Services & Maintenance: Lighting That Performs

By Sam Klepper
Published in the August 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Innovative facility managers (fms) are transforming decades-old conventional lighting systems into building intelligence and automation platforms that positively impact energy consumption, space utilization, and security. Because lighting is ubiquitous in interior commercial spaces, wired for power delivery, and often deployed in a pervasive, grid-like pattern, this building system offers a logical platform for the integration of several technologies into a single, comprehensive and cost-effective system.

Interaction between building systems (lighting and HVAC, for instance) helps facility managers increase efficiencies. (Photo: Thinkstock)

This approach to lighting, called building performance lighting, brings together lighting, sensors, and networking technology to empower fms so they may add value to their organizations by making their buildings smarter. Building performance lighting can deliver dollars to the bottom line and protect assets by maximizing energy efficiency, optimizing space utilization, and ensuring tight security. It goes beyond per room or zone control to provide per fixture control.

Building performance lighting platforms use low voltage DC power and networking to illuminate and control light fixtures. This type of system is compatible with major fixture types including fluorescent, high-intensity discharge (HID), compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), and LED. The greatest energy savings with building performance lighting are achieved with LED lighting.

Sensors are built into the luminaires and gather continuous room occupancy and temperature data, triggering automatic lighting, heating, or cooling alerts to building management systems. These enable fms to adjust accordingly, thereby eliminating operational costs tied to unused energy resources. The centralized sensor control also lets fms drag-and-drop fixtures on a Web based dashboard to make system modifications.

Factoring in the latest trend towards open frameworks that enable the development of third-party energy efficiency and building intelligence applications, fms can customize their building systems to suit operations through lighting.

Maximizing Energy Efficiency

One area where building performance lighting can have a profound impact is reducing energy consumption. In particular, this type of platform provides energy and expense reductions for lighting, heating, and cooling as well as for maintenance costs. Lighting operating costs are reduced on average by 75%—a substantial impact considering lighting typically accounts for one-third of the energy expenses in commercial properties. The systems execute these energy savings by using techniques such as automated dimming—adjusting light levels based on time of day, occupancy, and the amount of natural light.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) functions comprise another 40% of commercial electricity costs. The granular control capabilities of building performance lighting platforms allow fms to reduce the heat output of LED lighting, for instance, which (according to Energy Star) translates to HVAC savings of up to 40%. Additionally, network sensors that track room temperature and occupancy can send signals to reduce HVAC load in unoccupied areas to reduce operating costs.

One instance of building performance lighting in practice involves a global enterprise application software company which uses this approach to achieve lighting and HVAC savings. The company is able to retrieve occupancy data from the lighting system and send it to the HVAC system. The data interacts with the building’s digital thermostats to control room temperatures in response to occupancy as opposed to arbitrary schedules or settings.

Optimizing Space Utilization

Building performance lighting platforms also provide space utilization data which is key to determining the need for certain cubicles, offices, or conference rooms. Fms often rely on incomplete information gathered from the analysis of network log-ins and security badge entry records. These metrics are unable to report reliably how many employees worked in particular spaces for certain periods of time each day.

In contrast, building performance lighting generates real-time, actionable data on room occupancy. This provides insight that can lead to better usage of space. It can also increase productivity by giving occupants information about meeting rooms that are currently available. For instance, one of the world’s largest Internet companies installed building performance lighting at its corporate headquarters, enabling employees to use sensor generated room occupancy data to find available meeting spaces.

The company created a conference room floor plan application that allows it to display this information on a series of monitors throughout its buildings. Unoccupied rooms are displayed in green, and occupied rooms are displayed in red. Employees find this system makes them more productive, since they no longer have to spend time searching for open conference rooms. This application has reduced the time it takes for employees to identify an open meeting room.

Detailed occupancy data collected by the system also helped the company re-design its meeting room configurations for new facilities. It learned that large conference rooms were underutilized. As a result, the company increased the number of smaller meeting rooms relative to larger ones, ultimately reducing the number of larger rooms by 60%.

Ensuring Security

Building performance lighting can also be used for intruder detection and emergency management. With sensors throughout a facility, the system can detect wrongful entry into zones and alert building administrators. During emergencies, the occupancy detection sensors can immediately identify the location of people in the building and provide that information to first responders in evacuation situations. The system can also report on the absence of occupants, which is useful for monitoring scheduled walk throughs and cleaning crews.

