Meet The Team: Angie Alvarado

It was Angie Alvarado’s experience in the lighting industry that caught SDLA’s eye, but it’s her passion for retrofit lighting that makes the two a perfect fit. Angie not only leads our Energy Sales department, but she is also a lead singer for a band called Eva’s Lyric. Angie loves kicking old lighting to the curb, just like her eight-year-old son loves kicking butt in karate. Eco-conscious lighting solutions and family are what fuels Angie’s mission, and her expertise fuels ours!

 Q: How did you get started in the lighting agency?

 AA: My story in lighting began 30 years ago after I served time in the Navy. My brother-in-law owned an electrical contracting firm in Los Angeles and brought me onto his team. Since then, I’ve done everything in lighting, from electrical contracting, electrical distribution, lighting manufacturing to owning my own agency. Innovative Lighting Solutions, Inc., was the brainchild of my passion for lighting and giving back to mother earth. I quickly became recognized as a lighting solutions provider for the lighting retrofit industry as I brought energy reduction solutions to the San Diego marketplace while trying to pioneer innovative technologies that have been successfully vetted and used in Europe & Asia for over 30 years, and in the USA for the last 10 years.

 Q: What attracted you to SDLA?

 AA: Once I started my own agency, I never imagined working for a big rep. My passion is fueled by energy reduction and that was an avenue large agencies just weren’t exploring at the time. In recent years, CA code has changed making energy-efficient lighting a requirement, and that’s where I come in. When Danny approached me about the opportunity to join SDLA to expand their retrofit business, I saw a great opportunity to have a big rep like SDLA support my mission by making it a priority and providing me with the training & support necessary in order to focus on the energy reduction Retrofit Market. I was taken aback at first, but then I realized the platform I’d have if we joined forces would be hard to ignore in the marketplace.

 Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

 AA: Everything is immediate in my line of the business. Once I explain to clients the thousands of dollars they can save by upgrading their lighting & controls, they want immediate action. My day is always filled with job walks, on-site audits and then providing the client with a quick turnkey solution. Whether I’m meeting with clients or taking utility courses or working with the lighting & controls teams, my day is at full capacity. The beauty of my role at SDLA is that I still get to work with some of my old clients- people I met along the way over the last 30 years. For example, one of my first clients was the Pechanga Casino. I upgraded their parking garage lighting 7 years ago, and sure enough, they happen to be one of my first big projects I’ll be working on here as an SDLA agent. 

 Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

 AA: My TEAM. Although most of my coworkers are younger than me, they are incredibly intelligent, competent people that are passionate about what they do but more importantly, they have an unending desire in getting educated on what they don’t know. This is a GREAT quality to have. They ALL truly care about what they do and are very responsive. At SDLA, there is no deadweight, everyone pulls their own and we have each other’s back.

 Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

 AA: The work ethic & team mentality. It starts at the top. All of the principals genuinely care about their employees and that resonates with everyone’s work ethic and dedication to their job. The principal’s offices are always open to their employees and questions are always welcomed. Even when there is a mistake, the principals use that as an opportunity for all of us to learn from, they instill an idea that we are all in this together. They are the core of the company and as a result, have built a phenomenal team that is the heartbeat of this organization. I’m happy with my decision and have no regrets, however, I am still waiting on my SDLA jacket!

Meet The Team: Will Laws

Submarine Veteran, newlywed, and now SDLA controls technician, Will Laws has a whirlwind story to tell! After growing up in the desert of San Diego and doing “desert things” like off-roading and motorcycling, Will is a hometown boy who loves everything San Diego has to offer. After getting married, Will landed a job with Acuity Brands, traveling throughout the West Coast, the airlines being his commute. For SDLA, Will has limited his region back to his hometown, traveling to different job sites, are you ready to meet the man behind the wheel?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

WL: I also came from the mothership, Acuity Brands. I had a background in network security management and started working with Acuity in October. I got my foot in the door because their manager was a former Navy Submariner like myself. I was working in region one, flying up and down the coast and I was on a project for Acuity when I met Danny. After receiving a great impression of SDLA from that project, I was excited to join the team when they offered me a job back in March 2018.

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

 WL: The job involves a lot of hands-on troubleshooting and that’s my favorite part. When walking through a site you have to go through the process and trust it. I work most closely with the electrical contractors and Foreman on the job so there is a lot of important relationship building in my day-to-day. Whenever I’m on the site I’m positive, productive and helpful. If there is an opportunity to train the foreman/lineman or share my insight, I jump at the opportunity because it keeps SDLA in their mind for future projects.

Q: Do you have a favorite/rewarding project that you’ve worked on?

