By Jennifer Goetz
From the April 2023 Issue
Illuminating spaces is one of the basic responsibilities of facility management. Lighting is more than a solution to brighten dark spaces—it influences employee health and productivity, while directly impacting a building’s overall energy consumption.
“People often think lights just need an on/off switch and that’s all there is to it,” says Axel Pearson, Project Manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Campaign Lead for the Integrated Lighting Campaign (ILC). “However, lighting can do so much more when paired with advanced controls. It can turn on, off, and dim in response to occupancy, natural light, schedules, or even signals from the electric grid. It can also integrate with other building systems, the HVAC, to save a lot more energy.”
According to the 2023 Energy Efficiency Impact Report, released by the Alliance to Save Energy, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), “rapid gains in more efficient lighting, including CFLs and LEDs, have reduced energy use in lighting by 16% in 14 years, while inventory grew 25%.”
Trends At The Forefront
Different facilities have different lighting needs and demands. When it comes to indoor lighting in commercial spaces, such as schools, office buildings, hotels, etc., some of the latest trends in retrofit or construction projects revolve around LED lights, implementing lighting controls, sensors, and more.
“I suppose the primary trend has been the widespread introduction of CCT and lumen adjustable luminaires across all lighting products,” says Bob Preston, Lighting Certified (LC), IES, Energy And Lighting Specialist at Capital Electric.
For education facilities in particular, Pearson has seen an increased focus on implementing occupant control settings.
“For a long time, there was just one or two switches at the door that would turn on the lights or maybe provide some in-board/out-board control,” he says. “As we think more about how to create a comfortable and productive learning environment, more emphasis is placed on allowing the instructor to set a specific scene in the classroom, going from full on for general instruction, or dimming by zone for projecting but allowing students to take notes, or turning them completely off when ample daylight is available.”
On the other hand, in office facilities, Pearson feels that there’s a greater focus on improving occupancy and daylight sensors.
“I’ve worked in a number of office spaces where the lights just don’t perform as they should, often because the sensors don’t have a good perspective of the space,” he said. “Sensors that are embedded in the light fixture, known as luminaire level lighting control or LLLC, solve that issue: they have a good perspective that covers the entire area and they can communicate with each other to react in zones. This technology is getting a lot better, which is doing a lot to improve our workspaces.”
Delving Into Design
When it comes to lighting design, Fred Kern, Regional Sales Manager at Blackjack Lighting and LLI Architectural Lighting, feels that more facility projects are embracing the creativity that comes with implementing new lights.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we’ve seen projects that want indoor lighting in commercial spaces not only to be functional and stylish, but also to have a sense of ‘play,’ ‘whimsy,’ or ‘irreverent joy,’” he says.
In addition to evoking this sense of fun, more commercial spaces incorporate lights that mimic the sun’s brightness.
“A design trend that resonates well in commercial spaces is the use of LED lamps that offer the best alternative to natural light by mimicking the natural light spectrum,” says Rich Rattray, Strategic Accounts Project Team Member at LEDVANCE. “This technology controls blue wavelengths allowing for lower glare and reduced eye strain.
“Additionally, it provides improved color rendering which allows realistic, vivid colors without sacrificing light output.”
Many popular elements of lighting design for residential spaces, such as incorporating mood-enhancing or ambient lighting, using lighting as a design focal point, multifunctional lighting, layered lighting, etc. also apply to commercial spaces.
“We are starting to see the advantages of tunable white LEDS [and/or those that can be programmed to circadian rhythms] be incorporated into the lobbies or public areas of hotels, retail, and office buildings too,” Kern adds.
The Future Of Lighting
The U.S. Department of Energy once estimated that luminaire level lighting controls would grow from being 1% of all luminaires in the U.S., to being nearly a third of lighting in commercial buildings in 2035.
While Preston believes the current adoption trajectory doesn’t give much cause for optimism on that schedule, Kern believes it will depend on what’s accounted for.
“Luminaire level lighting controls will grow, but I’m not sure they’ll grow as their own ‘standalone’ products,” he says. “I think individual luminaires may start to include their own dedicated control that could be controlled by a single user’s WiFi, or the overall environment control system.”
Pearson believes this goal will take some work, but that it’s definitely possible.
“Not only do I think it’s feasible, I think it is necessary to decarbonizing the built environment,” he says. “Lighting controls can serve as a backbone for smart buildings—lighting sensors have a birds-eye view, which is perfect for collecting information about the space and occupants that can inform not only the lighting, but the entire building management system.”
To help work toward this ambitious goal, facility executives can reference ILC’s resources and technical assistance on lighting controls, as well as best practices to understand and select systems that work for their spaces. The organization also offers resources that can help facilities find utility incentives and how to go about using alternative financing methods, like lighting-as-a-service. Another way to learn more about lighting innovations is to see them in person on display at LightFair, which takes place at the Javits Center, New York from Sunday, May 21, through Thursday, May 25.
While energy management and conservation are major concerns for facility executives, another is creating healthy spaces for tenants and occupants to thrive in.
“I continue to believe in the tremendous potential of the relationship between light and human health,” says Preston. “The research results have been slow in coming. If some of the early conclusions prove out, the impacts on the lighting industry could be significant and far-reaching.
Goetz is the Editorial Director of Facility Executive.
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