Effective control is a long term partnership

Cost effective lighting control is one of the key ways to achieve energy savings in any commercial building but as James Hart Sales Director of CP Northern Ltd explains; lighting control should not be viewed as a fit and forget solution.


The basic principle of good lighting in a commercial building is fairly straightforward because regardless of the size or type of the building it simply needs to meet the needs of the occupants whilst being as energy efficient as possible. This in itself seems fairly easy to achieve but what we need to remember is that every building and the needs of the occupants will change over time.


One of the common misconceptions about any control system is that once it is installed it will contribute to energy savings and while this should certainly be the case for the first few months, if it isn’t managed properly it can become a burden rather than an efficient solution.


In the worst cases what started out as a valid attempt by building services professionals and systems specialists to provide an energy efficient, flexible lighting control solution turns out to be an expensive override switch as users struggle to come to terms with day to day running of the technology.


This is an all too familiar scenario for commercial building managers and one which we need to address if we are to fully take advantage of the benefits which this technology has to offer.


Where to start


Over the last few years the market has been flooded with a variety of different energy efficient light sources and controls solutions which all promise to provide efficiencies and cut the cost of running a commercial building. Unfortunately as a result of this many buildings now feature a mixture of all of the latest technologies which are not necessarily working in harmony.


If you add into the mix the fact that not all of the ‘specialists’ who supplied the original kit are still available to provide support for the installation, what we have is a variety of systems in buildings which at best are providing some energy savings and at worst are no better than a simple on/off switch.


What the industry therefore needs to do is adopt a holistic approach to lighting control to ensure that efficiencies continue to be achieved over the entire lifetime of the system.


The right solution


Many companies will offer a service which covers supply and commissioning but this should really only form the beginning of a long term partnership. The key to ensuring that you continue to achieve optimum performance lies in monitoring and maintenance in order to optimise energy use as changes to the building and its occupants take place. But perhaps of equal importance is the need for the end user to understand what the system can provide.


A fully addressable lighting control system has the capacity to be readily configurable to suit many combinations of requirements as specifiers look to ensure cost effective and flexible control for the latest in conventional fluorescent luminaires and LED light sources.


For example, systems now cater for an ever growing number of possible control requirements and protocols such as DSI/DALI, 1-10v, active/passive PIR, scene set, DMX colour change, daylight linking, incremental dimming, emergency lighting test and monitoring, central battery changeover and circuit monitoring.


The list of capabilities is endless and this all contributes to energy savings – but only if it is managed correctly. So even though controls specialists have become adept at configuring systems to provide any number of site specific requirements; after contract completion this knowledge is not always passed on or understood by the end user.


A maintenance contract with the specialist supplier is therefore paramount to ensure that system support is available, not least for on-going training for new members of staff  but also to ensure that end users are kept fully up to date and aware of how the system operates and its configuration.


Monitor and maintain


One of the major concerns which comes from end-users is their ability to make changes and if, as a result of these changes, the system ceases to operate. In this type of scenario telephone support as part of maintenance contract is essential because it allows the building manager to discuss the changes with a qualified engineer and quickly resolve any issues which may arise.


But one solution which is proving to be the preferred option in the building services industry is for the end user to provide a secure TCP IP address for remote access. The main benefit of this option is that it allows the building manager to brief the controls specialist on the changes which need to be made, or if the building manager is confident in their understanding of the system to initially support and monitor the user actions in real time. By remote real time review of the system data, confirmation and verification of any changes can be made and any issues can be resolved immediately.


Full engagement


I said at the beginning that lighting controls should not be viewed as a ‘fit and forget’ solution and the benefits of regular engagement between the building manager and the system supplier really highlights this statement


In short it is vital for the end user and specialist supplier to continue to fully engage to ensure that the user receives maximum benefit from the system and is made comfortable with both the technology which is operating in their building and the possibilities available – a ‘soft landings’ approach which is already fully endorsed by BSRIA with graduated handover of buildings.


A further compelling reason for remote access is where metering is required for compliance with the Lighting Efficiency Numeric Indicator (LENI). Through CP Maloney (a joint venture with Maloney Associates Energy Management Consultants) a full metering, data acquisition and energy optimisation proposal for both the lighting and building management services can be introduced. In the longer term this ensures that building trends are constantly reviewed and control strategies can be adjusted to optimise both cost and performance without undue compromise to visual and environmental comfort


A lighting controls solution should be an integral part of every commercial building and where they are used and managed correctly they can provide significant savings. But as with many technologies they come with a warning because while initial investment in the technology is certainly a good start this absolutely should not be the end of the story. The key is to remember that every controls solution will evolve with the building – but only if you fully engage with the specialists and continuously monitor, review and update in line with the changes which are happening within the building.


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