WL: I had the chance to work on the Kaiser Permanente project when they were having trouble with their backnet and LCD system. I was able to go in and solve the problem and leave that day with the system working to its full potential. Another rewarding project was with Zara, the clothing store. Their store lights had failed, and they had to close up shop, which meant that they were losing money as each minute passed. I came in late on a Friday and had the lights back up soon after. Their team was very appreciative. It’s always a great feeling to be the guy with the answers or solution, providing clients with the best product never gets old.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

 WL: SDLA may have the appearance of a stale corporate environment, with the cubicles and white walls but the people really add a ton of color to this company. The environment is very relaxed and welcoming and there is a ton of comradery. We have three principals, Kristin, Brian and Danny, who have an open door policy. I’ve never been timid to walk into one of their offices and ask a question or seek help. There is so much knowledge at SDLA and it’s always flowing.

Meet The Team: Chris Ramirez

Chris Ramirez For Chris Ramirez joining the lighting industry may have been an accident but there is no mistake about this controls specialist. Chris joined the SDLA team in December 2017, but it didn’t take him long to fit right in with the controls department. Chris has two kids and loves being at home with the family and he recently started training in Jujutsu (he’s actually competed at the IBJJF Worlds Championship!). However, Chris would like to set the record straight! Despite what his boss Cliff is telling everyone, Chris doesn’t only invite people he’s mad at to train (or get beat up) at his gym. Are you ready to get in the ring with our newest controls specialist?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

CR: It was by accident. I had moved to Arizona to start working for a telecommunications company but when there wasn’t enough work for me as a lineman, I started working at a local lighting company. When I moved back to San Diego, I landed a job with Acuity Brands, where I worked for about two years and where I was commuting four hours per day. When the opportunity to finally get into controls design presented itself, I jumped at the chance to come work at SDLA. Luckily, I still get to work closely with Acuity and my old co-workers. When working with Acuity now, it’s a fast turnaround, I always know exactly who to go to and where to find things.

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

 CR: Everything begins at the bid board. We all check in for our assignments and then turn our concentration to delivering the bid on time. If it’s a large project or really complicated, everyone in the controls department will dig in and pick it apart, there is always a lot of team collaboration. After attacking the bid, we will start on the design and layout. We often are working hand in hand with the fixtures team to ensure that everything is compliant and up to Title 24 code.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

CR: Being on the agency side has been a nice change and I’ve been loving the atmosphere I get to work in. Everyone calls our department “the nerds”, “the geek squad” or “big bang theory” because we are the go-to guys, (Cliff, Brendan, JP) whenever anyone has difficult questions. I love the daily challenges this job presents to every department and our ability to solve them as a team. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to so many different places and locations through this industry. I’ve been to over 40 states!

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

 CR: The best thing, in my opinion, is the freedom. We have the freedom to get projects done and be confident in our work. Performance is the ultimate priority but we all know we are trusted and treated like adults and I love and appreciate that.

Meet The Team: JP Castro

JP Castro is quick on and off the field, he has to be as a father of four and controls specialist at SDLA! JP is a hometown guy, who is a lifelong Padres fan and baseball enthusiast. JP loves being able to share his love for baseball with his four sons and coach their teams! When he’s not being a team player in the office with the controls department, he’s teaching his sons how to be team players on and off the field. Ready for this month’s meet the team? Coach Castro is throwing us a fast one!

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

JC: I was working for Acuity Brands in Ontario, who is a manufacturer for SDLA. I was looking to cut down on my four-hour commute and got in touch with Danny. They brought me on board a little over a year ago to bring in more tech support for the lighting controls department. What’s really nice for me is that I still get to work closely with Acuity Brands and my old co-workers there but now I’m able to spend more time at home with my family.

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

JC: Every morning we try to knock out all our bids so I start off my day by checking in with the board and the team to see what needs to be done. We will load the controls in the quotes, along with the designs and layouts and then send it over to the distributors so they can continue the process from there.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

JC: I really enjoy working with my co-workers to complete a project. Everyone on the team has a different set of expertise and experiences, so we are are all able to help each other to make the best results possible for the client. My co-workers are also very intuitive, they can sense when I may need help with something and step up to the job before I even need to ask. Aside from working with the other controls guys, I work with the fixtures/quotations department every day and their another team that is always willing to be supportive and hard working.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

JC: I love that when it’s time to be serious, everyone here can buckle down and work together to get a project done. But when we have the time to joke around and be silly, everyone can have a good time together too. It’s also awesome that I get to work with one of my greatest friends every day, Brendan. We are definitely office best friends so whenever people hear us bickering or disagreeing about something, they will come over and ask “uh, oh trouble in paradise?”

Back to School with NECA

As an Associate Member of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), SDLA was cordially invited to participate in the California Title 24 training course on April 20th, hosted at the NECA San Diego office. These training courses exist as a valuable resource for union electrical contractors of IBEW Local 569. NECA training courses help electrical contractors take their career to the next stage with tailored courses in traditional and new technologies. We enjoyed participating in the event where NECA San Diego hosted a great presentation with breakfast and an afternoon BBQ.

