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Lighting, Highways and Hospitals

January 20, 1995

A Single Light Shines In Many Ways and Places

THE LIGHT BULB over Gregory Scott Snider’s head said: ``Follow me; I go anywhere.″ So the 25-year-old design student created a modular lighting system that can expand or contract to fill just about any dark place.

Technical advances are needed before Mr. Snider’s creation can come to market. But designers and lighting experts agree that this senior at Detroit’s College of Art and Design has made a breakthrough.

Most lights serve a single purpose _ such as track lights on the ceiling or a lamp on a desk. Mr. Snider’s goal was to design a single light that could encompass numerous functions.

``If Mom decides she no longer needs a light in her pantry, little Bobby can take a section out and have a light in his closet to keep the monsters away,″ says the Detroit native. ``When that use has been outgrown, Dad can add a couple of sections and a joint to create an L-shaped unit to hang above his workbench.″

Each 12-by-2 1/2-inch section of the lighting unit could operate alone or clipped together at any angle with one or more identical sections. The small connecting clips would contain transformers. If these burn out, they could be replaced without the need to throw away much.

While the new design would work with halogen or incandescent lights, Mr. Snider first chose fluorescent bulbs, which are regarded as the most efficient.

His light won a second prize in the 1995 U.S. student design competition sponsored by the National Housewares Manufacturers Association. One juror, Paul Thonis, design manager at Corning Consumer Products, called it ``a solution that makes you ask, `Why hasn’t anybody ever thought of that before?‴

An industry engineer, Jeff Waymouth of Osram Sylvania, praises the Snider light for its ``flexibility″ but warns that it could take five years for the industry to develop power controls small and versatile enough to connect the modules.

Many Intentions Pave a New Road System

WASHINGTON is sweet-talking roads today. But by September, the talk could turn bitter.

Congress is supposed to establish a national highway system by the end of this fiscal year. Decisions must be made about which roads _ existing and still-to-be-built _ are the nation’s busiest and should therefore be included. Also to be decided are standards for new construction, as well as who would have a say in designing each highway.

The system will embrace 45,000 miles of existing interstate roads, as well as 114,000 miles of other federal and state highways. There seems to be a consensus, even among highway engineers, that additions to the system shouldn’t conform to the rigid standards of straightness, wideness and flatness that governed construction of the interstate system. And a national conservation lobby, Scenic America, wants legislation making a multistandard approach explicit.

The group also wants flexible waivers from any new standards, as well as federal money to reward states for preserving certain curvy, narrow and hilly roads. Finally, Scenic America told a Senate committee last year, people representing beauty, nature, history and community should have a place at the highway drawing board along with engineers, who usually represent safety, mobility and speed.

The engineers appear ready to accept multiple standards and more flexible waivers. But Dan Flowers, director of highways in Arkansas, says state road builders are already going to ``a lot of trouble″ to seek advice from those advocating historical, aesthetic and other nontraditional highway values.

By September, the debate may come down to safety. David Hensing, deputy executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, says trees and stone walls near a road may be beautiful, but ``wipe out a few teenagers every year.″

Scenic America replies that straighter, wider and flatter usually allows cars to go faster, and more dangerously.

A World of Their Own Rehabilitates Patients

DESIGNERS are building little worlds inside hospital walls to get patients back out into the big world.

One hundred hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers now contain realistic, life-size ``villages,″ complete with cracked sidewalks, stores, automatic teller machines, buses and other manifestations of modern life. There, patients can practice getting out of a wheelchair and into a car, going through a line with a walker, cashing a check and other everyday skills.

``We even fill alcoves with large photo murals taken in the hospital’s hometown,″ says designer David Guynes of Phoenix, who pioneered the concept, which he now calls Independence Square. A similar design, Easy Street, is produced by Habitat of Tempe, Ariz.

Habitat installed an Easy Street at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C. Since the city is near the coast, this street leads to a sandy beach.

Local businesses help fund many of the villages in return for a design that identifies them. And insurance companies are said to favor the ``functional outcomes″ produced.

``It’s easier to document a patient’s progress when they’re learning something realistic that they can take with them,″ says Pamela Gifford, a rehabilitation manager at MidMichigan Regional Medical Center, Midland, Mich., which contains a little village built by Mr. Guynes.

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