By Facility Executive Staff
From the September/October 2015 Issue
Energy mandates, occupant satisfaction, and user friendliness are important factors in any lighting control system installed in the university’s sports buildings. The facilities department recently collaborated with a company to test its new wireless lighting controls offering.
Kevin Borg, assistant athletic director in charge of facilities and project management, discusses the project.
What was the motivating factor and goals for this project?
Energy savings was a leading motivator. In the athletic facilities department, we are charged with driving maximum performance from each facility across UCLA’s intercollegiate programs. And I am accountable for stewarding the budget needed to build and run each facility in an increasingly demanding economic and regulatory environment.
Another challenge we were facing was what I often call the “exercise lighting control system”—when you walk into a room and have to move around, maybe do jumping jacks, to get a lighting control sensor to “see” you. Even a coach who’s 6’3″ might have to wave his arms in the air to turn a light on in a locker room.
So when IDEAL Industries contacted us about beta testing a product they had developed—the Audacy wireless lighting control system, we began the conversation with them. Features that interested me included the ability to control the system remotely, whether from my office or my phone as well as the ability to set lighting at a percentage of light, rather than simply off or on (at 100%). This is done via a mobile app over the system that automatically senses and adjusts to ambient light, movement, and room occupancy.
Shortly after initial conversations with IDEAL, our football coach told me he needed to have a way to dim the lights in the film rooms, where the athletes watch their own and competitor teams on film. Since they need to make notes when watching, they don’t want the room completely dark, but not completely bright either. So that was the push for me to make the decision to install the control system in our football building. Our student-athletes and coaches come and go at all hours of the day to practice, train, review game tape, prepare game plans, and recover from training, so it’s a high use space.
We installed the system in June 2013 and beta tested it for 12 months. My part of the agreement to participate was I gave feedback regularly. I wanted to help ensure they had the best product possible. We had conversations about modifications to the software, the hardware, etc.
Please describe the facilities involved in this retrofit.
We installed the system in a range of high-use situations in two buildings, the football program building and the J.D. Morgan Center. J.D. Morgan is the “hub” of UCLA’s intercollegiate athletic teams, and spaces there include the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame and the athletics department’s learning center (where busy student athletes access computers as well as supplementary instruction).
Choosing these venues for the testing project gave us a great way to evaluate the flexibility and responsiveness of the system in real world situations.
Additionally, we installed it in our facilities department suite and a conference room near the academic suite that is occupied 12 to 14 hours a day.
How did the installation of the system impact your operations, both during and currently?
Every fixture we retrofit was a fluorescent fixture, including four-foot, U-tubes, and four-pin. The retrofit was very easy. It took about 20 minutes per fixture to retrofit, and that included the programming and testing time [largely due to IDEAL’s push-in wire termination architecture that simplifies installation significantly]. Even with our can lighting, it was simpler; if you don’t have a retrofit can, it can present difficulty. But the way this system is designed, you can take the portion of the can out that you need and wire in the smart connector.
In our facilities, the ability to adjust lighting according to different situations is extremely important. Our facilities are scheduled for use up to 18 hours a day, so using the right amount of light at the right times is key to satisfaction and to our energy savings.
And the ability to program scene settings is great for us, for scenarios such as press conferences, lectures, and banquets. I can set fixture light levels independently; for instance, we can create a gradation from front of room to back, from 35% to 50%. And with the touch of a button, fixtures can go on at 100% if needed.
What have the results been?
Over the 12 month test period, the system consistently delivered at least a 35% reduction in total energy usage. To address the basics, If I have lights going on at 50% now, that means I’m getting 50% more life expectancy out of the bulbs and ballasts. And most people can’t tell the difference between 50% and 100% lighting. However, for specific uses such as for test taking, we can increase light levels to 100%. Overall, though, everything is set at 50% and very rarely we take it up.
What’s next for the system at UCLA?
In the existing installations, we continue to fine-tune our use of the control system. And I see a bigger picture—and that is stadium lighting control. To be able to have stadium lights on at 40% for practice and then set them at 100% for competition would yield great energy savings. And that is something that really intrigues me.
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