PDA

View Full Version : Licensing and certification


steveparrott
01-21-2008, 08:16 AM
Billy made a comment about wishing for licensing of our profession. I think this merits discussion. I sent a survey out to all NJ lighting professionals to elicit their opinions on landscape lighting and the law. About half were in favor of some sort of low voltage licensing - the other half were not.

Half of the 50 states require some form of low voltage licensing. These licenses were put in effect primarily to protect the public from electrical shock, fire and deceptive business practices. In my opinion, all three factors are non-issues for landscape lighting.

Electrical shock: no risk under 30 volts - never caused a serious injury in human history.

Fire: slight risk due to three things - undersizing wire, running wire through a structure with no conduit and burying fixtures in mulch. That takes about 10 minutes to learn.

Deceptive business practices: most states already require some type of contractor registration, or at least make some effort to protect consumers from all types of business fraud. This is an issue for all professions - no need to have a separate license for each industry for this protection.

Then we have the desire for our professionals to distinguish themselves as leaders in their profession - to give them advanced skills and a selling advantage. In my opinion, this advantage is best gained by seeking out the various types of education, certification and degrees already available (and yet to come). There are manufacturer certifications, the AOLP, PLANET's certification. There are also more advanced programs for lighting designers that focus more on commercial work such as offered by the IALD, PLDA, LRC and IESNA. There's also lighting design programs at a number of universities. These are all optional opportunities for landscape lighting professionals. To imagine that any of them would be mandatory in any state (or every state) is to imagine an unnecessary burden on those who can do great work without them.

Let's remember that our profession is primarily an artistic profession. Do fine art painters need a license? Do sculptors? Do illustrators? Filmmakers, photographers?

For a great read on the epidemic of over-licensing in this country read the following report (featured in the NY Times): http://www.reason.org/ps361polsum.pdf.

pete scalia
01-21-2008, 08:58 AM
Electrical shock: no risk under 30 volts - never caused a serious injury in human history.

It amazes me that you continue to publicly post this while there is no way that you could ever have so thoroughly researched this to make such a definitive claim.

Fire: slight risk due to three things - undersizing wire, running wire through a structure with no conduit and burying fixtures in mulch. That takes about 10 minutes to learn.

It's that simple is it? What about overloading, dead shorting, failed equipment, un safe practices and or jerry rigging of equipment. Non use of or diasabling safety devices.

Let's remember that our profession is primarily an artistic profession. Do fine art painters need a license? Do sculptors? Do illustrators? Filmmakers, photographers?

Those professions do not primarily work with electricity



Your goals are the same as any other distributor which is to get as many contractors involved in installing YOUR product as possible. I call you a distributor because in essence that's what you are since your company does not own 1 stitch of manufacturing equipment. You cannot teach all there is to know about this profession in a 1 day seminar or in a 1 week seminar for that matter.

Pro-Scapes
01-21-2008, 09:17 AM
Steve to be clear on why I think we need regulation or licensing on a national level.

I have seen some landscapers perform rather unsafe practices when performing landscape lighting. I think a proper training program or certification program should be in place. The aolp has the idea but needs national recognition before its worth anything to states.

I think you forgot some other unsafe practices. I have seen bad connections melted down which could indeed result in a fire. Face it wire will light up just like a filament if the connection is down to a few strands and the amperage is high enough. We NEED to control who does low voltage lighting.

Manufactures and dist worry about limiting it too much or want to make sure its so easy to get certified my 4 yr old nephew can as long as lights keep going in the ground. I have seen REPUTABLE landscapers leave well lights to be kicked over in public... use regular wirenuts underground... wire a trans to another trans on the other side of the house in a giant loop and other very dangerous practices such as tucking wires in sidewalk cracks in public.

We need some regulation but not the same regulation as line voltage electricians. Its still electricity and commands respect. I gotta agree with pete on the fact. Yes we are artisits but Picasso would not burn your house down or create a fire hazzard.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-21-2008, 09:30 AM
Steve.

I am in favour of licensing, however I think that it is only something that should come about after we have a proper Code for this industry.

