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Smart Lighting for a Healthier Future with John Fox
Episode 3510th May 2022 • Construction Disruption • Isaiah Industries
00:00:00 01:04:33

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Our guest John Fox is a lighting industry veteran with 30 years of experience and two companies in the space, Fox and Fox Design and Ascenti Lighting. Working on residential and commercial products, John and his team have created many unique and challenging lighting solutions for an impressive array of customers. As technology has improved, home automation systems and lighting integration are increasingly popular. Along with these discoveries, science has proven that indoor lighting affects our circadian rhythm and sleep quality. Ascenti has pioneered a new LED that shifts from blue light in the daytime to a softer color at night, saving eyes and sleep habits.

 

For more information on custom lighting for your home, visit ascentilighting.com, or for your business, visit foxandfoxdesign.com.

 

Episodes are sponsored and produced by Isaiah industries, a manufacturer of specialty metal roofing systems and other building materials. Learn more at isaiahindustries.com



This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

Podtrac - https://analytics.podtrac.com/privacy-policy-gdrp
Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

Transcripts

John Fox:

:

If I was to talk about disruption and the amount of automation that's coming, I mean, there's people out there that want to find a job that's fun and exciting and always different. You want to be in automation. You want to be in the home automation systems. You will have so much fun. You'll make six figures easily and you'll be traveling all over the world.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Welcome to the Construction Disruption podcast, where we uncover the future of building and remodeling. I'm Seth Heckaman of Isaiah Industries, manufacturer of specialty metal roofing and other building materials. And joining me today as co-host is Ryan Bell. Our goal here at Construction Disruption is to provide timely and forward looking information regarding the construction world. As part of that, we look at new innovations as well as trends in practices, building materials, the labor market, and leadership. Today we are delving into the world of lighting science. Lighting that is healthy and conducive to good living is increasingly becoming an important goal with commercial buildings and also higher-end homes. To that end, our guest today is lighting design futurist John Fox, president of Fox and Fox Design, and also Ascenti Lighting. Trained in architectural engineering and electrical engineering, John is a well-recognized expert in the field of lighting design. Developing and fabricating custom light fixtures, utilizing the latest led technologies and controls, Ascenti has worked with such projects as the Freedom Tower in New York City, the Louis Vuitton store in the Las Vegas City Center, and many high-end residences as well as resorts and hospitality projects. Their own trademarked circadian-safe technology is designed with both blue and violet emission chips, negating the typical blue spike that can occur with LED lighting, which is known to negatively impact our circadian rhythms. So John, thank you so much for joining us today on Construction Disruption.

John Fox:

:

My pleasure. And thank you for having me on.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Absolutely. I look forward to learning from you today. So let's jump right in. Why lighting? What attracted to you this field and devoting your career to it?

John Fox:

:

Yeah, you know, we my wife and I are just celebrating 30 years together. And we went to school together at the University of Kansas. Rock Chalk Jayhawk. I think our daughter is going to be going there in the fall. So we're very excited to extend that, that tradition in our family. So she'll be doing some sort of art program and music and jazz, so excited to be see more Jayhawks materials and, you know, logos walking around our house again. But you know why lighting? You know, my wife and I, we graduated 30 years ago. We kind of fell in love with the ability to marry the technology of of something high engineering, as well as the artistic element, how to apply that artistically. And we were taught with some really great instructors over the time where you learn to almost paint with light and once you realize that you're able to paint with light and to really impact spaces. You can make good architecture look great and you can make great architecture look amazing. And so lighting has just been something that we've been, we fell in love with early on in our education. And then we've been doing it ever since.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Very cool. March is a big time of year for a Kansas Jayhawks fan.

John Fox:

:

We blew out Texas Southern yesterday. A 27 point game at the end. It was like Basketball 101 class.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Sure, neat. That's an interesting perspective. Marrying that kind of left brain, right brain of art and engineering. Sounds like your daughter may be in that same vein of a jazz musician. That's kind of the the whole brain genre of music, too. So that's very cool.

John Fox:

:

Absolutely. No, she's amazing.

Seth Heckaman:

:

What does she play?

John Fox:

:

She plays the tenor sax and then she's got some great teachers and just having a lot of fun. And and we had the post her KU. When you when you go to auditions, you have to post them on online. So they're actually on YouTube now so people can actually go see our auditions if they wanted do.

Seth Heckaman:

:

We'll look her up later for sure. Well, so back to lighting. Help us understand, you've done a lot of work with this circadian-safe technology you've developed and the impact of LEDs on our circadian rhythm. So help us understand the negative influence that these bluish LED lights can have on our circadian cycle and sleep patterns.

John Fox:

:

