Replace or renovate?
Rip it up and start again — or refurbish? There is no right or wrong answer. Simon Blazey of Tridonic shares some of the issues to consider in arriving at the best answer for lighting installations.
When it comes to refurbishing an existing building, for many the only approach is, in the words of the 1983 hit, ‘to rip it up and start again’. This approach embraces all aspects of the interior fittings, including the lighting system — but is this always the right approach?
When considering your options, there are a number of factors to review. However, before any decisions are made on the lighting there are fundamental questions that need to be answered about the building itself.
For example, if the building is listed your options may be very limited.
Questions that are more likely will surround the length of the remaining lease for the current occupiers, the nature of the business it houses and the long-term strategy of the landlord with regard to ownership. The answers to questions about the length of the tenant's lease and the landlord's ownership intentions can be a major driver in the final decision for a partial or major refurbishment of a building.
With regard to lighting, the first and probably most important factor moving forward that will drive many of the decisions that will be required to be made is how the building will be operated in terms of function, flexibility and efficiency.
For many, the decision to rip out and replace is based on the energy savings a new LED lighting installation would have over the probable existing and aging fluorescent installation. Generally speaking there is sound financial evidence that replacing the existing luminaires would be the right decision. There is no doubt that it is the decision being taken by the majority on a regular basis, partly due to clear improvements in terms or a reduction in the years required before landlords see a clear return on investment (ROI) for this choice. However, while this decision will make a big impact on the monthly energy usage and lamp replacement, it does not address the bigger question of matching the lighting to the behavioural needs of the occupiers and the flexibility of the system to accommodate future refurbishments
Considering how each of the new spaces are going to be used will give improved clarity on the ballast or driver selection.
Even more fundamental is how well suited the building's existing wiring infrastructure is to coping with a full lighting refurbishment. Another issue is how much control the tenants on each floor and in each space will have on the lighting. Will the capabilities of the control system include dimming, lighting scenes, presence-detection to save energy? Or will the tenants have just simple on/off switching?
These decisions can be isolated for individual spaces and tenants once the relevant information is available, but it is often the case that the decision for refurbishment or rip out and replace is being made when the tenants are either unknown or are liable to change over time, so a high degree of flexibility will be required.
This requirement for flexibility leads to the final consideration — the selection of the appropriate type of lighting-control system. A major factor of this consideration is the front-end control of the lighting system. To quote the old adage 'you can't manage what you can't measure', so the key to monitoring the energy usage and control is data. This data enables the facilities manager to make better-informed business decisions using the following information from the installed lighting system.
• Granular energy data for individual luminaires, spaces, groups, floors and buildings.
• Maintenance information on device failure and predictive failure.
• Emergency function testing that has been carried out (manually or automatically), with any failures duly recorded.
With modern luminaires and programmable controllers, modern lighting systems can provide a bespoke lighting solution for each installation and when integrated into a building or enterprise management system will manage the lighting 24/7 and provide feedback on such things as the system's status and energy consumption. This information will often deliver not only significant reduced costs and energy consumption but also other benefits that are harder to measure, including a more conducive work environment and happier and healthier employees who can benefit from subtle changes in the light environment during the course of their working day.*
There is no right or wrong answer to the question: 'Rip it up or renovate?' Each project needs to be evaluated individually and decisions made once all the factors have been considered. However, understanding how the building is going to be used and operated moving forward will, at least, give you an understanding of whether the existing electrical installation and current luminaires need replacing.
Simon Blazey is strategic pre-sales manager for Tridonic.
* To download a free copy of Zumtobel's recent report on the quality of lighting in offices and its effects on workers please visit the link below.