I am proposing that the LV outdoor lighting industry develop a separate piece of code to be adopted by the NEC/CEC. Once this is in place, then we can focus on the necessary and required licensing of installers.

In so doing we would finally standardize this industry, and bring it back 'home' into the realm of professionals. I am tired of seeing trunk slammers, caretakers, property maintenance companies and the like installing sub-par systems and ultimately giving this industry a bad name.

Will this direction result in a smaller market for manufacturers and distributors? I don't think so, you might ultimately have fewer contractors purchasing but volumes should stay the same.

By developing a proper Code, having it accepted and adopted into the CEC/NEC we will gain legitimacy, understanding, and the respect of the rest of the electrical, and electrical safety industry. This will remove many of the regulatory hurdles that many of us are running into now.

Regards.

irrig8r
01-21-2008, 11:44 AM
Billy made a comment about wishing for licensing of our profession. I think this merits discussion. I sent a survey out to all NJ lighting professionals to elicit their opinions on landscape lighting and the law. About half were in favor of some sort of low voltage licensing - the other half were not.

Half of the 50 states require some form of low voltage licensing. These licenses were put in effect primarily to protect the public from electrical shock, fire and deceptive business practices. In my opinion, all three factors are non-issues for landscape lighting.

Electrical shock: no risk under 30 volts - never caused a serious injury in human history.

Fire: slight risk due to three things - undersizing wire, running wire through a structure with no conduit and burying fixtures in mulch. That takes about 10 minutes to learn.

Deceptive business practices: most states already require some type of contractor registration, or at least make some effort to protect consumers from all types of business fraud. This is an issue for all professions - no need to have a separate license for each industry for this protection.

Then we have the desire for our professionals to distinguish themselves as leaders in their profession - to give them advanced skills and a selling advantage. In my opinion, this advantage is best gained by seeking out the various types of education, certification and degrees already available (and yet to come). There are manufacturer certifications, the AOLP, PLANET's certification. There are also more advanced programs for lighting designers that focus more on commercial work such as offered by the IALD, PLDA, LRC and IESNA. There's also lighting design programs at a number of universities. These are all optional opportunities for landscape lighting professionals. To imagine that any of them would be mandatory in any state (or every state) is to imagine an unnecessary burden on those who can do great work without them.

Let's remember that our profession is primarily an artistic profession. Do fine art painters need a license? Do sculptors? Do illustrators? Filmmakers, photographers?

For a great read on the epidemic of over-licensing in this country read the following report (featured in the NY Times): http://www.reason.org/ps361polsum.pdf.


Steve, I'm not going to knock you or CAST, but I think this is one are where contractors and manufacturers/ distributors have different insterests and part ways.

You have a need to sell product. It doesn't matter as much to you who installs that product, as long as you can convince them to keep coming back to you for more.

I have a need for quality products to install, because they reinforce my reputation, cut callbacks, and generally improve the bottom line.

However, I also have an interest in preventing work by unqualified installers, who are often unlicensed, undercut my prices, and don't know enough to stay in business very long. These guys leave a wake of messes for other professionals like myself to clean up, often with customers who resent having to pay twice for a job.

Some of them are even guys doing "side jobs" who have "day jobs" with other contractors or even distributors (Don't believe me? Ask Mike Gambino about the guy we exposed a few years ago after doing a little detective work.)
and get discounts on their materials that way.

BTW, I was even on a job this past year where I discovered that a distributor (who I knew sold to homeowners, but didn't know did service work too) was competing with me for work. I was there doing sprinkler toubleshooting and repairs and noticed a few broken lighting fixtures. I asked the homeowner whether they'd like a quote for repairs or upgrades. They informed me that the distributor had already sent someone to check out the job and had replacement fixtures on order and would install them too. (The distributor is NOT a licensed contractor. They won't be getting any more of my business. But I digress.....)

Anyway, there are already three contractor license categories that LV lighting falls into in California:
C-27 Landscape (where it's been for at least 40 years),
C-10 Electrical (same time frame, but not as many bothered with LV) and
C-7 Low Voltage Systems (which is more recent and includes alarms, phone, sound systems, satellite dishes, CCTV, etc. as well as LV lighting and goes up to 91 volts-???)