Yeah, no problem. It's one of my favorite subjects. I did a lecture tour that took me all the way to Europe to talk about it. I think at the time it was called Your LEDs are Poking You in the Ganglion Cells, which is a part of the eye that is very sensitive to blue light. And, you know, we even learned more. I mean, that was a number of years ago. But we continue to learn more about the technologies that are out there, but also have learned more about the eye since then. But know, one of the things I would point out is that blue light really isn't damaging to us. It's really the question is, when are you exposing yourself to this blue light? During the daytime you actually can't get enough blue light typically in in your eyes unless you spend almost the entire day outside. So in one of the elements we have, being the fact that most people work indoors and work within, you know, underneath roofs and in spaces. It's really hard to get the amount of blue light that you need. So one of the things we talk about is just learning and understanding sort of the cycle of that. And so when you say, well, what does that mean for blue light? What is how do you get that? Well, you actually can't put enough lights in a room to get blue light when you need it. So throughout the day cycle from 10 a.m. to sunset, roughly you need to have a super exposure to blue light. And they found out that you can really get away with about an hour worth of blue light if you went outside to reset your cycle, reset your circadian rhythm. Your internal circadian rhythm is actually a 23-hour clock, not a 24-hour clock. So it actually runs, but you want to reset it every day. And so that's why if you when you go to, let's say, travel, you get on an airplane, you travel to Japan, you'll notice that you have to take some time to get adjusted to that. That's your circadian rhythm, adjusting for the fact that, well, it's even more than the 23-hour clock difference because your body can adjust throughout the year. When we see the sun goes down sooner throughout the evenings, you see it's dark at 5 instead of 10. So your body adjusts that naturally. So your body is very flexible in those senses. But the problem is long-term. So how does how do you how is your lifestyle affecting you long-term? Are you spending enough time outside and you go, oh, you know, if I go out, I can do that when I'm, you know, next week or next, you know, tomorrow or, you know, I can get more daylight when I retire, you know, whatever. But the truth is, is that, you know, it's the exposure of blue light at the right times of day for a lifetime that really will actually determine whether or not you are susceptible to Alzheimer's, brain degradation, and memory loss and things like that. So there's a lot of white papers, a lot of research being done to prove that there's a lot of people that already believe that, like I do. And so I think there's going to be I think you're going to see a shift in the way people operate once they understand that, hey, being indoors all the time actually isn't good. And it doesn't matter how much blue light you get in during the day, you can't get enough unless you go outside. And so that's an important element. But once the sun goes down, once you are supposed to have no exposure to light, minimal, especially light that's above the horizon, you can actually, in fact, in fact, change the way you sleep and how much melatonin is going to be produced, whether or not you actually produce any melatonin to fall asleep. I don't know about you guys, but I work til I pass out. I work all day. I work all night. And then eventually I go to bed. So it's actually really bad. What you really need to do is fall asleep naturally. And if you just go and you pass out, what actually happens is you're actually skipping a number of steps in your sleep cycle that you're missing, because what ends up happening is you're not actually sleeping due to melatonin making you sleepy. So what happens is when melatonin, you have two restrictors in your brain that's producing either cortisol or it's producing melatonin. And blue light is the mechanism for that control. So you either have an on or you have an off. So if there's blue light around, you don't need a whole bunch to keep the melatonin squeezed off. So you got that. You know, you're basically squeezing off the hose to say, no, no, no, melatonin. There's light around, there's blue light. So we'll keep that melatonin and let's open up that hose for cortisol and keep you awake and keep you active. But eventually the sun goes down and the body goes, Oh, I think the sun's down. I think it's time to open up that melatonin so you can start to get sleepy. Now, you notice that if you sit around, if you go camping, it happens naturally because you don't have any cameras around, you don't have lights and you're not inside of a building. Notice how, almost within a couple of maybe in one night, maybe two nights. You fall asleep naturally, man I'm so tired. I'm just going to go to bed now, you know, after this, sitting around the fireplace, you know, making s'mores and things like that, which we love to do, but you fall in that natural rhythm pretty easily. And we just because we're so technically advanced as a culture and society, we can turn on our own lights and we can keep ourselves awake and we can we change our our sleep cycles pretty easily. What we want to do in a residential application is make the home as Earth-centric is possible. So what does that mean? What does it mean when you say circadian rhythms? What do you mean that when you change the light? Well, that means we have to have control of all the lighting in the home and it needs to be automated. It needs to be in a way where you go, I hit one button, it says I'm home and it does whatever is going to be required for them at that time. So you're going to see things like in the high-end homes that we do this where maybe after everybody's asleep. One example would be one thing that you don't want to do is flip on the lights in the bathroom. You don't want to go in and go flip on the lights because the amount of brightness and the duration of brightness will determine whether or not you're going to open up or start producing cortisol or not. So what you want to do is you don't want to start opening that hose for cortisol. You want to be able to stay sleepy right? I don't know what you guys do, but I actually let the moonlight in my window open and I just try to just figure out where I'm going, I don't flip on for any lights. Because if I do, you can hurt your eyes. You can start to see you're starting to wake up. You're like, Oh turn that light off, quick, quick, quick. Just so you don't interrupt yourself. And so what we want to do is automate that. And so we actually we will use a special lights solutions underneath toe-kicks, underneath sinks, under anything that's below the horizon. And we'll carve out all light except for maybe a monochromatic scenario like, well, maybe just go to an amber led. Depending on the client's wishes. Because if you do amber you can actually get a monochromatic. So it's only produces one wavelength very similar to the way that the guys that are in submarines work under red lights. You know, you'll see that in the movies. They flip on a red light so their eyes are adjusted, but they can still see. But we don't want to light up everything. We just want to light your walkways. We want enough light so you can see the sink to flip it on. And you can do that with any color, really. You can actually do it with blue if you wanted to, you know, play on the edge. And so as long as it's below the horizon, the photo ganglion cells are actually on the bottom side of your eye. And there's only about 10,000 of them that are in your eye. You have, I think, a trillion receptors in your eye. So when you only have 10,000 of them, they're kind of looking for this special scenario of sunlight going up. You can actually trick the eye and say, okay, there's no light here. And if you notice when you're sitting around the fireplace or sit around this campfire, you still get sleepy. Well, that's light and it can be pretty bright. But the issue is really it's not very bright and it actually doesn't have much blue in it. And so in this blue horizon, all those things are features. And that allows you to say, look, I can stand in a fire and then I'll get tired. That's light. Well, that's true. But there's factors and the reason why it's not keeping you up. And so whether or not it was fate or just happenstance, all LEDs, 90% plus of all LEDs have a spike right at the same photosensitive receptor of the photo ganglion cells we talked about. They both are at the same wavelength, 460 nanometers roughly. And so you can actually use that LED to your benefit when you can during the day. And then what we do is we have a we use a violet chip. He was mentioning that earlier. We have a violet chip and we mix those two LEDs. So violet chips are much more expensive because they're basically using a near-UV LED, and then carving out the light at that color temperature of 460 so that there's less light than a typical LCD. So you shift those two things. You actually keep the color temperature fairly the same CRI. All those things don't change, but we change the color and purpose. So it'll be during the daytime a higher color, people will call it cooler. People might say it's more daylight. So think 4000 to 5000 degrees, 5000 Kelvin. And then when you dim it down, you know, typically when you had dimmers prior to LEDs, they got warmer. Remember those those halogen even the regular lamps, as you dim it down they get warmer. Well that's that's 1800 K, that's 1400 K, 2700 K, those warmer colors. So we actually build that into our LEDs. So we have an LED that's 2700 or maybe 2400 to 5000, and it shifts naturally from one to the other, but it also shifts the technology. So it has a blue spike at the cooler temperature and carves out that blue niche once we go to the warmer temperature. So we're really the only people that do that. Most people just go, Oh, we'll just use blue LEDs for both of them and it'll be close enough. But you know, my goal is to sort of be on the edge of technology and push it and be as ideal as possible.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Interesting.

