Lighting in Commercial Buildings

1. Importance of lighting in Building Management Systems

Light is life. Not only in our cities, offices and homes but also on our beautiful planet. The energy which we get from the sun fuels everything from planktons in the World Ocean to our bodies, giving us crucial Vitamin D. Its importance cannot be underestimated. Likewise, lighting technology in Commercial buildings is an essential part of building operations. Safety, comfort, ergonomics, energy efficiency, prestige and style of the building are closely related to used lighting standards.

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While the majority of the impact on lighting efficiency is always on the shoulders of the design department, there is much that can be done during the later maintenance of the building. Ideally, the lighting strategy, as well as the entire automation structure, should be revised every few years and improved according to the latest norms and standards. This often requires thoughtful strategic planning and regular investment in improving the lighting system, but when calculated correctly, this will save money and increase the comfort of the building.

2. Energy-saving strategies through lighting optimizations

There are a few commonly known strategies that can help to reduce the energy consumption throughout the building:

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Replacing the old lighting technologies. If your building operates even for a few years, there are chances that some of the technology used to optimize the lighting is out of date. In 2010 everyone was talking about the “LED revolution” – the replacement of all the old type light bulbs with LED lamps. Not surprising, because LED lights use about 50% less electricity than traditional incandescent and halogen options. Also LED lights to have the advantage of transmitting light in specific directions thus reducing wasted light and energy. The “LED revolution” happened gradually on the old buildings and rapidly on the new ones. Considering the rising costs of energy suddenly replacement becomes economically justified and now we live in the LED world. Not only the lighting bulbs can be considered as old technology. Inefficient motion, presence detection sensors, dimming switches, lighting communication protocols are commonly considered outdated lighting elements

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Reassessment of lighting strategies in the existing building. There are always some differences between the design and real-world usage of spaces we are using and working in. Detection of such differences and re-considering the lighting there may give significant savings. For example, motion sensors somewhere in the corridor, where the lighting is always forgotten to be turned off may pay off very quickly. Or a lighting sensor in the kitchen that will readjust the lighting level depending on the outside lighting conditions may help to avoid over-lighting the area. Such small adjustments may make a huge difference in the long run.

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Implementing “Daylight Harvesting” locally or globally in the building whenever it’s financially justified. “Daylight Harvesting” is a lighting control strategy where the energy costs are reduced by maximal use of natural daylight. Those systems can dim or switch the lighting depending on the available daylight. Of course, this strategy works best in the areas which are designed for maximal passive use of sunlight. For example commercial buildings with large windows, skylights, glass block walls, light tube groups etc. It’s important to remember that such areas work better if the amount of sunlight can be controlled, with help of blinds for example, so the system can calculate the best energy-saving strategy depending on the weather conditions. We don’t want to save 10% on lighting and double the energy consumption needed for cooling the space during the summer period.

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Upgrading the Lighting Control System. In case when a simple ON/OFF lighting control strategy is used there may be grounds for considering installing a more efficient system. One example of the system that is often used in lighting is DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) which allows by dint of an application controller (e.g. iSMA-B-AAC20 or iSMA-B-2D1B) to control, configure, or query each lighting device. The DALI system allows to address each device individually and control addressed devices separately or in a group. That gives this system an advantage compared to 0-10V dimming control because if some rearrangement of lighting is needed, DALI does not require wiring modification.

3. Future development of the building lighting industry

During the lighting optimization stage, it is important to take into consideration an even more crucial aspect of lighting – human comfort. Occupation areas are created for people and their comfort, health and well-being should be the main priority. We know that lighting conditions like brightness, hue and colour can drastically change the working comfort of building occupants. As human resources and their well-being become a  priority for great companies we can observe the shift from just energy saving to “human-centric lighting”.

What’s important is that these two priorities do not exclude each other. For example, light-emitting diodes (LED) are not only more efficient than incandescent bulbs but also allow to manipulate the colour, brightness, hue and so on.Smarter lighting design may improve employee performance, sustained attention span and even sleep quality. We can expect the lighting industry to shift toward human-centric lighting strategies in the coming years.