Innovative approaches light up commercial buildings

Lighting is one of the major contributors towards annual energy bills, especially for a commercial building. At the same time, lighting is one of the primary factors that influence workplace performance; affecting occupant energy levels and mood. A comprehensive lighting refurbishment is often the way to ensure these diverse but equally important elements of building operations are met.
The energy costs of lighting, particularly in the commercial sectors, are staggering. Across Europe, 160 million buildings use over 40% of the continent’s energy supply, thereby generating over 40% of its carbon dioxide emissions. Lighting alone accounts for 25% of this energy use for commercial buildings. In the UK, we use 20% of our energy to light our buildings, which accounts for around 100 million tonnes of the 500 million tonnes of CO2 per year that we release into the atmosphere.
Taking these figures into account, it becomes obvious that energy efficient lighting can play a significant role in achieving the national goal of a 20% carbon dioxide emissions reduction by 2010. The legislation which covers this reduction for non-domestic business, the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD), is a set of obligations intended to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol. It aims to implement the awareness of energy use in buildings, leading to an increase of investment in energy efficient measures. This is enforced in the UK through revised building regulations, including the new energy performance certificate obligations, and energy efficient lighting is one of the elements that can help buildings comply with these rules.
While the drive to reduce CO2 emissions dominates the headlines and many corporate agendas, of equal importance to most commercial building occupants are the high utility prices that seem to be here to stay. Installing newer, more efficient systems with good controls can more often than not halve existing lighting costs, but even good practice and thoughtful maintenance of existing systems can provide lighting energy savings of up to 30%.
Despite increases in average working hours for most workers, there is still normally no requirement for electrical appliances and lights to be left on 24 hours a day within a commercial environment. Barry based silicon products, technologies and solutions manufacturer Dow Corning saw a significant energy and cost saving when it implemented a regime of switching off unnecessary lighting during daylight hours, using time out controls in low occupancy areas, and the installation of long-life lamps to reduce maintenance costs.
If full-scale refurbishment is found to be the appropriate option for a building, then the savings can be even greater, as seen by Glasgow specialist door supplier Tower Doors. Its installation of a new lighting system to reduce running costs and conserve energy through the new fittings maintained the illumination levels required for the business.
This refurbishment involved the replacement of obsolete 8ft fluorescent fittings and lamps with triphosphor colour 840 reflex baton fittings and lamps. The improved technology in these high frequency batons and lamps uses lower levels of electricity than that previously used, thereby saving on energy; however, the light levels offered by this installation still exceeds the older technology it replaced, and so produces greater performance for less energy cost.
Due to the high levels of mercury content in fluorescent lighting, businesses need to adhere to the environmentally friendly and safe disposal of such lamps in accordance to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive – a service that a specialist lighting and electrical company, such as Dalkia Lighting, will carry out.
Lighting performance can be as important an issue for commercial lighting projects as energy efficiency, for a variety of reasons. In retail environments, lighting affects product perception and rates of purchase; an industrial lighting installation must take into account the safety aspects of lighting an area where health and safety is of prime importance; and across all commercial installations, lighting levels are documented to impact worker performance and productivity.
Poor lighting can reduce visibility and so contribute to accidents; it can also reduce the efficiency and effectiveness with which people work, as inappropriate lighting can negatively impact mood, comfort and concentration levels. In extreme situations, an ineffective lighting system can decrease morale, increase staff turnover and be a causal factor in industrial action – a circumstance that can easily be avoided by identifying systems that can reduce energy consumption, whilst providing the correct environment for all those within.
Blue Diamond Engineering Ltd, based in County Durham, provides an example of lighting refurbishment improving working atmosphere. The company looked into the benefits that a lighting upgrade could offer its employees, and the project decided upon qualified for an ‘Action Energy Loan’ from the Carbon Trust, resulting in the payback of the cost of the refurbishment over two years. The refurbishment, covering 120 units of workshop area, included the replacement of the obsolete 8ft 100w fluorescent lamps originally installed throughout the factory with 5ft 58w high frequency fittings with Philips triphosphor colour 840 Reflex lamps. As well as allowing Blue Diamond to reduce its energy output by almost £4,000 per annum and save almost 21 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the project significantly improved performance and provided an atmosphere that was bright and engaging, illuminating all areas for employees to work in.
One of the main advantages to the building occupant of new high frequency lamps is the close reflection of daylight such fittings provide; when combined with the improved colour rendering high frequency lamps also provide, this can lead to vastly improved building ambience, dramatically improving the environment in the workplace.
New innovations in technology have seen manufacturers pushing the boundaries with lighting design, providing additional benefits for building occupants. Dalkia Lighting’s partnership with Philips in providing new technology has allowed the companies to provide optimum levels of light at reduced costs. An example of this is the ActiViva lamp technology, which closely replicates natural daylight conditions by using a high blue light content, to directly affect the way people feel by making them more alert, awake and energized. The blue light produced as part of the ActiViva Lamp’s output stimulates the third non-visual receptor in the eye, thereby suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin. This provides a physical and emotional lift through light to increase energy levels and so productivity at work.
This is just one example of the innovative approach to lighting prevalent in the industry. With a strong focus on energy efficiency and lighting performance, the advances being made in product development and implementation will provide additional savings and benefits for commercial buildings, but only if building service engineers and facilities managers keep abreast of developments within the industry.