January 2020

Michael Hennes, LEED AP BD+C, MIES
Associate Principal
Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
My degree is in Architecture, and after school I moved to New York City to work and experience life in the big city. While looking for a job, I came across an ad for a lighting designer position at CBB, and it intrigued me. I had one class on lighting in school and I had really enjoyed it. However, I had no idea that it was possible to specialize in lighting as a career. I had a few interviews with Carroll (Cline), Francesca and Stephen. I got the job and the rest is history. That was back in 1987, two years after CBB was formed as a company. I became an associate principal in 2013. I learned what I know about lighting through on-the-job experience and guidance from the principals here. I recall that critiques by Carroll were particularly difficult – you had to understand what every line on your fixture drawing meant (we drew fixtures by hand back then) and it had to be based on dimensions of real materials and thicknesses. The principals also pointed me to educational resources, like the bible on lighting design at that time, Interior Lighting for Environmental Designers by Jim Nuckolls, as a means of supplementing my lighting knowledge. One of the things that I enjoy about my work now is that I get to pass along my knowledge and experience to the younger designers working with me, and it has been a privilege to be able to contribute to their growth as lighting designers, just like the principals at CBB contributed to mine.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
Early on, I was focused on my work and didn’t immediately get involved with outside organizations, although I attended IESNYC events before becoming a member, and of course I have been attending Lumen Award dinners for many years and have been fortunate to be a team member on at least a dozen award-winning projects. Favorites were 7 World Trade Center, BAM Fisher Building and the Bank of American Tower at One Bryant Park, because they all contribute to the fabric of NYC. My first active involvement with the Section took place in 2007, when I gave a talk at the first LEDucation, for which DLF & IESNYC were joint sponsors. I joined the Section in 2008.

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
It’s important to contribute to the lighting community when and how we can. After becoming a member, I was asked to join the DOE CALiPER Guidance Committee as a representative of the IES. We were all dealing with the rise of LEDs in architectural lighting at the time, and this was a way for me to be involved with how to sort the good fixtures out from the bad ones. I found it to be a great opportunity for communicating with and learning from a diverse group of people from across our field. Over the years, I have also given nighttime project tours when the IESNYC has collaborated with Open House New York (OHNY), most recently this past October at Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Often, these tours have been very popular and have turned into repeat engagements. They’re rare opportunities to connect with people who don’t know anything about our profession and to give them a glimpse into what goes into creating a lighting design and carrying it through to completion.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
Everyone in the lighting community is grappling with fast-changing technology, and the IESNYC is here to support us all with lectures, tours, educational classes and other opportunities for the membership to come together and share ideas. The Section’s mix of members, including designers, engineers, manufacturers and others, allows us to hear about what’s happening in the profession from different viewpoints. It’s a valuable opportunity to interact and build relationships with others in our field. The grants and other student outreach programs are a means of nurturing the next generation the way that CBB did for me when I was starting out.