Gold in, Gold Out: Mike Morneau of Dynamic Energy Services Discusses his Career as a Lighting Designer
Sept 25, 2019
Mike Morneau began his professional career in graphic arts after earning a Bachelor of Technology from Ryerson University. Working for several years in that industry he made the career change into lighting, taking a Fundamentals of Lighting course through his local IES (Illuminating Engineering Society) chapter in 2009.
“That got me hooked,” Morneau noted, he went back to Ryerson to do their continuing education program in Lighting Design and would go on from there to write his NCQLP LC (National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions – Lighting Certified) exam.
“It’s a bit of a family business, now,” said Morneau of his career shift into lighting, adding he didn’t initially plan on getting into the industry. Mike’s father, Tom Morneau, started Dynamic Energy Services in 1996, “he always worked hard and kept the business scaled around his resources,” explained Morneau.
“It’s an exciting industry to be in,” said Morneau of his career shift into lighting, “it’s in a really interesting and dynamic place right now with the LED revolution. That really forced everybody – all these well-established, entrenched corporations – to find a new place in a new industry. I think it’s really just the beginning, because what we’re seeing with lighting controls – and generally just the digitization of lighting systems – there’s so much opportunity for disruption, new offerings, and completely new businesses based off what these lighting control systems and lighting systems are able to do. I don’t think we’ve settled into a new normal, I think the new normal is going to be rapid technology advancement”
Morneau noted that’s also where the challenge lies in the industry, being in a transition type phase, “the industry was so well-established prior to this, I think that we’re still hung-up thinking about lighting in old terms,” he said. “Thinking about just finding a more efficient lamp for that socket, or a more efficient fixture to put in the ceiling, I think that really understanding what lighting controls, what LED lighting is capable of doing is really the biggest challenge, to everybody.”
In his opinion, the changing landscape puts an onus on those, like himself, who are immersed in the industry, “There’s a lot more we could be doing to educate people and bring them up to speed with what is possible with smart lighting,” he said, to ensure clients are aware of what’s available and how it can benefit their operation.
Dynamic Energy’s business is mostly focused on retrofits for existing buildings, “so, each project is going to be a little different.”
“An ideal project where we are involved from the ground level always begins with going in and completing a detailed audit of the facility. Lighting is all about the details, the details are what make and break these jobs, for us. Getting on site, gathering good detail is what helps us deliver a good project.”
Morneau said they like to operate with a ‘gold-in-gold-out’ philosophy, the better information they can gather from the facility, the better the project is going to turn out.
“Especially because we’re dealing with retrofits, a lot of times we’re stuck with existing conditions,” they’ll run into uncommon fixture placements and odd ceilings, for example, where as, if they were working with the initial architect, they could optimize the design and streamline the process much easier.
“In an existing building you can inherit some pretty interesting design challenges and getting good detail and understanding all of that upfront is what helps us step away from the crowd,” he said.
When LDS asked Mr. Morneau about the trends and technologies that are influencing what Dynamic Energy does, he referenced lighting controls as a major impact. “On a lot of our projects we’re implementing mixed wireless/wired control systems, sophisticated data collection and user interfaces – that, really, some of this technology just wasn’t being done and wasn’t possible when I started in the industry. Now, it’s becoming quite common place and we’re rolling out exciting control applications for a number of clients.”
“I did a lighting retrofit project as the lighting consultant and designer for a big performing arts venue. It was a big, cement, brutalist era concert hall. It was a little tired, the finishes and lighting were just out of date and needed a refresh. It was really exciting to see how the lighting and upgrading the control system in this place was able to really breathe new life into it and revitalize what was something that had faded to the background.”
Emerging Tech Trends
When Lighting Design & Specification asked Mr. Morneau about emerging technologies becoming more prominent in the industry, he singled out analytics. Control systems are collecting massive amounts of data that needs to be harnessed into actionable analytics. Improving functionality and efficiency beyond just the effectiveness of the lighting system. Mike noted that he has seen some interesting case studies, where retailers will use data to optimize their merchandising placement, for example, but the technology still needs to advance before its potential can be fully realized on a large scale.
“Everybody is talking about IoT (Internet of Things), I think the biggest challenge in the next 5-10 years is going to be integrating all of those systems, collecting that data, striping it out of those systems and figuring out what is actionable information,” and, ultimately, “finding opportunities to use that data. That’s going to be a big challenge and a big opportunity.”
As Mike alludes to, integrating the data collected by various IoT enabled systems with the data collected by smart lighting systems, will be a major step forward with respect to developing a complete analytic picture. “[Lighting systems] can cross over with security systems, emergency systems, and all kinds of different building systems. I think what’s missing is the integration piece and building systems that are smart enough to act on this data that its collecting.”
And that requires sophisticated algorithms and artificial intelligence, as the data collected by these systems is far too extensive to be analyzed manually.
“My dad’s been a huge mentor for me, I learned more from him, probably, than all of my courses put together. There’s nothing like working on a problem hands on, working with a mentor to try and figure something out, that learning experience is way above and beyond anything you can do studying in a course or working self directed.”
Working in a highly technical and nuanced industry like lighting, particularly one that constantly evolving, requires multiple avenues of learning. Morneau has had the benefit of working under his father, Tom, a well-established industry professional. That hands-on-problem-solving transferal of experience.
Dynamic Energy Services, Growing Dynamically
Dynamic Energy has 12 staff, working primarily with public sector clients. Their business is about an 80/20 split between public and private clients, Morneau noted. The majority of their work coming from municipalities, universities, hospitals, and condo retrofits. Lighting Design & Specification asked Mr. Morneau if there were any challenges unique to that sector. However, he explained that because he is so immersed in the public side, it’s difficult to say for certain. Although, he said, “I think the biggest challenge is educating our clients. Letting them know what’s possible, and getting out of that old paradigm – in the retrofit world, people are focused on pay-back most of the time – just trying to enlighten them and show them that saving more energy can actually be a better investment opportunity than simply doing the lowest cost and quickest return option.”
Morneau explained that there can be a high level of scrutiny and accountability in the public sector when it comes to financial elements, so they must be prudent to ensure they are getting their clients top value for their investment.
In terms of company growth, Morneau said their goal is to keep up with the demand they are seeing for their services and build their team as that demand dictates. No doubt, the company has come a long way since it was founded by Tom Morneau, and they’d like to continue that dynamic growth as the industry continues to evolve and advance technologically.
Blake Marchand is Assistant Editor, Kerrwil Electrical Group