No alternative to good lighting design

The need for energy efficiency in commercial buildings has led to a vast amount of new technology in the lighting market but as Stephen Woodnutt of Delmatic explains we must not lose sight of the basics because the route to energy efficiency should not become an alternative to sound design.

The principles of good lighting design are very simple because regardless of the type or size of building the lighting needs to meet the needs of the building occupants while being as energy efficient as possible.

Energy management is now a key concern for anyone who is involved in the management of a commercial building and as a result, the search for ways to improve efficiency continues. But the key to achieving the right results is in finding the most appropriate solution rather than simply installing a mixture of the latest efficient technologies.

Lighting is a case in point because of its significant contribution to the energy consumption of a building. Energy efficient light sources and controls to optimise their operation have become a very high profile topic over the last few years and the market continues to be flooded with the very latest technology.

The problem however lies with the fact that it isn’t being used properly and as a result we are still seeing the installation of new technology that is working ineffectually as a result of bad lighting design. This, together with grossly exaggerated claims of efficiency and prospective savings by many manufacturers, means that many installations are not achieving the efficiencies which are expected by the end user.

Sound design

Light is one of the most important aspects of a building and there is documented evidence to support the fact that people work better in a well lit space. But it does not necessarily follow that ‘well lit’ should also mean ‘bright’ because human visual performance depends on light quality as well as quantity. It is therefore important to consider lighting at the outset of a project rather than as an addition to a scheme.

This is perhaps one of the key factors which determines a good or a bad lighting design and it is here that a ‘back to basics’ approach can prove to be invaluable because the principles of lighting design should remain the same regardless of the technology which is being used.

A good example of this is LED light sources which continue to grow in popularity due to their energy efficient attributes. It is true that they do provide significant savings over other light sources, but only if the installation is suitable and if it is designed in a way which meets the needs of the occupants of the building. This is also true for lighting control because while many believe that simply installing a control system will result in savings, the truth is that a control system should be used to align the operation of the lighting to the building performance. It cannot work miracles and therefore the installation of a lighting control system will not make a vast amount of difference to the bottom line if the lighting is not correctly designed in the first place.

Effective control

The ability of a lighting control system to eliminate the unnecessary use of lighting in commercial buildings is well documented and the widespread adoption of an open system which incorporates the technologies of Dali, LON and TCP/IP has made this concept even easier because it allows services to integrate seamlessly.

However what needs to be taken into account is that the lighting design needs to be as efficient as possible and meet the needs of the occupants before the additional benefits of the control system can be realised. In addition, the luminaires and light sources must be compatible with the desired level and breadth of control if you are to achieve genuine cost savings.

Another key consideration is the future of the building because to be truly effective the control system needs to be able to react to the inevitable changes which take place throughout the life cycle of a building and be adaptable to suit the evolving operational requirements of the end user.

We should all be advocates for new technology and all of the benefits which it can bring to this industry but at the same time there is no point installing new technology for the sake of it. In fact, being seen to be green is absolutely pointless because it doesn’t matter how the company is perceived if the energy bills are still sky high.

The industry therefore needs to take a sensible approach to lighting and appreciate that installing the latest technology will not necessarily result in huge savings. What is needed is a back to basics approach which relies on sound design principles rather than the installation of a random assortment of the latest technology.

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