May 2019

Michael W. Mehl, LC, LEED AP BD+C, MIES
Lightbox Studios

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
As is the norm for many educational facilities today, my school, Montclair State University, which I graduated from in 1989 with a BS in Industrial Technology, required that an internship be completed as part of the curriculum. Fortunately for me, my internship happened to be for a lighting manufacturer. While it was a very rudimentary position within the technical side of lighting fabrication, I had just enough opportunity to spark my interest and, upon graduation, to pursue what was at that time, a little understood niche within the construction/design community. Armed with a novice’s sense of lighting design and a shallow grasp of technical knowledge, I was buoyed by a perpetual desire to learn and, most importantly, a propensity to pay attention and observe. I ultimately took an assistant designer position in the lighting design department of Jaros, Baum & Bolles (JBB) in 1990. With an affinity for the construction process and basic entrepreneurial skills honed from running my own business throughout college, I began my transition from interested intern to a career in lighting. Thirty years later, I find myself steering the architectural lighting design group LightBox Studios, an organic outgrowth of JB&B’s 60-year technical lighting design practice. I feel very fortunate that I continue to be stimulated by the blank canvas, still maintain the inquisitive nature required by our craft while remaining balanced thanks to my parents’ values of hard work and the daily nibble on humble pie.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
Having landed at a firm that habitually supported the external entities that support our communities of practice, my participation in my local world of lighting, particularly IES, was greatly encouraged and happened early in my career. Never fearful of presenting and having been fortunate to have a client base that allowed me to be on the front lines of local design practice, I was asked to present my design principals in video-teleconference work to the NYC Section in 1994. What I did not expect was how unique my angle of design was and how well attended the session would be with my peers and elders within the lighting community. I survived, and my efforts were rewarded with more offers to help participate in IESNYC community. And, in 2010, I was involved in the formation of the NYC Lighting Council, which serves as a resource for information on NYC policies, practices and awareness with regard to public lighting.

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
Given the various committees I have chaired and participated in throughout my career, whether it was working with NYCDOB, IES Technical Committees, IESNYC panels, ASHARE 90.1 Energy Code work, or trying to remain at the forefront of practice with early LEED and WELL design or PoE lighting, I have learned that you ultimately gain significantly through the sacrifice of time in these efforts. Others may immediately benefit from one’s efforts, but only you can take away from each group the unique knowledge the group participation provides on the depths of each topic. Each participatory experience, when we bring to the table the desire to listen and observe, can create a deep learning experience. Given the wealth of nuggets garnered from these experiences, compounded with 30 years of a diverse practice, I hopefully possess a design sensibility that can help IESNYC navigate its current direction. Speaking for the company, as an IESNYC Bronze level sponsor, there is no better way to promote the art and science of lighting design than through the support of an organization equally dedicated to enhancing the experience of place and space through lighting design.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
IESNYC sits within the greatest concentration, most diverse and deepest knowledge base of lighting practitioners in North America and, I might argue, anywhere. Being part of this community is a must if one is to remain a leader in helping to guide IES and the greater lighting profession. Given the crossroads of technological advancements and evolution, blended with the ongoing infusion of occupant wellness into our workplace and designs disrupted by industry and global needs to push conservation of efficient design, IESNYC is definitely well positioned to lead this effort.