IMO this ought to be fixed so a category exists for LV systems up to 30V just for sprinklers and lighting and be a subcategory to Landscape...

Anyway, despite all these licenses, there is little enforcement. The CSLB isn't funded enough. Unlicensed operators abound. Homeowners get ripped off, and the whole industry gets a black eye.

The answer IMO, is not less regulation, not more regulation, but better, more consistent, common sense regulation.

Pro-Scapes
01-21-2008, 11:55 AM
Gregg thats just california where you need a license to sneeze too hard. I would love to see a low voltage license and test here like in fla or cali.

There is landscapers here sticking in Kichlers as part of a package and screwing transformers to trees as a mounting post.

Mike M
01-21-2008, 07:00 PM
Steve, some guy painting portraits has no effect on me. That comparison is like saying auto manu's shouldn't be required to follow emission control regulations because that would be like making an artist use a smaller paint brush.

IDA aka Dark Sky has evolved out of the need for some serious light control. Also, LV lighting is complex enough that consumers have no way of knowing they are making a bad investment if the installer is poorly trained.

I always say I hate regulations, but you know what, I love those labels on food items. I like that my dentist had to go to school and get credentials before sticking a power drill in my mouth.

The only draw back I can see for CAST is that all those irrigation suppliers may lose interest if their unlicensed/uncertified installers have to revert back to other add-ons.

When I used to do lawn care, I was upset that I couldn't use weed-n-feed. It was harmless enough for consumers/DYI's, why not me? But after I studied the materials for an applicator's license, it made good sense.

I've been in lv a short time, but the mess I see in the field is ubelievable. The local JDL distributor is telling 'scapers they don't need trenches for lv cable, and mature properties are littered with failed aluminum fixtures.

My 2 cents.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-21-2008, 07:13 PM
A good post there Mr. Murphy.

Now if we can only get you to edit that signature line of yours to beef it up to "industry standards" you might actually have some legs in this biz!:laugh:

Mike M
01-21-2008, 07:31 PM
My credentials speak for themselves.

Pro-Scapes
01-21-2008, 07:45 PM
alot of dist if not all will tell guys how easy the money is. I guess it is easy if you slap fixtures down. Dont check voltage...dont own an amp meter... put wires under mulch or 0-6 inches and anywhere in between is ok.

There needs to be a trend away from 1 day seminars to "launch you into the low voltage lighting industry". Regulation would help this alot. I think the quality of lighting and the industry as a whole would come up considerably

Mike M
01-21-2008, 08:06 PM
I agree Billy. But I have to admit, I haven't seen any bad CAST installs yet. If I was in the west coast, I'd be totally into the Unique classes.

Personally, I'm sick of classes, and I prefer to read/research, and then buy stuff and play with it.

I think you can size up a good manu by both the depth of their training, and the quality of information and literature they put out.

In my eyes, and this is all personal opinion no doubt, that puts Nate's Unique way out in front, and CAST (website, technical references, efficient installation manual) second. A brilliant business move would be a manu picking up name and endorsement from Janet Moyer. But what the hell does she know about clean-out shovels, splices, lighting homes under 6 mill, and driving a Ford vs. Chevy. Some of us illumination artists wear gloves and pee behind trees.

OMG what am I talking about? I'm gonna get the boot from this site for bad rambling.

Eden Lights
01-21-2008, 09:29 PM
Steve, some guy painting portraits has no effect on me. That comparison is like saying auto manu's shouldn't be required to follow emission control regulations because that would be like making an artist use a smaller paint brush.

IDA aka Dark Sky has evolved out of the need for some serious light control. Also, LV lighting is complex enough that consumers have no way of knowing they are making a bad investment if the installer is poorly trained.

I always say I hate regulations, but you know what, I love those labels on food items. I like that my dentist had to go to school and get credentials before sticking a power drill in my mouth.