John Fox:

:

Is that enough?

Ryan Bell:

:

That's fascinating.

John Fox:

:

Lots there. I mean, I just carved up an hour lecture into whatever 15 minutes.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Definitely fascinating and mind-opening to the whole science that goes behind what you're doing every day and is behind me flipping on a light switch in the middle of the night when I'm up. So that's, you know, very helpful. So really, it's not harmful saying that it's harmful blue LEDs isn't the right phrase.

John Fox:

:

Correct.

Seth Heckaman:

:

It's blue LEDs at a harmful time. You know, we need it during the day. We need to kind of be ratcheting back on exposure in the evenings. And so you're working with your clients or, you know, through your technology to manage that. Is that a good summation?

John Fox:

:

I think that's a great way to think of it. And I also think that there's a contingency of people selling product that would say, look, we can do a blue rich environment for you during the day or you can do it at work. You can do an application where it's bringing, you know, use high blue in an office application. I think that's fine. But the truth is, is that you still can't get enough light there. And particularly in California, where we have Title 24, where you restricted the amount of light, which is actually anti-human, to restrict the amount of light that's required for people to operate there. It was a requirement based off of the California's desire to produce and build fewer power plants. And so they said, what can we do? Well, we can reduce the amount of light that people need. And this may be controversial, but I know exactly how the process was done. You know, when the IES, the Illuminating Engineering Society, produced the standards for lighting, they basically did an actual what we call social studies. We brought in, they built rooms, they had people come in, hundreds of people come in of all different ages and diversity. So they can say, Okay, based off of our experience with people reading text and to be able to do certain operations, these are the light levels that are required. California cut all of that in half.

Ryan Bell:

:

Wow.

John Fox:

:

And they said, yeah, you can still see. Well, yeah, you can still see. That's not the question. The question is, is what's the right amount of light. And the studies are already done. And so to see California do that, we have a contingency of people that recognized that that was all due to being an energy efficiency requirement and has nothing to do with being human. And now we're coming back and saying, Well, what could be the right answer? Now that we have much more efficient LEDs, much more ability to control color. You know, and I think there's going to be a shift back to being a human-centric solution. So I really hope that's the case and I'm going to be an advocate for that. I would love to have this be promoted to the right people so people can see it and understand that.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Yeah. For those that don't know, Title 24 is the energy code in California that affects pretty much all segments of building products. We deal with it with energy efficiency, solar reflectivity, and other requirements on roofing products and it obviously relates to lighting as well. But definitely something that's going to continue disrupting the industry because most people are pointing to Title 24 as a use case for every other area of the country adopting their own versions of it. So some of the challenges that come when trying to standardize and define what's best and healthy for all of us, taking all factors into consideration.

John Fox:

:

So yeah, Title 24 has never been about health and so it's always been about the environment and I think that's fine, that's great. We can do those things. But you have to bring the human element into it. And there are certain things that you would do differently if if you knew and we paid more attention to. So I appreciate Title 24, but I think the wellness standards, you know, from WELL building, you can go online and go look up WELL building standards, you're going to see a much more human-centric solution to building standards. And I think more and more people are becoming, you know, aware of WELL building technologies and approaches so that you don't just try to save the environment. You try to make people healthy.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Sure. Surprise, surprise. It's a multivariable conversation.

John Fox:

:

If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Yeah, exactly. So obviously something you've spent 30 years learning everything you can about and are incredibly passionate about. Tell us how this and expertise and interest is playing out in your companies Fox and Fox designs and Ascenti Lighting and what both of those companies are working on today.

John Fox:

:

So Fox and Fox design is a design firm. So we get hired by architects and interior designers and developers to help create a solution for a project. And my interest is really geared towards beauty. I like to be able to solve problems that require an aesthetic and, you know, a creative element to it. And not to say that my wife is also in the industry, but she does mostly schools, K-12, social work. And it's beautiful work, but it's a different sort of creative requirement. There's a lot more linear products, you know, you're dealing with a lot more linear codes or lighting requirements for students in classrooms and hallways and corridors and things. Whereas for when I do residential and hospitality, the light levels are much, much less. And you're trying to be as creative as possible with integration. And then the costs are different. You know, your budgets to do these kinds of things are a little higher. And so I maybe it's because of just my sort of my exposure, but we've narrowed it down to those kinds of projects over the years. And so Fox and Fox is really geared towards hospitality and design and residential and hospitals and things where, you know, technical element of life is sort of critical. And then Ascenti Lighting was born. And in 2006, it was originally called Rea Products, but we, we rebranded it more recently, I think in 2018. And it was really based off of the I've been doing a lot of custom work ever since I started. My wife and I actually were overseas a number of years, nation-building for the Sultan of Brunei. So we were in Asia living and we probably specified 2 or $3 billion worth of lighting while we were there. We livlite everything from roadways to convention centers to homes to conference centers to, you know, resorts. Anything you can think of that a city or country would need, we were the sole lighting designers for, and so there was a lot of work going into that and a lot of custom elements that went into those things. And when we came back to the States, we had this vast knowledge that we didn't have before and what custom work that turns out to be something that because of my industrial design background and school, I studied under Victor Papanek, who is a world famous industrial designer, and he actually worked directly for Frank Lloyd Wright. When he was a kid, he had to lie. This is a great story. He had to lie and say he was 16 when he was 14. Because back in Chicago, back then, you had to be 16 to work because of child labor laws. So even though he was only 14, he had lied to Frank directly. How old are you? I'm 16. He goes, Alright, you can go. So anyway, Victor became famous in his own right after that. And industrial design has been something that I've always been passionate about. And so that's what custom lighting design is. It's marrying industrial design with your skills in lighting. And so it was a good match for me because there's nothing I really need to learn about lighting at this point. It's more of how can I apply it and make it interesting and make it beautiful? It was a really great story and how we started, Ascenti was being asked to help or Fox and Fox had been asked to help with a Louis Vuitton project in Vegas, and it's a great project still there today. And it was we were going to do the interior and exterior. We got paid $75,000 to develop a design for the exterior of this building. We did full on drawings, you know, sets of drawings to go out and get bids for lighting manufacturers. And I had three no bids. Nobody wanted to do it. They all said it was impossible. And I said, or every one of them said, you know, we could do it, but we're too busy, you know, so too much work. And I was really frustrated with that because not only did I know it was not impossible, but I and this the director of architecture for Louis Vuitton is a good friend of mine. We actually worked in Brunei together. And I didn't want to let him down. So I basically said, look, I'm going to sign a non-disclosure agreement with with one of the manufacturers and I'm going to help them build it. So I, I started Rea products to build Louis Vuitton. And it's really also the concept of don't tell me it can't be done. That's really what it's been. And that's really how Ascenti's been built ever since. If you said it can't be done, give us a call. You know, that's usually how we get these jobs. And we've done so many crazy kinds of work that that has nothing to do with just lighting. It has a lighting element always, typically. But, you know, things do, you know, take photography shots better for selling points, you know, all kinds of things that are just insane. You know, robotics incorporated into it. A lot of video. So it's it's been a technical kind of company, but it just specializes in lighting.

