New opportunities for the year ahead

The building services industry can expect to see many changes in 2013 but one thing which will remain constant is the need to comply with the WEEE Directive. Simon Cook of Lumicom explains why we need to keep our eye on the ball.

The economy was the cause of many sleepless nights in 2012 but despite numerous setbacks for the industry a lot of good has come out of the general tightening of belts. It may not seem that way for your business, but a perfect example of this is the installation of energy efficient products by many businesses in an effort to reduce their energy bills. This has certainly had a positive effect on the industry and resulted in an increase of new projects on the books.

The last twelve months has also seen an increased drive towards recycling and although many people continue to bemoan the introduction of the WEEE Directive, all of the signs point towards the fact that the number of recycled luminaires continues to grow.

To prove this point, figures released by the Environment Agency in December showed that Lumicom was responsible for 100% of Category 5 WEEE collections within two consecutive quarters in 2012, recycling 80.599 tonnes in Q2 and increasing to 99.764 tonnes in Q3. So despite the fact that industry growth is reported as being fairly static, the numbers are steadily on the increase.

The next 12 months

Now that we are firmly embedded into the new year, it’s a good time to look at what the next 12 months will hold and what changes we can expect to see.

One of the major concerns for this industry in the upcoming months will be the impending changes to Part L of the building regulations which relate to efficient lighting in non-domestic buildings. When it is introduced later this year it will effectively mean big changes to the lighting industry but it will also bring with it a number of new opportunities and new installations.

In previous versions of Part L the measurement of efficiency has been based on the luminous efficacy which basically meant that it didn’t matter how inefficient your luminaire was providing the lamps were efficient. But all of this is changing. The measurement will now be based on luminaire efficacy and as a result every single luminaire will also need to be energy efficient.

Another change which we can expect to see is the introduction of Leni as a means to measure the predicted energy use of a luminaire. What this basically means is that a wide range of other measures such as daylight, occupancy, operating hours and the controls package will also need to be taken into account to ensure that lights are only operated when they are needed.

This is big news for the building services industry because as a result of these changes a number of refurbishment projects will be taking place. The first thought by many will be the bill which will come as a result of such a refurbishment, but I believe that we should look at this as an opportunity rather than a burden.

Up to now many businesses have put off the installation of new energy efficient lighting due to the costs involved. But this isn’t necessarily the way to approach the situation because while there is an inevitable cost involved, the savings can be extensive and the addition of a proper lighting control system could well see payback on the project in a shorter period of time than you thought.

No exceptions

Another reason for many people to delay a lighting refurbishment project is the need to comply with the WEEE regulations – but again there could be a surprise in store because this can be a lot easier than you think providing it is approached in the right way.

The WEEE Regulations are fairly straightforward in that they make business users, manufacturers and retailers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) responsible for making sure that their goods do not end up in landfill or incineration. Manufacturers therefore have cradle-to-grave responsibility, having to make provision for the treatment and recycling of all affected products.

What it is important to remember is that there are no exceptions – the WEEE Directive applies to everyone and therefore every luminaire which is replaced needs to be removed and delivered to plants where recycling can be performed. It is also worth bearing in mind there are changes afoot between now and 2018 where new legislation will come into force which will incorporate the recycling of household items, small IT and telecommunications equipment and PV panels amongst other things.

It is also worth noting that while you have to comply with the WEEE Directive, as a compliance scheme we also have our own targets to meet. The Environment Agency figures which I quoted show that we have already nearly achieved our 2013 target of 100 tonnes of recycled luminaires in a quarter – but there is still a lot of work to be done. In fact we need to work harder because by the end of 2016 the target for collection of WEEE will be 45% of the average weight of EEE which is placed on the market. Three years later this target rises to 65%.

Recycling in practice

So if you are part of a refurbishment project then you need to ensure that all of the redundant luminaires are recycled in the appropriate manner and this can be done through one of the industry compliance schemes which were set up when the WEEE Directive was first introduced to act on behalf of the manufacturers.

One issue which may arise on large projects is if the luminaires which are being removed belong to different manufacturers who in turn are members of different compliance schemes. If this is the case then each scheme may have to be dealt with separately, increasing the volume of paperwork, telephone calls, skips etc.

This is obviously far more straightforward if all of the manufacturers are members of the same compliance scheme because there is a single point of contact and as a result many specifiers are now thinking ahead and sourcing their luminaires from manufacturers that belong to the same scheme. In this way they address the needs of the client by making disposal at the end of life a very simple process.

There is no real doubt that the industry will continue to find it tough in 2013 but we have to grasp the opportunities that are available and while for some new legislation may be bad news, for others it opens up new possibilities.

In the same way, people may complain about having to meet the obligations of the WEEE Directive but surely in the longer term recycling these end of life products is in everyone’s best interests.

I have said this many times in the past but it never hurts to say it again – WEEE Compliance needn’t be an onerous task – in fact compliance schemes such as the one operated by Lumicom are here to make your lives easier and if you are unsure then ask for advice – a good compliance scheme will be only too happy to help.

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