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Lighting spaces without lightening wallets.

When the leaders of the American Revolution gathered to draft this nation's great charters, their lighting choices were rather limited: whale oil lamps or tallow tapers. Whatever their relative merits, history shows us that neither proved to be an enduring source of illumination. Today's business visionaries, on the other hand, enjoy a dazzling wealth of lighting options, each incorporating progressive technology that can be tailored to suit individual commercial requirements. The challenge for building professionals then becomes assessing this array of lighting products with regard to applicable needs and budgets.

Putting the spotlight on productivity

The key to a dynamic economy is a productive workforce - one free to pursue excellence without the encumbrance of environmental distractions. It should appear obvious that insufficient lighting (or inappropriately bright light) is one such element detrimental to the optimal use of human resources within the workplace.

According to Norma Frank, vice president of Colorado Lighting, Inc., a Denver-based lighting management firm, and president of the Princeton Junction, NJ-based international Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO), facilities managers are increasingly recognizing the connection between sufficient lighting and employee output. "We see an emerging interest in the quality of light as employers respond to provide employees with what they need to do the job as efficiently and effectively as possible," she says.

The first and finest solution, though, is not to introduce light into a space until it glows; regardless of how this enhanced lighting may be thought to spark productivity, such a surge normally comes at a dear price - exorbitant energy bills and potentially intense maintenance requirements. Typically, decision-makers accept the trade-off whereby acceptable levels of energy consumption and upkeep are tolerated o provide good, if not altogether perfect, workspace lighting. It is in finding this optimal compromise between these competing interests, through informed use of lighting technology, that building owners and facilities managers earn their money.

This pursuit is complicated by the fact that no two lighting end-users are normally amenable to the same solution. Based on such factors as the age of workers and the functions they perform, one company's lighting may be marginal while another's may be more than adequate, but expensive; a third firm's may be both inadequate and expensive. Frank says that any attempt to address deficiencies necessarily entails an examination of the premises to identify possible corrective approaches. An on-site audit defines what areas are going to be involved with specific tasks and then identifies steps management can take to accomplish an effective lighting project.

Frank explains that illumination intensity readings (in foot-candles) are taken and compared with applicable standards outlined by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES), New York City, to determine existing adequacy. This serves as a baseline against which possible lighting solutions can be considered.

Know-how and low watts

Precipitated by the 1973 oil embargo, and the resulting energy price disruptions, a lucrative market for energy-efficient lighting components developed - an opportunity recognized by the lighting industry. Within five years, fluorescent lamps, ballasts, reflectors, and control devices had all experienced substantial design improvements that provided enhanced energy performance. This quest for lighting efficiency continues to the present, resulting in a ponderous matrix of products from which building owners and managers can choose to deliver quality light without excessive cost. The enviable dilemma this poses for managers is how to sort through all the alternatives and arrive at the optimal mix.

Ronald Gilcrease, vice president and regional manager for Amtech Lighting Services, a Houston-based lighting management company, outlines some of the strategies that might be employed. Foremost in Gilcrease's estimation is the installation of more efficient lamps. "If you have standard-grade fluorescent lamps, going to energy-saving ones is a quick, simple [technique] that is very cost-effective and offers a very fast return on investment," he says. "You can use either in-house personnel to install them, or bring in an outside contractor."

Gilcrease says that the simplicity of this tactic belies the potential enormity of its impact. By refitting a 4-lamp fixture with lamps that consume 34 watts/hour each to replace older lamps that eat up 40 watts/hour each, the energy savings is 24 watts/hour/fixture. Assuming that energy costs $.07/kilowatt and an office building has one fixture for every 100 square feet, Gilcrease estimates an owner of a 500,000 square foot facility can enjoy energy savings of around $180,000 over the 5-year life expectancy of the lamps.

Assuming re-lamping with energy-efficient lamps has been accomplished - a step Gilcrease says most progressive companies have already taken - an additional approach could involve replacing old magnetic core and coil ballasts with hybrid ballasts (half mechanical, half electronic) or state-of-the-art electronic ballasts. According to Gilcrease, using the newest generation of electronic ballasts can, in conjunction with energy-saving lamps, reduce power consumption of a single 4-lamp fixture from 192 watts/hour to 109 watts/hour. This 83 watt/hour/fixture savings could, under the conditions listed above, save an owner in excess of $500,000 over the course of five years.

