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New SLL President aims to Build Back Better

Bob Bohannon, taken at the SLL AGM 2019. Photo: Michael Eleftheriades

Watch recording of Bob Bohannon's inaugural address as President of the Society of Light and Lighting

Build Back Better, new SLL President Bob Bohannon recognises the need to re-evaluate what is important.

“With the Covid-19 lockdown leading to a cut in C02 emissions, it has also triggered an economic downturn, prompting governments to boost low carbon design and technology. They call this Build Back Better.”

In his inaugural address as President of the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL), Bob Bohannon gave thanks to immediate Past President, Jim Shove. Bob also thanked members of the Society’s VP Group; Richard Caple and Iain Carlile, both Past Presidents; Ruth Kelly Waskett, President Elect; Andrew Bissell, Vice President Regions; and Helen Loomes, Vice President External Affairs. Originally Bob’s idea, the VP 2020 group was formed 5 years ago to help the Society and its current, past and future Presidents to create a common vision, pursuing longer term strategies for the benefit of its members and the public.

As President and a Member of the Society, Bob outlined his desire to help the SLL to deliver a safe, zero carbon, healthy, sustainable, comfortably lit and visually stimulating environment. In thanking those who had offered their invaluable support, Bob shared that his mother has been an environmentalist since the 1970s, meaning that he has championed a sustainable approach throughout his career, and acknowledged that this approach has never been more prescient than it is today.  

Whilst recognising a reduction in carbon emissions as a result of the introduction and dominance of LED lighting, Bob also highlighted that the responsibility of the lighting industry and lighting professionals does not end there;

“Importing a lowest possible cost, 30,000 hour, 600x600 LED panel without any serviceable components, on a container ship from the other side of the world which burns high sulphur content bunker fuel spewing sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulates is maybe not the most environmentally sound way of delivering light, even if it does score well in SBEM.”

Whilst climate change is a reality that affects us all, Bob also highlighted issues relating to construction, building services and procurement following the Grenfell Tower disaster and the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review.

“Much of the current industry design and build structure is predicated on short term saving of capital cost, to deliver buildings that perform for as long as the warranty or retention period lasts.”

In a world where value engineering refers to cutting costs and quality, Bob asks, ‘What is value?’ Calling for lighting and related industries to refer to the importance, worth or usefulness of something and to consider who this should benefit in the long term;

“When did you last hear someone ask “what is the end user’s lighting objectives? How does light better enable their organization, be it a school, office, hospital or shop to meet their objectives?” If they don’t know this, or if we haven’t explained it to them then why should we be surprised that the simply buy the cheapest.”

In outlining the action needed to Build Back Better, Bob stressed that safety, integrity and resilience need to be central to the professional practice of the lighting industry, highlighting the need for high quality lighting education to promote competence. Alongside professional integrity, Bob urged us not to fall back on the default, citing an over-reliance on outdated, male orientated data sets.

In promoting the value of light, the Society of Light and Lighting must also promote and encourage the value of diversity and inclusivity. As we face an economic downturn, those at the early stages of their careers are likely to struggle.

“CIBSE and the Society of Light & Lighting is now home to a remarkably talented, multi-cultural pool of young lighting talent, from countries across the world… Many of these young designers and engineers may now be facing harsh financial times again, we need to be relevant to them, to help them, to keep up their energy and their motivation.”

For the first time, the SLL President’s Address was held online, followed by a live Q&A on 21 May 2020. President Bob Bohannon took over the Presidency from Immediate Past-President Jim Shove, who held office from May 2019. The new President-Elect, Ruth Kelly Waskett was also inducted, and will serve her term from May 2021. The 2019 SLL Annual Report and Officer Roles are available to view online via

Watch the recorded version of the online SLL President's Address and Live Q&A

If you have any questions about the Society, please contact [email protected]