her products can perform better than earlier forms of energy-saving lights that turned some people off. The proverbial light bulb seems to go off when customers realize that they can have decent lighting and sustainability, too. “It’s like a Eureka moment,” she says.
The concern for sustainability extends to manufacturing, which takes place in a factory in Guangdong, China. “Our campus is not set up like a typical assembly plant,” she says of the 750,000-square-foot facility, where WAC Lighting makes its lighting products with lead-free materials that neither pollute water nor produce any landfill waste.
“We built this factory to support sustainable building products with the business proposition in the campus culture of doing things the right way the first time,” she says. (The company also maintains a distribution center in City of Industry, just east of Los Angeles.)
WAC Lighting got a boost in the late 1990s with the new popularity of low-voltage halogen bulbs. In more recent years, the Garden City, New York-based business has added CFL, HID, and LED lights to its product line, which includes low-voltage track lighting and recessed lighting. The firm now offers what it describes as “full-line lighting solutions in LED,” including recessed and track lighting, cabinet and niche lighting, and decorative lighting.
If beauty can sell the customer, speed of delivery will bring new orders from the retailer. In a crowded market, filling orders quickly may be the way for WAC Lighting to catch the eye of both designers and lighting store owners.
“We provide innovative products with customer-oriented service,” says Wang. “That’s our goal. That’s where we can be the best in the world.”