The only draw back I can see for CAST is that all those irrigation suppliers may lose interest if their unlicensed/uncertified installers have to revert back to other add-ons.

When I used to do lawn care, I was upset that I couldn't use weed-n-feed. It was harmless enough for consumers/DYI's, why not me? But after I studied the materials for an applicator's license, it made good sense.

I've been in lv a short time, but the mess I see in the field is ubelievable. The local JDL distributor is telling 'scapers they don't need trenches for lv cable, and mature properties are littered with failed aluminum fixtures.

My 2 cents.

Please give us more information about the failed aluminum products: pictures, brand, model, location, age, and etc. Maybe I need to change my product lineup?

Mike M
01-21-2008, 10:04 PM
Edan,

On my last two installs were pre-existing systems. I use the generic word "aluminum," but in particular, both installs were hung with Vista powder-coat aluminum fixtures. These were filled with water and failed lamps, cable was placed on top of the ground, screwed to trees with random screws (none stainless steel), fixtures positioned without regard to glare, I think you get the picture without pictures.

The point isn't aluminum, it's that I find a correlation between manu's who make aluminum lv fixtures, with the a lack of professional, technical literature, guidance, and training for design and installation of lv lighting.

Inside of one of the Vistas I cut down from a tree, was a label marked with the year 2005. The fixture was soaked with water and had a bubbled surface below the powder-coat. I will look to see if I still have it and take a pic.

Perhaps a good thing by design is when the least noble metals are used by bad designers. It would be much worse if very bad designs were installed to last forever.

No offense to the exceptional and well-informed who use aluminum fixtures with success, especially if not stuck in soil, and far from coastal climate.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-21-2008, 10:14 PM
MIke, I see you are now pretty proudly boasting the CAST logo on your signature line. Have you made a strategic decision or have they put you on the payroll?

I have some advice for you if you are willing to listen to it. As they say it is only worth what you pay for it, but none the less it comes from experience. Let me know...

Regards.

Mike M
01-21-2008, 10:36 PM
I know James, why sell their product for them, right? Because I do! The alternative is to do a Gambino and make and sell my own.

Actually, I'm bustin on Joey, too. (If I had some Unique files maybe I could also include them in my signature.):)

James, I don't think a day goes by when you don't offer us a celebrity endorsement for Nightscaping. In written copy or graphic, it's all the same.

Over on the lawn care side, they list their commercial grade equipment on their signature line. What's so bad about identifying with the company whose philosophy and product perform to your liking?

pete scalia
01-21-2008, 10:46 PM
I know James, why sell their product for them, right? Because I do! The alternative is to do a Gambino and make and sell my own.

Actually, I'm bustin on Joey, too. (If I had some Unique files maybe I could also include them in my signature.):)

James, I don't think a day goes by when you don't offer us a celebrity endorsement for Nightscaping. In written copy or graphic, it's all the same.

Over on the lawn care side, they list their commercial grade equipment on their signature line. What's so bad about identifying with the company whose philosophy and product perform to your liking?

Your being foolish. Take the logo away and put your own in it's place. It's you you are selling not someone's product. Why don't you just invite your prospect to shop you. You might as well as your wearing a sign with an invitation to do so.

irrig8r
01-22-2008, 01:14 AM
You're being foolish. Take the logo away and put your own in it's place.

Mike, I wouldn't normally tell you to listen to Pete, but in this case Pete and James and I all strongly agree.


And as far as I know hell hasn't frozen over either.... though maybe Muskoka has...

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-22-2008, 01:31 AM
Mike, it is pretty darn cold here in Muskoka tonight, but hell hasn't frozen over yet.... It is a watershed moment... I agree with Pete. Promote your self Mike. Build your own brand. From Day one.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-22-2008, 07:40 AM
Mike: Also.... Are you in the business of selling custom lighting systems or are you in the business of moving fixtures? If the latter then go for the manufacturer's associations... just make sure they include you in part of their advertising budget.

If you are in fact focused on selling custom lighting systems, then I would assume you would take every opportunity you have to promote YOUR business. You don't see a lot of manufacturers advertising featuring the OEM of their sockets, or O-rings, or lenses now do you?

