Lighting Trends: Brighter Days Ahead

Lighting upgrades can help facility managers address occupant needs and reduce energy costs.
Lighting upgrades can help facility managers address occupant needs and reduce energy costs.

Lighting Trends: Brighter Days Ahead

Lighting Trends: Brighter Days Ahead

By Jillian Ruffino

Published in the April 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

lighting technology
PHOTOs: first and third from top and background provided by Michele Litivn for Hok; bottom, Vode Lighting LLC; and second image from top, Easylite


Running a facility can be very expensive. In terms of energy costs, the fact that lighting contributes greatly is well known to every facility manager.

According to the federal government’s ENERGY STAR program, lighting accounts for 17% of all electricity sold in the United States. Electric lighting represents up to 40%-50% of a building’s total energy, and the cost of the necessary electricity can be exorbitant.

Lighting systems also produce heat. ENERGY STAR claims that lighting is typically the largest source of waste heat, or heat gain, in commercial facilities. While this may be useful when the building requires warmth, it must be eliminated by the HVAC system when the building needs to be cooled. This adds to energy use and increases expenses.

Mike Fisher, executive vice president of Easylite in Boulder, CO, says, “Many commercial buildings use lighting technology that is 10 to 30 years old, including inefficient lamps, magnetic ballasts, and systems without on/off scheduling or automatic controls. These lighting systems consume two to three times the electric energy of well designed, efficient systems available today.”

Also, lighting affects much more than simply the ability to view. For building occupants and workers, good lighting can boost their efficiency, while badly planned systems can cost organizations in lost productivity.

Facility managers are concerned about both costs and the lighting requirements for building occupants. How can these two issues be reconciled?

People And Energy 

Many people subscribe to the belief that serving both individual interests and those of a larger group are incompatible goals. Lighting, however, is one of those areas of facility management where addressing the needs of each occupant can actually help assuage budget issues. Implementing individual lighting controls may be helpful in reducing energy consumption, cutting costs, and increasing productivity.

These days, catering to building occupants is more important than ever before. Scott Yu, chief creative officer for Sonoma, CA-based Vode Lighting, LLC, claims, “The most pressing issue in lighting is this question: does the lighting fit the needs of the occupants? The global trend from a manufacturing economy to a servicing economy has changed the requirements for many commercial facilities.”

As Yu points out, services now account for a higher percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) than they did 20 years ago. Many facilities must now accommodate this economic change and deal with a new type of employee.

“When it’s done right, lighting can impact your business results and can lead to better productivity and fewer errors,” adds Francis J. Santiago, executive vice president and general manager, general lighting, for OSRAM SYLVANIA, headquartered in Danvers, MA. “It’s a misconception to believe that lighting is just required for visibility.”

Tom Kaczkowski, director of lighting for HOK, St.Louis, MO, agrees. “In a competitive job market, it may be the quality and character of the office environment and facilities amenities that entice the next employee.”

There is an added bonus when occupants are given more control over personal lighting environments. When people can adjust lighting, the facility requires less energy than if the entire building was illuminated uniformly. This produces a scenario in which everybody wins—occupants, facility managers, and building owners.

“Most spaces have a one size fits all approach for lighting,” says Ken Walma, ecosystem product manager for Lutron Electronics Co., Inc. of Coopersburg, PA. “Different ages, tasks, and times of day require different lighting levels, and giving people the ability to control it down from the maximum pays big dividends in productivity and savings.”

Incorporating multiple energy savingstrategies can help prevent high energy bills. Many of these measures, including daylighting (shown above) can lead to increased worker productivity and occupant comfort. PHOTOs: Michele Litivn for Hok


William Alling, CEO, Lumenergi in Sparks, NV, adds, “By using the correct amount of light for all tasks and the minimum amount of energy to generate that light, you create a win-win situation.”

Lighting Changes 

According to research from Snowmass, CO-based Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit organization formed to foster the efficient use of resources, “Using the best technologies, a typical U.S. business can cost effectively save 70%-90% of the energy used in its lighting systems without any loss of function.”

But what are these “best technologies?” There are various recommendations that facility managers may want to consider.

Walma believes lighting control systems are imperative. There are three main components of a proper system. First, there should be a mechanism for turning lights on and off automatically. Walma explains, “This can be accomplished through the use of occupancy sensors, a time clock, or a mix and match of both.”

Next, it is essential to have a system to control lighting while spaces are occupied. “Automatic methods are great as long as the building is unoccupied,” says Walma. “But as soon as it is occupied, everything is on all the time. Daylighting, load shed, and tuning are all examples of technologies to manage lighting while spaces are occupied.”

Finally, Walma reiterates that giving occupants control over their lighting should result in energy savings. To accomplish this, Alling suggests facility managers purchase modern dimming electronic ballasts. He also advises the use of, “capable control systems, which measure and implement the recognized five control strategies, including daylighting, task tuning, scheduling, lumen depreciation or maintenance, and load shedding.”

Other measures include replacing T12 lamps on magnetic ballasts with T8 high efficiency electronic systems. “Replacement magnetic ballasts will no longer be available after 2010,” says Santiago.

Santiago further urges facility managers to replace incandescent or halogen downlights with compact fluorescent or ceramic metal halide. Facility managers can also switch metal halide high bay lighting for T8 or T5 high output (HO) fixtures with occupancy sensors.

He also has an eye on the future, which he believes depends on the adoption of LED technology. “As LEDs become more efficient, they will begin to cannibalize other sources. Soon, fixture replacements—rather than lamp replacements—will be more prevalent.”

Dave Pitts, president of Manchester, NH-based Gemini One Five Luminaires, concurs that LEDs should be part of a cost efficient energy plan. For current LED installations, Pitts has several strategies to minimize expenses. First, it is important to select the correct LEDs. Then, designing the fixture to remove heat adequately can cut back on cooling.

The most important factor, however, is how the LEDs are powered. According to Pitts, “LEDs are current driven devices and should be powered by a driver that regulates current, not voltage. Using a high efficiency driver helps ensure LED lighting performs optimally.”

A final recommendation returns to the original light source: the sun. Kaczkowski is excited about the energy savings that can be provided through daylighting or the use of solar energy. “Harnessing this energy is the next big opportunity,” he says, “with great architectural daylighting solutions to improved photovoltaic system efficiency and initial cost reduction.”

A Brighter, Cheaper Future 

When it comes to the cost of implementing new lighting components, it is also important to remember that cheaper is not always better, particularly since savings are usually seen in the long-term as opposed to during the actual purchasing process. Santiago warns, “Commercial facilities typically try to install the lowest cost systems rather than looking at the total cost of ownership. Many facilities do spot relamping instead of replacement in groups. This can lead to higher maintenance costs.”

As lighting systems continue to become cheaper to run, it will be exciting to see the advances facilities will incorporate in the future. Whatever solution is best, lighting proves that lowered costs and greater comfort can go hand in hand.

This article was based on interviews with Alling, Fisher, Kaczkowski, Pitts, Santiago, Walma, Warton, and Yu.

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