A provider of micro security and environmental monitoring solutions has developed a building performance lighting application that enhances the cabinet locking system in its data center. The application requires technicians to scan their badges in order to light a path to and unlock the cabinets to which they are assigned. This ensures only those who have clearance can access the system.

By taking advantage of their lighting systems—a pervasive item throughout commercial spaces, fms can employ building performance lighting to use energy in the smartest way possible, organize spaces intelligently, and keep buildings secure. Its open nature makes it flexible, allowing fms to develop applications that help their building systems best serve their organizations.

Klepper is CMO and EVP of Building Solutions for Redwood Systems, a provider of building performance lighting solutions based in Fremont, CA.




Bonus Article #1

Lighting Retrofits: Key Considerations

By Kurt Vogel

Lighting retrofits are a solution for upgrading antiquated lighting systems featuring parabolic or lensed troffers. A well thought out retrofit installation delivers superior illumination, aesthetically appealing luminaires, and energy and maintenance efficiencies. Until recently, there were four basic options for facility managers (fms) to consider when seeking a lighting retrofit:


  • Relamp and reballast
  • Delamp and reballast using a reflector kit
  • One-for-one replacement
  • Complete redesign

However, a new generation of lighting retrofit kits provides another option. Available in fluorescent lamp and LED options, retrofit kits enable installation of component parts into the housing of old fixtures, maintaining their integrity and delivering the appearance and efficiency of modern fixtures. No matter which approach an fm takes to retrofit lighting, there are several key considerations when selecting a solution to ensure the advantages of a retrofit are achieved.


Project payback should occur within two to three years from installation. However, additional considerations (e.g., architectural upgrades or extensive controls systems) may still make a project attractive even with longer payback.


Business disruption should be minimal. Fms should look for retrofit products that can be installed from below the ceiling plane without the need to disturb existing ceiling tiles and without having to enter the plenum space. Materials should be packaged and delivered in a way that minimizes waste disposal and/or is recyclable.


Insurance provider Medical Mutual of Ohio in Cleveland, OH recently completed a lighting retrofit at its headquarters, replacing an outdated lighting system of nearly 3,000 T12 deep cell parabolic fixtures with relight kits. (The company’s office is shown here.)


Photo: Lithonia Lighting

Don Green, director of building and general services there, shares how critical it was to achieve retrofit benefits without disrupting the business environment. “A main driver for us was the intent to reduce our energy consumption, which would, in turn, reduce our utility/electrical expenses and have a direct impact on our bottom line,” he says. “However, it was key the installation be completed after hours during second shift, so we did not disrupt the work environment for employees during the day.”


The new lighting should enhance the look and feel of the space. Older parabolics and lensed troffers can be upgraded to newer volumetric performance that improves vertical lighting distribution, reduces glare and contrast, and makes a space appear brighter.


A retrofit assembly should be as universal as possible, working seamlessly within the framework of existing fixtures. Many facilities have existing fixtures that were installed over time, and there may be different models from various manufacturers. The retrofit solution should be applicable to most or all of these.


Ensure the selected retrofit products will fit within the current ceiling system. In many facilities built during the 1970s, an anticipated shift to the metric system sparked the use of metric ceiling grid specifications. These ceiling grids are 1200mm x 600mm, making them about ¼” smaller than a standard 2’x4′ ceiling. It is critical to assess in advance whether the facility is metric or standard, and if necessary, to ensure the lighting retrofit manufacturer offers solutions to fit the proper grid.


Fms should also ensure the chosen solution is UL Classified; this will help to avoid issues with inspectors or insurance adjusters. Additionally, many older lighting fixtures are being used in some air handling capacity such as air supply or heat removal. Fms should be careful the retrofit product is compatible with air handling applications and UL Classified for that use.


Finally, a retrofit kit solution that is packaged effectively allows installers to save time, labor, and support supply chain efficiencies. Retrofit kits should be packaged with the installer in mind, arriving on as few pallets as possible. Fms might specify that pallets used will fit through doorways and on elevators. This minimizes time spent searching for components as well as eliminates energy wasted on moving heavy parts and maneuvering existing furniture.


Current market factors including rebates, government phase-out of most T12 fluorescent lamps, and new retrofit technology are making it more cost-efficient for fms to upgrade lighting systems. However, it is imperative the best retrofit solution is selected to ensure maximum results are achieved.


Vogel is director of product development, RELIGHT, Lithonia Lighting and has more than 22 years of experience in the lighting industry. Vogel’s extensive knowledge of renovation lighting keeps him consulting, training, and speaking with clients across the country.


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