Simplify With Networked Lighting Controls

While this lighting technology seems to add complexity, its features help to streamline facility operations.

networked lighting control
Historically, lighting control systems were comprised of relay panels with low voltage switches, connected to a form of scheduling or time clock. Today, network based solutions are intelligent, addressable, centralized, and feature two-way communication. (Photo: OSRAM)

By Charles Piccirillo
From the November/December 2016 Issue

Facility managers have a duty to deliver high-quality, reliable solutions to their customers/occupants in the most cost-effective manner possible. To do so, they must have a broad understanding of the tools and solutions available to maximize the operational efficiency of the buildings they manage. This is often accomplished by streamlining processes and solutions that effectively respond to inputs and outputs from various devices. When it comes to lighting, networked lighting control systems help to achieve this goal.

On average, lighting accounts for nearly 40% of a commercial building’s electrical consumption. Therefore, it is an area that offers the largest opportunity for saving energy and the associated operating costs. Facility managers understand the benefits of networked lighting control systems that offer advanced, flexible, and cost-effective solutions to manage lighting spaces. When implemented properly, networked lighting control solutions can help maximize the overall operational efficiency in buildings.

Defining The Networked Lighting Control System

Until recently, lighting control systems were comprised of relay panels with low voltage switches, connected to some form of scheduling or time clock. This technology limited communication and the amount of data that could be exchanged.

Today, lighting control systems can be network based solutions that are intelligent, addressable, centralized, and feature two-way communication.

Intelligent: It is programmable and capable of decision-making. This allows control strategies to execute various sequences of operation based on certain conditions, such as time of day and occupancy.

Addressable: All controllers are connected within a network, and each has a unique IP address. This allows the controllers to be programmed individually or in groups, with control zones as granular as individual luminaires.

Centralized: All devices communicate with each other through a central server. From a single workstation, an operator can manage the lighting throughout a building or campus.

Two-way communication: Detailed power and energy usage data is documented, enabling operators to analyze system performance and efficiency, and to fine-tune the system to increase energy savings. Some systems can automatically generate notifications of problems or issues that should be addressed, including maintenance.

These four functions make it possible for facility managers to customize lighting operations based on the makeup and architecture of a building. By nature, lighting control systems are inherently robust. When properly programmed based on distinct needs, lighting control systems offer significant cost and energy savings, improved occupant comfort, and increased functionality for operators.

Several strategies may be deployed to support energy management solutions that enhance the operational efficiency of buildings. The most basic of these strategies is manual control that gives users the ability to control their local lighting.

However, most lighting control strategies now involve automatic shutoff. For example, occupancy control involves reducing lighting during periods when a space is unoccupied; smart time scheduling involves reducing lighting during times of day when light is not needed; daylight harvesting reduces lighting in areas that receive ample daylight; and variable shedding reduces light as a part of a demand response strategy. Lastly, task tuning can be implemented in spaces designed around a common light level but in which individual zones have variable light level needs.

Lighting Of The Future

Energy efficient commercial and institutional spaces require a continual focus on reducing overall energy usage, and efficient lighting strategies are part of this. Most rely on a combination of technology-based lighting control systems and the latest LED technologies.

networked lighting control
Networked lighting control provides the flexibility to adjust light levels for a wide range of tasks, personal preferences, and facility goals overall. (Photo: OSRAM)

Most LEDs can not only be switched on and off, but are also dimmable and controllable. Furthermore, they create new lighting applications due to versatility and compact size. In this sense, lighting controls and the transition to LED are two lighting trends that complement and enhance each other, delivering the maximum value for facility managers and their building occupants.

Additionally, customizable LED technology is often incorporated into a high-tech building infrastructure. These smart buildings, with an integrated smart lighting system, create significant financial impact by providing facility managers with new insights for improving how space is used. Smart lighting systems allow each lighting fixture to be a data node, providing the most granular network of information for smart buildings or the Internet of Things (IoT). As needs change, lighting infrastructure can be called upon for delivering new customer values and business models. In essence, lighting becomes a platform for the IoT.

Putting It All Together

In today’s competitive business environment, facility managers utilize innovative tools to maximize the operational efficiency of their buildings. For example, scalable lighting control systems enable facility professionals to manage lighting and energy consumption through the use of data. This allows for lighting schemes that can be tailored to the changing requirements of a facility. At anytime, from anywhere, facility managers can access dashboards of energy usage and data analysis of the lighting installation via the Internet.

Healthcare facilities are prime examples of this, as these feature various patient and non-patient areas with distinct lighting needs. In particular, based on the diversity of its lighting needs, the Toronto General Hospital in Ontario, Canada identified an opportunity for significant savings in lighting energy. The hospital is situated in the R. Fraser Elliot Building—a six-story, 175,000 square foot mixed-use commercial building which also houses executive offices, administration facilities, research labs, food services, and parking. When the building was constructed it was equipped with the best available fluorescent lighting technology at the time and a basic lighting control system. As technology advanced it became clear that the hospital’s lighting solutions were out of date. After a new energy management system was installed, the hospital reduced its lighting energy consumption by approximately 74%.

Another example worth highlighting is part of a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. In Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Mellon University installed an energy management system in its 7,000 square foot Robert L. Preger Intelligent Workplace, a research lab that studies the integration of technologies and their impact on human comfort. In the lab, researchers look at user behavior and the types of mechanical systems and technology needed to maximize performance. A flexible lighting control system was required to support the research lab in the most efficient way.

In the lab, the energy management system controlled the lighting in an open space, allowing for zones to be assigned and changed quickly. Additional energy saving functions included occupancy sensors used to turn off lights when no presence was detected, time scheduling to switch off lights during expected unoccupied periods, and daylight sensors for dimming when natural sunlight provided ample light. The combined result was an estimated 70% energy savings, without a decrease in user satisfaction and task performance.

Facility managers need tools that maximize the operational efficiency of their buildings, and help their organizations remain competitive. Networked lighting control solutions help to achieve this. When implemented correctly, networked lighting control enhances the quality of illumination while maximizing energy savings. LED lighting, in conjunction with lighting control systems, further increases energy savings by providing the flexibility to adjust light levels for a wide range of tasks, personal preferences, and facility goals overall.

Piccirillo is group marketing manager of the lighting management systems, digital systems unit at OSRAM, Americas region. Helping facility executives transition to intelligent lighting solutions for smart buildings, he holds a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Clarkson University and a MBA from Northeastern University.

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