Seth Heckaman:

:

So Ascenti is working on things with manufacturers like what you described earlier of scooping the spectrum here or boosting it here and making those tweaks to fit the exact need you're trying to accomplish on a project is that right?

John Fox:

:

Yeah, color could be a big element to it, but it might be, you know, because of the way that we build things, you know, there's giant chandeliers that are, you know, eight foot diameter that no one else wants to do. And it's outdoor, you know, and it's hung by four columns in the middle of a walkway and no one else wanted to touch it. So we said, well, we can do that. And so we built these giant rings. They're actually in Philadelphia in the Philadelphia area. And then, you know, we would do we did a chandelier, which is on our website for GSK. GSK is Glasgow, Smith and Klein. They worked on, they helped build the COVID, you know, testing equipment and things like that. And they're a big pharmaceutical. And they wanted to do a giant double helix through a triple height space in one of their factories. And it was 80 feet long. And how do you do that? How do you make that? So it looks like it's floating and kind of kind of loose into the space. And so we engineered a solution that, you know, even my own team didn't think was possible. They're like, I can't do it that way, but yeah, we can. And so I took time to even convince my own engineers that it was possible they had to do all this testing. You know, we had to do three mock ups. One of them, the mock ups is full scale. It's in our in our warehouse, lit up, looks cool just out. So we had an extra one, might as well hang it. But again, you know, the what we got from our customer was a sketch. It was literally just a rendering of some two lights of two things, a light going through and all of it. You know, it wasn't done in 3D. It was just an elevation saying, Can you do that? And I'm like, Yeah, yeah, we can do that.

John Fox:

:

Year later. Now, it was like a nine month process, but I thrive off of that. I mean, if I had to do and no offense to my wife, but if I had to do schools all day long, I would have a hard time. I really like challenges that are different. And I like, you know, I'm waiting for someone to call me and go, hey, I want to do a car. Awesome. All right, let's do it. So, you know, I'll probably have to do it to my cybertruck.

Seth Heckaman:

:

So do you have one on order?

John Fox:

:

So, yeah, I'm first. I was at Battery Day listening and the way it worked is that Battery Day ended, screen went black, and then a sign came up and says, reserve yours now. And so I just clicked that and filled all the form. So I'm not first, but I'm pretty damn close. We'll see.

Seth Heckaman:

:

That's awesome.

John Fox:

:

It'll be fun to have. We'll plaster it with Ascenti Lighting stuff and we'll take it to the trade shows and it'll be fun.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Well, that don't tell me it can't be done attitude is what we need more of to innovate and disrupt. So, I admire that. And it's inspiring to hear those stories about what you're working on and pushing the envelope. So, you know, so this is how you're interacting with industry on these passions and all that you're learning in terms of what we need from healthy lighting. If we were to walk into a home, that high-end residence that you've worked on, how would it look different? Would we tell that the lighting was was hued differently? Would we see different features? What what would that experience be like for us?

John Fox:

:

Well, we just submitted for awards and you'll get to see a lot of it is we just won awards for this project that we just finished. And we've got three more in in, you know, behind them ready to go that we'll be able to cement and finish. But the goal for the customer is that they wouldn't have to touch any light sources like they wouldn't have to be able to control anything. They just come in, you know, they have one button that says home and then the house is automated, so you'll see some switches. They can turn things off if they want, they can override. So you'll see the switches and things like that. But what you'll notice is, they'll be a lot of integrated lights. We avoid down lights like it's the plague. I mean, you guys, some people call them, in the East Coast, they don't call them downlights. But, you know, it's all those ceilings, holes, you know, the ceilings that just oh, they call them cans.

Ryan Bell:

:

Can lights, yeah.

John Fox:

:

Can lights, yeah. So all those things we try to integrate into the space. And so you're going to see a lot more integrated under counters, you're gonna see a lot more toe-kicks, you're going to see them under beds, you going to see them under cabinets, you're going to see the decorative things. And they would actually be controlled too. But one of the things you will really notice is the fact that the light actually would have more than one source in the space. And I used to teach at the Fashion Institute of Design Merchandise. We call it FIDM here in California, and it's for interior design. It teaches mostly interior design, Fashion Institute Design Merchandise. So and there's an interior design program and I was teaching lighting there and I was teaching lighting one on one to a bunch of interior designers that were just fresh out of high school. So it's like, okay, how do you teach lighting to, you know, non-lighting people? And they're not lighting is not going to be their specialty. And so we came up with a phrase or an acronym called TADA, like Ta-duh! It's T-A-D-A. So that stood for four different things, task, ambient, decorative, and accent. And my philosophy that we did for these students was if you can touch three of those four and explain them in your presentation to your lighting when you're trying to make a presentation to me about lighting design. Because you're going to do a project at the end of the year and you can talk about three of those four elements. At a minimum, you have potentially good lighting design, right. That's the whole point. So the idea is that, you don't just go in a room, put a bunch downlights in it and call it lighting design. We don't do that. You know, we all know where the art is. We want to know how it works. You know, typically, particularly now for me, being over 50 and having aging eyes and all those things, you need more lights and people don't put enough more lighting into the space. They just put brighter down lights which are more glaring, which if you start to get cataracts, you can't see them. You have to turn them off and you can't see it.It's just a cycle. So we solve those problems with uplights. We saw them built into wall washers. We build them into some integrated pieces that spread the light source out so that you don't have a brighter source, you have more sources. And then you work out, you know, sconces that are the right feel for the space, but not too bleary. And and then you integrate for nighttime, because you definitely don't want to have lights overhead at night. So how do you get the space to be functional, can you still work and have dinner and you know, have friends over and things like that where you can still reduce the light level but you know, don't have it not having everything lit up from above. So I think that's you would you'd have to understand a little bit more about light to know the difference. But you would say, you would look at the space and go, wow, this is really well lit or really cool. And, you know, everything's got to everything seems to have been lit where it's supposed to be because the art is lit when you have art pieces actually lit itself, you know, so it takes some time and it takes some energy to do that properly. But we tell her we're doing a house right now where there's no down lights in the entire house, 3000 square foot home with not a single downlight, it's actually my interior designer insisting on it. She's like, I don't want any downlights in her at all. I'm like, Come on, we've got to have a few. Just a few. Where's the art going to be? She's like, we're not going to do any art. I'm like no, no, no, you're going to do some art. I mean, this is not we know there's art in this house, but there is not much. And so everything's integrated, built into, they have backlit stone, they have backlit countertops. They've got shelves that are going to have all the knickknacks and the shelves. And there's going to be a wall where all all the family art is. And they really don't want to do downlights in the whole house. And I'm like, yes, it's possible, it's doable, but let me put a couple in because it really adds to the pop and space. If you like the right thing, people will see it. And we did it. My first house, my very first design, we started Fox and Fox 2002. So we're now talking 20 years ago. It's actually a neighbor of ours and they've pulled out this beautiful green sculpture of a of a of a bird that they had. And he goes, I'm going to light this up. I'm like, Perfect, where do you want it? And we said, Well, I want as soon as you walk in the entry. And so we had when you walk into this house, you know, it was the angle of that light was so perfect that it produced no shadow on the wall, no shadow on the the pedestal. And it was just this perfect, beautiful light. And every time you walk in, it just pops. And that was really, you know, that was that was something that was important 20 years ago. So it's still important today.

Seth Heckaman:

:

A lot more of intention going into it than just putting a giant light fixture in the middle of the ceiling and calling it good.

John Fox:

:

Not only that, but you put one light in the middle, but you put a fan on it. So it's all one, all three things in one.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Right, yeah. So how does that you're, you know, this is where your placing the art, this is where your cabinet's going to be or dresser and etc.. So how does that process work for someone like my wife that likes to rearrange the living room every few months?

John Fox:

:

Well, furniture we don't we try not to marry furniture that much and so furniture can move around. Typically, one of the ways that I solve that problem is every fixture is actually adjustable. And so what you'll see in most cans in most homes, particularly spec homes, is basically a disc. But kind of something like this where you just it just produces a lot of light and it just glows. It doesn't do anything. I've got a fixture here. You'll find this in most residential lighting designers. So I'm not the only one. So most lighting designers are aware of these kind of concerns, and they address this pretty much the same way. But here's a fixture that is a puck light. Now we developed this as the only puck light. It goes into cabinets. You can see it's pretty shallow. You cut a hole, you pop it into the hole and it holds it in place, right? This goes in the under cabinets and things like that. But what's unique about this one is, first of all, it's got a deep recess. So the LED is actually pretty deep in there. So as you rotate away, you actually don't because you lose brightness, right. But here's the other element. So adjustable, so we can point it where we want on the shelf or in space. And we got this all the way up to five inch. This is the three inch. There's a four inch. And so this is an adjustable fixture for doing these kinds of things. And we put the light where we want it. So the the critical element is to recognize that people definitely want to move things around. And how do you build for that in the future?

Seth Heckaman:

:

There's so much of, it sounds like so much that goes into this design is understanding your customer and understanding how they're going to use the space and live in the space. So what in selling, salesperson world, we call that needs analysis and consultative selling. So what are your best practices for having those conversations and really unearthing what the ideal solution is going to be for your clients?

John Fox:

:

Time, you know, you really spend time with the client and you have to be able to have them be able to communicate some of the things that may or may not be something that they even know how to ask or even know how to. So you kind of have to pull it out. And it's a delicate process. We try not to come in with a solution right away and say, here, this is the answer and this is how we do it. We really want to present sort of, this is how we're approaching it and these are the ways we want to see these things and then let them take some ownership of the decisions. But there's sort of the the philosophy of there's a great book that's out that talks about that sales technique. And it's called Getting Naked, and the idea is to be vulnerable as a salesperson is to learn how to be vulnerable. I'll send you the link of the book. It's a great book. My wife's executive training class just took it and I bought it just so I can have it. And it's really about if you come in with a solution and you're the expert, right? Because I am an expert, right. But if you come in and say, okay, this is the right answer, this is how we do it, and you don't let them sort of catch up or even have questions or even have any buy in. What they do. If you fail in any way, it looks, it's disparaging on you, right. You're well, you're not the expert you thought you were or you say you were. And the truth is that all that changed was you. You said this is the right answer. And what you want to be able to do is say, Hey, we want to get the right answer for you. How do, we let's see if we can solve this problem. And they may come back and say, hey, we didn't really like this one. Okay, what can we fix? You know, there's this belief that we can solve those problems together. And that process is huge. So I would I I've been encouraging people to read this book ever since we read it. But it's a phenomenal book, you see if I can pull it up while we're talking. But yeah, Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni. But look it up, it's a great book.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Definitely wil and it's so important. I love that you started off with time. You know, we we try to crank through all the tasks that we have on a given day. But, you know, if you do take that time, if you go through that process, you're going to come up with a better solution where everyone's going to be more satisfied at the end of the project and you get to charge more for your services. Good selling means you know, some some margin. So it's, you know, there's houses being built without thousands of dollars being invested on lighting design. But if you walk through that process with someone and help them understand how you can make their life better, they're going to see value there.

John Fox:

:

Yeah, I can't stand spec homes anymore. It just it boils me when I see them and you've got Home Depot lights, which are just the flat. They're called pancake lights and they're just everywhere. Just pancake lights everywhere. It is just, you know, they take good photography because it's all lit up and it looks great in the photo. But I just I can't even be in these rooms, it just hurts me.

Ryan Bell:

:

Well, I got to tell you, my mind is just turning as you're talking and I'm going through the upstairs of my house. Like, what? What can we do? Like, I'm ready to change our lighting.

John Fox:

:

I'll give you a great example of that. I had a great project, great client, so open to ideas and you know, we would kick around things together. We're doing the whole house and we're changing, you know, we're doing all that. We're applying a lot of the technology and ideas that we have here. And the wife of this guy insisted that she do the bedroom. Like she's an interior designer, I want to do it the way I want to do it. And you're not going to use your dumb fixtures. You don't know what you're talking about. I'm like, Alright, hey, I don't have to do any of this. I can walk away today. He's like, No, you get back here. So, you know, I don't want to get the drama. So anyway, she says, I'm going to do this room and I'm like, Alright, but don't use the technology we're doing. Don't you know, don't use the fixtures we're specifying. Don't use any of the technology that we have. We'll let you do the room the way that you like it. After they're done, she came up and admitted that the only room that she doesn't like is the bedroom, the one that she did. And I think it was a testament to the idea that it was a failure on my part because I couldn't convince her in a conversation that the husband was, he was on board. But I couldn't talk to her in a way that made her feel comfortable about what I did. And that's unfortunate. I wish I could have solved that problem differently. They're super happy with me. We're still good friends. But it was it was interesting to have that experience where like, look, you don't need me. Anybody can do this. That's fine. But to have her own up to it and say, Actually, I don't like the way, I like yours better was interesting. And I felt bad because I didn't know how else to deal with that problem. But that was a little intimate. That's the Getting Naked part of that book.

Seth Heckaman:

:

I know that 3D printing. Switching gears a little bit, 3D printing is another interest of yours, and that has been something that we've talked about here on the podcast some in regards to 3D printing of entire homes. So does that overlap with all of this that we're talking about?

John Fox:

:

Absolutely.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Okay. How so?

John Fox:

:

So? We are, I am a huge 3D printing fan and we used 3D printing literally yesterday. We use it almost every day for prototyping and for parts that need to be done in in the field. So we have an SLA printer from Formlabs. It's a production style printer where you can actually produce things that you can use in the real world. And so we produce parts that are, you know, clips or mounting or cover plates, things like that, that are actually painted and used in the final product and shipped to the site. So it's been phenomenal as far as the utility of it is because the parts that we would need to have built would have needed a sand casting. Or machines, 3D printed 3D CNC machine parts. Now we can produce it without metal. In this case, we don't need it to be metal. So we 3D print it and it's a finished product when it's done. So we use it all the time. I have a secret plan to produce a entire company that does just 3D printed lighting products. Not so secret now, I guess, but no one really knows how what it means. So but we're going to I think we could change the entire market of one of these industries significantly that we would just take up most of the market share. So I just need a couple of million dollars for that.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Super cool. How yeah, how neat, a new technology like that. Just further equipping and supporting and letting your creativity run wild all the more when you can go out back and make it up yourself rather than going to someone and convincing them to get tooled up for it.

John Fox:

:

Yeah, we did. We did some initial studies on 3D-printed finished products and we can cut the BOM, the bill of materials, to build the fixture by a third. So if it needs 100 parts to build a fixture, we can do it in 30 parts. And that's where you save money and time and assembly. And so we really think that's our future. Then I want to be part of that. And again, you talk about disrupting. That's a major disruptor. I want my factory floor to have 30 3D printers running 24 hours a day producing product for the world. So that's our goal.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Awesome. Look forward to watching that coming to fruition here moving forward. But you mentioned earlier, I wanted to ask you about, you know, on the residential side wanting all the lighting to be automated. Something that we're starting to hear more and more about are these smart home systems. Is that getting tied into a greater automation system for the entire home? And what have you seen being on the leading edge of that? And what do you foresee coming on down the pike?

John Fox:

:

There are so many cool ways to do automation now. And I'm enjoying playing with all these different technologies. So we have an app on the Apple store called Ascenti the basically marries some technology of controls that make it easy for you to use your phone to control some lights. Certainly we don't, I don't I can't do that with just the home quite yet with that app. But you theoretically could do almost the entire home where it just controls with your phone. There's a couple of companies that are really sort of leading the edge on that as far as trying to make it sort of user friendly and DIY and, you know, sort of something that people could do from from the home. Oso's, I can't remember it right. But he's going to be on my podcast in a week or so and he's got some brand new product that's that's wireless and helps with the automation and the circadian rhythm stuff. But right now, it's really, it's hard to do because the biggest problem is, is that you end up buying products from all these different companies. And each one has its own kind of its own ideas about what it's going to be for controls. And so to marry all of those technologies, you need a system that takes all those different inputs and then makes it so that it's easy. The UI is easy, like you just push a button, right? So what we found is by moving the whole house to DMX512, that's a theatrical protocol. There's ArtNet and there's Dali, D-A-L-I, all these different technologies that are trying to do the same thing, but they all have their own limitations. And so DMX allows us the flexibility to buy multiple manufacturers, develop it into the custom fixtures. You know, you can have it in your mirror or you can have it associated with the kitchen. You can have it associated with the downlights. And once you figure it out, once we did the research and found out, well, DMX is the easiest way to go, there's going to be more and more of that. And wireless is good, but I feel that wireless is going to be a sort of a, you know, a Diet Coke version of regular Coke. You know, it's going to be there, it'll always be there, but it'll always be the diet version. You know, when you want to do a full on controls, you don't want to just control the lighting, you want to control the the shades, you want to control your cameras for your security system. You control the gate, front gate, the back gate, you wanna control your garage doors. You want to control your hot tub. You want to control lights in your pool. You want to control your landscape lights. Yeah, there's a lot going on. And so that's why you see Crestron, you see Lutron, you see Vantage, you see you want to see Control4. And these are all home automation systems and you need a specialist for that. And that's why we partnered with a company called A Casa Life and we tackle those kind of jobs together because I'm just the lighting guy. He does everything else like integrators. And so those guys are if you find good integrators, they're worth their weight in gold. I mean, they're just I mean, you can call them up and go, Hey, I've got a problem with my television. And then you go, I've got a problem with my pool. You know, I've got I got a problem with my landscape lights. You know, it's just one guy, you can call. And so those guys are worth their weight in gold. And there's just not enough of them in the world. They're all buried. They're all too busy. And so if I was to talk about disruption and the amount of automation that's coming, like I'm going to be encouraging my own kids, you know, I mean, there's people out there that want to find a job that's fun and exciting and always different. You want to be in automation, you want to be in the home automation systems, you want to learn about Crestron, you want to be an expert, get certified. You will have so much fun, you'll make six figures easily and you'll be traveling all over the world. So how's that for a sales pitch?

Seth Heckaman:

:

That's what I was looking for. So it's going to be big business. Yeah, I had enough trouble connecting my one grill to my wireless router. So having another 80 things in the house to take care of that need, you know, I'm definitely going to be outsourcing that someday.

John Fox:

:

Yeah.

Seth Heckaman:

:

So interesting.

John Fox:

:

We just finished a house where all the downlights. He has downlights and he has everything else, but every single light source in the room, and it's not a 3000 square foot house, every single source is color changing, even the downlights. And not only that, but every downlight is individually controlled. So you don't just flip on a light. I mean, you do because we program it that way. But we also can hit St Patrick's Day and all the lights turn green now and, you know, Christmas, they're red and green. You know, it's just it's yeah, it's unending options once you go to DMX.

Seth Heckaman:

:

So you obviously have your finger on the pulse of cutting-edge things. Any any other pitches or insights you have for our audience before we wrap up?

John Fox:

:

Be open to new things and find some people that want to help you achieve the goals that you have. Don't be married to the solution. You know, there's lots of ways to skin a cat. And so you might find out that, you know, you want to do it one way and then, you know, you're in the middle of the research. You find another way of solving that problem. So everything's got a budget, you know, there's people that don't have big budgets and there are people that have huge budgets and all these things are possible with different ways. And you just have to, you know, listen to the customer, listen to what they have in mind. But you also have to have the skills you have to have. You have to know those options. If you're going to be the expert, you've got to be the one that, you know that can throw those three or four options out there for based off a budget. So it's hard. I mean, like I said, if it was easy, I think everyone would do it. I think simpler the better, you know. And I think bringing these other technologies that make it simplified are going to be huge, huge game changers.

Seth Heckaman:

:

And don't say it can't be done.

John Fox:

:

Don't say it can't be done. Our other phrase is always be ascending. Now, Ascenti Lighting is really about moving upward and moving forward. And if you're not learning every day, you're dying every day. I mean, we talk about this that, you know, there's only two states of being in this universe. You're growing or you're dying. There is no status quo. There is no, you know, just not moving. You know, even this earth is dying. You know, this, you know, at one point this was all growing as a planet. But this universe or this excuse me, this galaxy. So everything is growing or it's dying. So always be ascending is is our other motto. So always be ascending.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Thank you so much, John. This has been an incredible conversation, getting close to the end of our time. One, how we like to wrap up our episodes is a little bit of a lighthearted note, let's us get to know you a little bit better, is our rapid-fire question round. So we do not reveal the questions ahead of time. They can range from serious to a little more silly. But you do have a choice. Are you willing to participate in taking on these questions?

John Fox:

:

Well, if you want to get naked, that's kind of the right answer. So, yeah, let's do it.

Seth Heckaman:

:

There we go. Got to be vulnerable and exposed. So Ryan and I will alternate here on these questions. Ryan, why don't you kick us off?

Ryan Bell:

:

All righty. What is the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?

John Fox:

:

That's easy. We went to an all-snake restaurant in Singapore. When I first moved to Asia, when we got hired, our boss wanted to surprise us and sort of shock us with sort of Asian culture. And he took us to an all-snake restaurant. So they opened up the little thing and they pull out two snakes and they would wrap it around their arm and it goes, This one or this one. I'm like, I don't know. So they skin it right in front of you, they chop it up, they go spicy, not spicy. They cut it all up and they serve with vegetables and they fry right in front of you in a wok and they serve it to you within 2 minutes after showing you the snake. So that would be. My wife would say her grasshoppers, but she had grasshopper.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Goodness, I'm an adventurous eater. But that may be that's a whole nother level. So that is an awesome story.

Ryan Bell:

:

Does it taste like chicken?

John Fox:

:

It does taste like chicken.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Here we go. Question number two, what is your favorite book other than Getting Naked?

John Fox:

:

If you're talking about something that's sort of you dive into that you get sort of wrapped into there's a book called The Tiger: A Story of of Vengeance and Survival written by Valiant. I forget his first name, but that's a great book and it's about Russian culture. Back in the day when you ever heard of the term the Russian roulette, where they take the gun and spin it, they actually did some research and there was actually another version of Russian roulette, which was they turned off all the lights and they shot at each other. And so they would shoot at each other with a 22, and they would be in a room and they were just bored. So they would turn off the lights, blow out the fireplace, put a bullet in their gun, and they'd fire on each other. Couldn't believe it completely. I mean, that's historical. So but this this book goes and ties into the culture of the jungle and the real tiger. It's about a real tiger that was a man-killer. And now the Russians went after it to go get it and stop it from killing more people. So great story.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Interesting.

Ryan Bell:

:

Do you have any hidden talents?

John Fox:

:

One of my favorite talents is that I'm a big smoker of meats. So I have a smoker the size of a small VW bus and I, I'll smoke four racks of ribs, two tri-tips, and a brisket for just for the week kind of thing. So I love smoking meats. It's just I love the challenge of something that takes 20 hours to do properly.

Seth Heckaman:

:

What is your favorite board game?

John Fox:

:

There's a board game that my my family likes to play. I like card games more. But the, we have one that we call Shanghai Rummy, where we kind of it's one that we invented a while ago. Our families, it's a family our generations play, three or four generations now. Plays Shanghai Rummy. It's a very unique game. But for board games, not a really big board game, I mean, I like chess. Is that a board game?

Speaker:

:

Yep.

Speaker:

:

Okay, chess.

Speaker:

:

There you go, that's a board game.

Speaker:

:

That would be my board game. There was the one. What's the one with the, all the hexagons that you play on the on the ground on the table.

Seth Heckaman:

:

That's Settlers.

John Fox:

:

Settlers of Catan, that's it.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Settlers of Catan, yeah.

John Fox:

:

Our family loves that. But I would say chess. I would play chess before I played Settlers.

Ryan Bell:

:

If you had a yacht, what would you name it?

John Fox:

:

Desdemona.

Ryan Bell:

:

Desdemona.

John Fox:

:

Desdemona. That's from a, I actually had an airplane at one time and her name was Desdemona. It is from a song by Jimmy Buffett called Desdemona is Building a Rocket Ship. It's about a woman who is very creative. She's maybe in a situation where she doesn't have a lot of money and she's trying to be creative with her son or her children. And she's building using cardboard and things, building a fake, make-believe rocket ship so that her son can go out and explore the world. And to me, that was, it was an intimate story and an intimate thing that I really hung on to as a kid, that song. And so I always associate discovery and exploration with that name. So I've named my Tesla is named Desdemona. So that gives you an idea. So it has to be Desdemona, too, or something? I don't know. But Desdemona, I just for some reason, like that name associated with adventure.

Ryan Bell:

:

Very cool.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Question number six. If you had to eat a crayon, what color would you choose?

John Fox:

:

Do they taste different? Do they all taste the same?

Ryan Bell:

:

I think that's up to you.

John Fox:

:

I'm going to assume they all taste like wax, so it won't matter. And then it would just be a matter of what color you want to see in your mouth. And I think if I'm going to eat a crayon, I might as well be a crazy color. So how about one of the blues? We'll pick anything close to 460 nanometers, and I'll just eat it.

Seth Heckaman:

:

Okay. Okay. I'll go home and find the 460-nanometer crayon. So I know what what color that is.

John Fox:

:

I'm not even sure that we could find one, but it's possible.

Ryan Bell:

:

I don't know. They make some pretty big boxes of crayons now.

John Fox:

:

That's true.

Ryan Bell:

:

Okay, moving on. Question number seven, what is the best advice you've ever received?

John Fox:

:

Well, one that that comes to mind, that's been, I've used multiple times for my own employees was when I got my first job. And I was his first employee, so he was an engineer, electrical engineering, San Diego. His name's Michael Wall. If you hear this, welcome Michael. But he told me something that I never forgot and that I was trying to do all of those things. I was like, you know, you hire somebody and you don't have anybody, any staff to help you. You're doing all of it right. You're running around, you're buying the stuff. You're you're on the computer, you're doing all these things. And I got stuck doing a lot of the drafting, a lot of the things that you could hire somebody else to do. Right. And and we ended up hiring a guy, a junior designer that was going to do the drafting for me. And I didn't like how slow he was or, he and I are good friends to this day. And but I wasn't really allowing him to do his job. And he said this. He said, be careful what you're good at. And what he meant by that was if you want to be the draftsman, you can be the draftsman. But then I'm going to have to hire someone else to be in charge of you. So you need to decide what you're going to do because you you can do all those things. I can be the guy I can go out in the warehouse right now and I can build the fixtures that I design. I can do the welding, I can do the assembly, I can do the cutting, I can do all those things. But is that really good for the company and is that really good for where I can be an asset to the growth of this company? And is that really where they want me? So the idea is be careful what you're good at. You can choose anywhere along the line, you know. But he said something that stuck with me for for a long time since.

Seth Heckaman:

:

John, thank you for all that you've shared and been willing to delve into today. Very much appreciate it and look forward to having future conversations just to catch up on all the new stuff you'll be working on six months from now. So obviously the type of guy you are, but if someone who's listening wanted to get in touch with you, what would be their best way to do so?

John Fox:

:

Well, you can reach out to foxandfoxdesign.com, which is our design firm and if you want any custom lighting solutions done you can reach out at ascentilighting.com. So those two company websites are there and you can see what we do. And there's a reach out email system through there.

John Fox:

:

Seth Heckaman: So Ascenti is for those listening, is A-S-C-E-N-T-I lighting.com. So thank you so much, John, again and thank you listeners for joining us for another episode of Construction Disruption. This one with John Fox of Fox and Fox Designs and Ascenti Lighting. So please watch for future episodes of our podcast. We have many more great guests on tap that we're looking forward to. And please, if you would, don't forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts or YouTube. Until then, change the world for someone, make them smile, encourage them. Two of the most powerful things we can do in our own way to have a good effect on the world around us. So thank you again. God bless and take care. This is Isaiah Industries signing off until the next episode of Construction Disruption.

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