By way of concrete example, Gilcrease cites a major downtown Houston office building that recently undertook a comprehensive lighting overhaul. This project included the installation of over 42,000 new energy-efficient lamps and 21,000 state-of-the-art electronic ballasts. As a result, the company enlisting the work will realize monthly energy savings of nearly $15,000 and save an additional $5,200 in deferred monthly maintenance. In addition, the old ballasts constituted a source of PCB contamination, so replacement produced a profound benefit for the overall workplace environment.

In applications where existing light is adequate, Gilcrease says another method to save energy is through the installation of specular reflectors. By using a highly reflective surface - either polished aluminum (with around 79 percent light reflectivity) or silver (97 percent reflectivity) - less lamps need be used per fixture. "The strategy becomes taking two lamps out of a 4-lamp set, putting in a custom-designed specular reflector, and pumping more of the light out of the fixture and down onto the task. In essence, light generated from the top of the lamp that would otherwise be under-utilized is captured." Less lamps means fewer ballasts and compounded energy savings.

Another alternative involves using lighting controls: Specifically, such things as motion or infrared sensors can detect the presence of occupants within a space and discharge light as appropriate. However, Gilcrease indicates there may be certain disadvantages with some of these devices.

First, fluorescent lamps are rated at three hours per start - they are activated no more frequently than once every three hours. The erratic nature of control via sensors, however, can dramatically jeopardize the rated life span of these lamps. "Fluorescent lighting was meant to turn on and burn for a long time," Gilcrease says. "If you turn it on and off every three minutes, you will probably take a 20,000-hour-rated lamp down to 2,000." This seriously compromises the savings which might otherwise be realized.

To avoid this scenario, timing controls can be used to systematically shut off certain lights throughout a building at appointed times. Gilcrease explains, Typically, building management would have controls that provide for all lights to be on at 7:30 a.m. on workdays, but for half the lights to go out at 5:30 p.m. when only the cleaning crew remains. At 9:30 p.m., with cleaning completed, 90 percent of the lights would be extinguished, leaving just enough illumination for emergency and security purposes." Although such a comprehensive control system could provide substantial energy savings, the cost to have it hard-wired into a lighting system might still prove prohibitive. Gilcrease notes that most buildings with such equipment usually do not use them as stand-alone systems; rather, they are part of a total management control system that also oversees HVAC and other operations, thus making the expenditure more cost-effective.

Highlighting solutions

With new lamps new ballasts improved reflectors, and sophisticated controls, the permutations and combinations that can be brought to bear to improve lighting quality or energy efficiency are impressive, but the considerations making one response preferable to another are complex. For instance, use of new ballasts may not be suitable for all end-users. This decision rests on many considerations, such as:

* Are present usage patterns such that the energy ultimately saved is worth the up-front costs of the ballasts along with the significant expense of installation?

* Does the answer depend on whether hybrid ballasts are chosen in lieu of totally electronic ones?

In addition, specular reflectors can be very cost-effective items, but since they recapture only about 85 percent of the light lost by the removal of two lamps, sole reliance upon them is usually inappropriate where existing lighting levels are insufficient. This concern, in turn, inescapably requires the additional preliminary step of assessing current lighting levels.

As the lighting industry continues to innovate and provide even better products, the search for optimal lighting solutions will persistently confront building owners and managers. One such manager, however, says that an ongoing relationship with a reputable lighting management firm has helped her resolve many lighting-related issues.

"Our company believes in pro-active property management," says Andrea O'Brien, director of Management for Denver-based AmCap Properties, Inc. "Our electrical and lighting maintenance contractor plays an integral part in not only the day-to-day maintenance of our lighting assets, but also in our long-range planning.

We meet once a month to discuss necessary repairs, and many of these are covered by the contract. Repairs are made without labor costs - those are covered by the nominal monthly contract fee. All we pay for is the cost of the material."

O'Brien's comments underscore the imperatives of good lighting: without proper illumination employee effectiveness wanes, productivity is adversely affected, and owner-tenant relationships can sour. Accordingly, building professionals are honing their knowledge of lighting options while utilizing, on an as-required basis, the assistance provided by independent contractors well-versed in the nuances of quality lighting technologies. Pages 68-77 provide a ready reference of lighting products and components that can be used to refine the selection process. For more information, circle the appropriate inquiry number on the Reader Service Card, page 99.

Consultant Clearinghouse

In an attempt to provide assistance where and when it is needed, NALMCO, a network of geographically diverse lighting management companies, was voluntarily formed to help serve the needs of facility management. Anyone interested in accessing its data base can contact the international Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO), Washington Park, 14 Washington Road, Building 5, Princeton Junction, NJ; 609-799-5501.
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Author:Stepanek, Steven
Publication:Buildings
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Words:1751
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