In the long run, your client's will not give a darn as to the name on the fixtures that make up their system... They will only remember it by the name of the company that designed, installed and maintain it. All of my clients get a System by INTEGRA Works... they even remark to their colleagues and friends that their outdoor lighting is "INTEGRA Lighting".

Get it?

Mike M
01-22-2008, 08:27 AM
I saw a guy wearing a Stihl winter knit hat yesterday that really rocked. I want one. Maybe because it's been so flippin cold.:laugh:

Think about it guys, our manu's are biz partners. Both CAST & Unique publish (books, web, etc.) installer's designs and provide credits.

Now, Lawnsite is not my demographic, but it is for the manu's. I have no more to lose or gain in advertising by displaying their name than I do by displaying my own logo. However, manu's do have much value in endorsement from us.

It's early in my biz, and I'm in a visual-driven industry. It's effective to display some nice model illumination pics and credit them with logo's. I bought a digital camera, and I'm nearing a photo shoot so I can build a website. As for now, I just sent my second small postcard mailer, it has a nice image in full color on front with a CAST logo on it. On the copy/address side, I have my contact info plus logo. When people ask about what I can do, I offer them my demo and go from there.

Support by a manu helps me tremendously. I learned from a successful college basketball coach (me basketball? no, he was a lawn customer) that to have success in life, you need to have a knack in scouting out the right people with whom you want to accomplish your goals. Then express your loyalty and believe in them, stick with them. I called him Coach. He made me feel great, and I worked very hard to provide top notch service.

Think of the logo as a yard sign I'm willing to have displayed on my property.

Is CAST on my payroll? Yep. I pay them a percentage on their fixtures. Am I on theirs? Yep. Without a fixture, I have no commerce and have to go back to teaching in aggravating public schools.

We all have our loyalties, and for good reasons. Greg is helping sell a music distributor and the remaining members of the Grateful Dead. James expresses the names of his manu and his distributor in high regards on an almost daily basis and sells for the Canadian Tourism Bureau and Cannon Digital Photography. Paul does business loyally with Kichler. Tom is loyal to Unique. I can go on. But there are members here which never give that info out. Do they share a clear philosophy with anyone? Consistent quality standards? Do they have people that go to bat for them?

Don't get me wrong, when I have enough original images to use, I won't cover my website and mailers with manu logo's, but I will definately have a banner somwhere linking to their website, so people can read more about the technical specs and industry info on that level. Maybe they'll even find my own pictures there, with my name!

Mike M
01-22-2008, 08:34 AM
In the long run, your client's will not give a darn as to the name on the fixtures that make up their system... They will only remember it by the name of the company that designed, installed and maintain it --James

Yes, I get it! That is great advice.

But the logo on the bottom of this post is not being sent to my prospective customers and is not a part of my marketing or branding campaign.

Eden Lights
01-22-2008, 08:58 AM
Your being foolish. Take the logo away and put your own in it's place. It's you you are selling not someone's product. Why don't you just invite your prospect to shop you. You might as well as your wearing a sign with an invitation to do so.

Excellent comments, I will only have a couple of client's a year that ask about equipment brands. I try to sell myself and if pushed selling equipment is easy.

Eden Lights
01-22-2008, 09:03 AM
It's not very often when the stars align and this many people agree on something, this kind of information is very helpful to the old and the new.

JoeyD
01-22-2008, 09:13 AM
Here you go Mike. Dont listen to the haters....we are all in this togeather,. Without Contractors manufacturers and distributors are nothing. Without Distributors manufacturers and contractors have limeted options for purchasing. And without manufacturs Contractors have nothing to install and distributors have nothing to sell. We are all in this togeather. If I had room I would advertise every single Unique contractors logo because to us you guys are the reason we are here today.

Eden Lights
01-22-2008, 09:29 AM
Joey, Joey, did someone say hate? Yes, I agree we need manufacturers. Distributors, now that's debatable. When a lighting manufacturer spends the resources to be the brand that customers ask for, then I am all over it, but I don't see that happening. Lighting is more about the effect and the reliability of the system and less about the brand.

