Making light work of lighting management

Fife college
As part of the transformation of a 1970s tower block into a modern state-of-the-art learning centre, managed lighting systems have been installed to respond to changing and unpredictable levels of space occupation.
Lighting is a major user of energy in office buildings, and is frequently provided whether it is needed or not — and at the same high level. Neil Jones explains how a building’s electrical load can be cut by 25%.Efficient management and control of lighting helps companies and organisations to significantly cut costs and save energy by eliminating the wasteful use of lights. Automatic managed lighting systems enable lights to be dimmed or brightened and switched on and off, by monitoring the presence of occupants and by measuring the amount of natural light available. Potential Lighting accounts for up to half of an industrial or commercial building’s electricity costs. And with electricity usually making up half of a typical building’s energy bill, there is the potential to save 25% of the total electrical load — and get other benefits of efficient lighting management into the bargain. For example, installation of certain types of managed lighting systems guarantee compliance with Building Regulations and Health & Safety legislation governing office lighting and the use of computer screens. Also, it has been demonstrated that staff are more productive in a correctly-lit working environment A reputable lighting controls company will carry out a free survey of a building, study the patterns of usage and occupancy, and then recommend the most suitable lighting management system or controls. Payback As part of the survey, the most likely ‘payback’ period will be determined. This is the period of time it will take for the system to pay for itself thanks to the resulting energy cost savings achieved. The time can vary dramatically depending on the type of building and the use to which it is put. A typical payback period for an office building can be just two years. For a highly automated warehouse, where uncontrolled lights can burn endlessly when no occupants are present, the payback period can be as short as nine months. Do not forget that once the payback period has been reached, the lighting system carries on saving money year after year. Lighting management systems that utilise presence detection and photocell technology are a simple, reliable and effective method of reducing energy consumption. The discreet controls ensure that lighting is switched on only when needed — when areas are occupied and daylight levels are insufficient. Lighting is switched off automatically when the area is vacated or when levels of natural light rise. Correctly installed, this type of lighting control will be invisible to the building’s occupants, responding to the presence of people rather than to the time of day. According to a BRECSU Building Research Establishment document on energy-efficient lighting prepared for the Department of Environment, Transport & the Regions, lighting controls have been shown to save 60% in electricity usage in non-domestic buildings; 30 to 50% is considered to be an average figure. We have found that, depending on the type of building and the use to which it is being put, savings of up to 75% have been achieved by the specification and installation of appropriate lighting systems. Optimum lighting Leading manufacturers can offer controls and lighting-management systems that are principally designed to reduce energy costs and deliver optimum levels of lighting. They typically include presence-detection controls, which automatically turn lights off when they are not needed, and digital managed lighting systems which provide communicating managed lighting for offices. There are circumstances where other forms of lighting control are required — testing systems to emergency lighting to comply with legislation, for example. Another need could be a scene-setting and dimming system to provide the ability to easily create differently lit environments at the touch of a button. Hotels and restaurants in particular appreciate the ability to instantly create soft, romantic light levels in the evenings for diners, but a bright, all-lights-on environment in the early morning when the cleaners arrive. Integration is the secret here. Installing lighting controls and systems from different manufacturers can lead to compatibility problems. Manufacturers that offer a complete range should guarantee seamless compatibility. Some manufacturers of lighting controls even offer quick-connection systems that allow all lights, controls and management systems to be quickly and easily connected. Benefits include simple plug-in installation, the elimination of wiring faults and speed of installation. A fine example of what can be achieved with modern lighting controls is provided by a major rebuilding project at Fife College in Kirkcaldy, which demanded a special kind of managed lighting system. Case note Originally a 1970s tower block, the building is being rebuilt in two phases to transform it into a modern state-of-the-art learning centre. Both phases incorporate managed lighting systems provided by Ex-Or. As a college with changing and unpredictable levels of space occupation, it was important for the lighting to be easily programmable and quickly changeable according to people movement and usage. Cost-effectiveness, flexibility, ease of installation and reliability of the system were also called for. The system is based on SceneSelect II and MLS Connect Digital equipment. Ex-Or was given the specifications in terms of space and potential usage, and came up with a fully detailed design for. It was also important that the lighting system complied with the latest Scottish Building Regulations, which are more stringent than the English equivalent. Neil Jones is managing director of Ex-Or Ltd, Haydock Lane, Haydock, Merseyside WA11 9UJ.
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