Martin Dodd from Energy Soft was the keynote speaker, while Joshua Desoto of NECA hosted the event. Martin provided an extensive overview of how Title 24 is approached and applied in the industry. Martin not only reviewed the requirements contractors need to be aware of but went into detail on how to decipher and implement the variety of Title 24 forms. This four-hour training course was highly interactive throughout, with Martin calling on us to speak to our wealth of knowledge of different Title 24 requirements and solutions. Chris Bale (SDLA Contractor Salesman) and I were heavily involved in giving code and project insight based on our controls department’s vast experiences. Attendees were kept engaged as well by being asked to share their questions, different experiences and advice when dealing with Title 24 code requirements. After the conclusion of the presentation, Chris and I were available to give attendees project specific solutions and advice.

NECAOur controls team was excited to be invited because of our expertise in Title 24 requirements and compliances in the San Diego area and we enjoyed the opportunity to support NECA, Martin, and those in attendance with specific lighting and lighting controls questions. NECA training emphasizes the importance of continuing education and it’s an organization we are proud to support. We look forward to supporting NECA San Diego and our electrical community with future trainings and projects.

If you have any questions regarding Title 24, or any project specific solutions you can implement to meet compliance requirements, email me at!

A Bird’s Eye View of Our Lighting Controls Department

How would your life change if you had a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of everything around you? In our lighting controls department, we have a bird’s eye view of what’s happening in our industry, and alongside the fixture quotation department, providing the complete lighting package. Each day, projects make their way onto our bid board and with each project comes a different set of specifications, Title 24 requirements, design requirements and style preferences. We have a front row seat to how things are being done in various parts of our market and how ideas are being executed in different scenarios. Because of this, we can compile our broad array of experiences in order to provide the end user with the best possible interface and cost-effective solution. Ready to soak in everything you need to know about a day in the life of our lighting controls department?

1. An idea is born in our quotations department. The process begins in the quotations department when a request comes in from a distributor who is working with a contractor or lighting engineer. At this point, one of our four specialists will take the project under his wing. Once a specialist is assigned to quote and design, they remain involved in the entire process so that the point of contact stays the same for the distributor/contractor working with us. Initially one of our control specialists will analyze all the documents provided by the contractor and determine if the specifications meet Title 24 standards. Design begins at this stage and after we feel confident that we have provided the best value we will send the project back to the contractor for review.

2. Awarded the gig. If we are awarded the job, we eagerly to get to work. Sometimes a new series of documents and revisions will come in or we will work from the initial set of information. In this stage of the process, we finalize the layout in AutoCAD. This layout will serve as an instructional floor plan for how each room will be designed and can include wiring details for how all the equipment is installed into the system. There are two different solution types for our layouts, standalone and networked designs. A standalone system will have all the controls, controlled in one room. A networked system will have every room networked back to a centralized Eclypse/Gateway controller where time-clock and/or Automatic Demand Response control is incorporated. After designing the layout to include the best fit solution for the application and to meet California Title 24 requirements, we will send the final document to the contractor for execution and installation.

3. Our design comes to life. Each project is different and the same can be said for the contractor or engineer who will bring our design to life. Some contractors will install the equipment based on our exact design, others may go back and forth with our specialist to optimize the solution, making communication a vital component of this process. Each time we work with a different contractor or engineer we are gaining more understanding of our industry and how to better serve our customers. Alongside the contractor, we are solving issues we see in our field and providing solutions that are innovating how controls are incorporated into the lighting industry.

With our vast experience and knowledge of the industry, we are confident we can offer the best value and design when an idea makes its way to our lighting controls department. If you’re looking for a team that places a priority on effective communication and value then bring your idea to our quotations department by emailing!

Meet the Team: Brendan Kelliher

When Brendan Kelliher joined the team two years he became SDLA’s lucky charm.  Born and raised in Ireland, Kelliher moved to the United States and is a great addition to the lighting controls department.  After standing up for a week straight at his standing desk, he officially became known as the office’s standup guy… of course, his teamwork skills played a role in the nickname too! Brendan is settling into his new home here in San Diego and loves the beach, but he does miss those rainy days in Ireland that we don’t find here too often. Let’s meet one of our beloved controls specialists!

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

BK: I went to school for civil engineering and worked in that field before moving to the United States. When I moved from Boston to San Diego I had the opportunity to talk with SDLA and I was really interested in what the company was doing. So, I initially didn’t think I’d end up in lighting, but this company had me excited enough that I decided to make the switch. I’ve now been a control specialist for two years and I can safely say I made an awesome choice when betting on SDLA.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

BK: I love checking in with the bid board for hot projects and seeing all the different rewards and challenges that each job will offer. I love that my day to day is always changing along with the projects we are working on; the job is never monotonous, and it really keeps things fresh and exciting. Also, I love being the point person for a lighting controls project when I’m able to own everything from the concept to the design to the execution.

Q: Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on?

 BK: Right now, I’m really enjoying working on the SDG&E Mission Control project. The Fresco™ line from Acuity Brands is a really big component of this job because the line includes high-performance lighting controls that we are excited to use in our layouts. This project is very rewarding because a lot of thought and detail has gone into designing the layout so, after numerous rounds of revisions, it will be great to see the project completed, knowing the client got the best value.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

 BK: What first attracted me to SDLA was the support system given to each and every employee. I saw very early on, firsthand, that everyone is really helpful and supportive of one another and it’s something that I continue to love about the culture here. The environment in the office is great too, the atmosphere is the perfect hybrid between laid back and goal oriented. We work hard, play hard. I can also confirm that our team is like a big family and I’m really lucky to have great co-workers, like JP Castro. He’s the Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote.

SDLA Academy: Networked Lighting Controls

The SDLA Academy recently held another successful premiere course for lighting and lighting controls training and education. On March 22nd, we hosted about 16 different electrical engineers, electrical contractors, and electrical distributors for the course, “nLight Networked Lighting Controls, What’s New?”, right here in our office! Those in attendance gained education and training on networked lighting control solutions and how they relate to Title 24 requirements, BMS integration, Demand Response, and IoT solutions. Today, lighting control knowledge is an absolute necessity for professionals to have due to the push in energy saving code requirements, and the increased desire of building owners to be more in tune with their buildings’ potential. Software Applications, like Space Utilization, Siteview Energy and Indoor Positioning have been developed to utilize the networked control sensor devices to pull data like occupancy status/history, light levels from standard nLight devices, energy metering from the integrated SVEM and indoor location from Atrius enabled fixtures. Our training and hands-on demonstrations displayed the many ways available to design and utilize controls systems in order to give our clients an innovative approach to lighting their spaces.

Our attendees were able to get hands-on interaction with nLight® and nLight®Air of Acuity Brands, a digital control system that provides a wide range of control from small, individual rooms to multi-story buildings and has full read/write BACnet/IP BMS integration capabilities. Keep an eye out for the Summer release of the fully networked nLight AIR wireless control system that will provide the ability to have interior/exterior and wired/wireless lighting controls under one system. These Title 24 compliant systems were on display with another controls lines from Acuity including Fresco™, a high- performance architectural lighting control system that is bringing dynamic spaces to life. The Fresco system has the ability to control nLight, dimming panels, DMX (including RDM), Dali, and tunable white fixtures. All of these systems meet the needs of Title 24 while simultaneously addressing the “requirements of today’s architectural and dynamic lighting environments.”

Attendees not only had the chance to experience these innovative systems and enjoy a delicious lunch, but they also had the chance to win a very fine SDLA jacket from our event giveaway. Congrats to our winner, Kyle Knoakes!

Want a chance to experience these systems first hand? Email me at for more information or to set up your demonstration today! Also, don’t miss out on our next course with the SDLA Academy, Visual Lighting Software Half-Day Training, which will be hosted on April 19th!

Alpine Library’s Next Chapter: Net Zero Energy

The County of San Diego’s Alpine Library re-opened its doors in May of last year with a new building design that is unprecedented in its community. The 12,700 square-foot facility is comprised of a children’s area, quiet study areas, homework centers, public computers, reading rooms, a bookstore and even an outdoor patio. But its thoughtful, functional design doesn’t stop at just how the community uses it – it also impacts energy use. The Alpine Library is the County of San Diego’s first Net Zero building. This means the library’s total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.

Turning the page to this exciting chapter wasn’t easy. Achieving Net Zero energy is a tedious process to ensure regulations and stringent codes are met. The Alpine Library looked to our SDLA team as a guide through this process – a resource that would recommend the right products to get the job done.

“Alpine Library was one of the few projects that were both challenging and captivating throughout its entirety. Working with SDLA on the county’s first ZNE building was an added bonus as we look to the future in construction with sustainable buildings,” said Matt Hermsen
Project Manager, Rowan Electric.

To meet the library’s needs, we recommended an integrated lighting controls system called nLight® Controls. This networked digital lighting control system from Acuity Brands seamlessly integrates into the building’s lighting fixtures to help manage energy load throughout the space. Additionally, it makes the environment very controllable – tailoring lighting for the comfort of the people using the space no matter what task they are working on – a group study session, computer screen-time or just reading a book.

We helped the library with their entire controls strategy – from layout to installation and commissioning, and even continue to support them post-installation to configure controls to meet their changing needs. In the end, we are proud to have been part of the first Net Zero energy build in the County of San Diego, which is now a community landmark.