Mike M
01-22-2008, 09:52 AM
Eden:

Aristotle said what I feel, two thousand years, BC: Man is a social animal by nature. I'm selecting a team of reliable people for commerce. Shared visions & clearly defined values, consistent with every product they create and represent.

Call me old fashioned, but a genuine, meaningful handshake is worth more to me than any written contract or receipt.

I think James captures what I mean, when he describes his old friends and associations with companies like Nightscaping, and his distributor. His loyal relations with "people" at those places allows for an immediate pipeline to design ideas, needs of the installer, quick responses, support, and solutions.

Eden Lights
01-22-2008, 10:01 AM
Back to the topic of the OP. Licensing is coming and you should prepare yourself or risk losing everything. I would really like to post more on this topic, but it should be in a private forum I think.

JoeyD
01-22-2008, 10:01 AM
Eddie, no one said "hate" its a phrase commonly used to refer to those trying talk down on something you believe in. It was bad attempt at humor. I forgot my emoticon!

And I do agree about lighting being about the effect and reliability but to say that it is not about that brand is kind of in my opinion wrong. A good brand name states quality.....at some point homeowners will be more savy to outdoor lighting and we hope they will recognize the Unique Lighting name as quality. Just like when you go to buy a nice quality watch you go and ask to try on the Rolex, not the shiney reliable wrist clock...........make sense........I think you all should be marketing yourselves, we teach this all the time. But dont be afraid to aline yourself with companies who have the same goals of quality as you.

To use the same anology, if I made a living servicing watches and I was a certified or I was trained by Rolex to service their watches I would absolutly advertise this! I would have Rolex on every piece of marketing material I have. Obviously it would be below my own logo but I would want the public to know that hey I deal with the best and service the best and I was educated with the best and becuase of that you can count on me to uphold the high quality standards that they do.

Eden Lights
01-22-2008, 11:27 AM
I agree Joey, so maybe some adds in Architectural Digest, Garden Design, and maybe cap it off with a sponsership to a major golf tournament. Hey the superbowl is coming up, but I am sure it is too late for that. Clients should say: Subzero, Viking, Lutron, Rolex, Mercedes, and UNIQUE all in the same breath.

JoeyD
01-22-2008, 11:37 AM
Now your thinking!!! LOL......Thats the goal! Fortune 500 baby! You have to start somewhere.

Eden Lights
01-22-2008, 12:04 PM
Here in lies the problem with contractors selling equipment. OLP has already done a multi-page spread in AD and they are at the bottom when it comes to fixture costs and features. Selling landscape lighting at the designer/contractor level is all about selling yourself and your designs. But!!!!!! within that the system must work and last or you lose all your creditability and you can no longer sell yourself. We really should move this to a new thread?

Eden Lights
01-22-2008, 12:17 PM
Sub-Zero did 57M last year. If you figure about 5k wholesale price per unit in each home, that comes out to about 11,400 homes. Ok I don't know any Landscape Lighting manuf. doing any major brand building advertising, but I am sure several do these same kind of numbers? Why not?????????????

NightScenes
01-22-2008, 01:15 PM
Certification testing is going on as we speak at the AOLP certification and conference in Scottsdale, AZ. There are 9 new takers and 4 re-takes this year. I think it all has to start somewhere, and certification by a non-profit, contractor based association is a good place to start. This certification is not just handed out by a manufacture that you just paid (or not) a fee to for a one or two day seminar. This is a true written test and a true hands on test together and takes about 5 hours in all to complete.

Mike M
01-22-2008, 07:46 PM
I forgot my emoticon --Joey:nono:

irrig8r
01-22-2008, 08:40 PM
<snip> Greg is helping sell a music distributor and the remaining members of the Grateful Dead. <snip>

Ouch.. I resemble that remark!

I think I'll have to change my musical affiliation to something more obscure and no longer for that most disorganized of organizations, and that tribe of followers to which I once belonged...

But of course you're right. This is just Lawnsite. Not the real world... :p: