Case Histories: Multi-Family Residential
Using Lighting to Its Fullest Extent
Condominium managers have any number of important tasks to fulfill, most of which can be grouped under the broad umbrella of keeping the owners happy. This goal can be attained by maintaining, if not enhancing the owners’ living environment, maintaining, if not reducing the cost of environmental maintenance, and maintaining, if not increasing the value of their units.
Electric illumination plays a major, although often overlooked role in condominium living. Without it, especially at night, the living environment becomes threatening, which can produce a significantly negative impact on asset value. Of course, no one would ever suggest turning off all the lights, but all too often something akin to such a suggestion is not only made, but acted upon.
Stated succinctly, lighting is composed of significant quality factors that often are not considered in the desire to achieve only one of the three objectives introduced previously: maintaining or reducing the cost of maintaining residents’ living environment. In the rush to reduce energy consumption, and thus lower O&M costs, management can and generally does make the assumption that light is light. Thus, the changes made to save energy will not cause any negative fallout because the quality of light after the change is made will be more or less the same as the current quality of light while at a lower cost.
However, in many cases, the quality of light is reduced greatly after the change and–when quality is not considered–other O&M costs, environmental quality and asset value could all be affected adversely. Even more significant, the opportunities to improve lighting quality are not recognized and, as a consequence, opportunities for lower O&M costs, improved environmental conditions, and enhanced asset values are not realized. Consider how lighting is or could be used at the condo properties you manage and the significant ripple effects that could materialize.
Using lighting to reduce crime and legal ramifications
Case histories show that in parking lots and garages, better lighting lowers the risk of vandalism, break-ins and assaults. A well-illuminated outdoor lot immediately conveys the message that “It’s safe to park here,” making residents feel more secure while enhancing curbside appeal (i.e., higher resale value or more valuable rentals, which also contribute to better asset value). Good lighting also permits pedestrians to see suspicious people sooner and easier, allowing them to take appropriate evasive or defensive action. As a result, you may be able to reduce the extent of any security patrols you have in force, because better lighting permits security forces to see more at any given time and to see it quicker than they would have otherwise. What would a 10 percent reduction in your security patrols be worth? How does that sum compare to the cost of lighting?
When the risk of incidents is lowered, so too is the possibility of claims, lawsuits, litigation and negative publicity, all of which can lower quality of life and resale values. It is also important to remember that when you lower risks, you should be able to convince an insurance company to lower its liability insurance premiums, in some cases by an amount that can easily translate into a 100 percent (or more) energy cost savings.
Using lighting to reduce accidents
When designed properly, parking lot and security lighting improvements reduce vehicle/vehicle and vehicle/pedestrian accidents and allow residents to spot slipping/tripping hazards, including steps, patches of ice or ponded water, twigs, leaves and branches. Thus, lighting truly can enhance both safety and security when it is designed specifically to do so.
Using lighting as a guiding force
At some condominium communities, various outdoor areas are illuminated in different types of light, giving each a somewhat unique color (e.g., a golden-white light for use at the pool area and a bright white light for tennis courts, etc.) Using the same colors along walkway lighting makes it easier for residents to distinguish which walkway leads where. Consider the lighting you use to illuminate walkways between the parking lot and various building entrances/exits. It can be a handsome addition to the grounds, enhancing asset value and environmental quality while guiding residents to their destinations.
Using lighting to accent beauty
The beauty of buildings and grounds can also be enhanced significantly with lighting. For example, a city such as Washington, DC is far more impressive at night than during the day. On a canvas of darkness, lighting becomes much like an artist’s paint, illuminating only that which the artist wishes to accent in a manner most befitting the situation.
In condominium properties, the lighting that beautifies also provides safety and security. Again, the value of reduced risk and lower insurance premiums can easily offset the cost of the benefit.
Using indoor lighting
Lighting can also help in indoor common areas. For instance, better lighting allows cleaning crews to do a more thorough and faster job. Likewise, good lighting offers the same benefits in storage areas of all types, because it provides the ability to view objects more clearly and with fewer misidentifications.
The benefits described previously are not hypothetical. Rather, the data is derived from a number of case histories involving multifamily residential, commercial, industrial and other documented case history situations. In almost all the cases, the benefits of lighting have been attained through lighting system improvements that have lowered–not increased–the cost of lighting system operation and maintenance.
The National Lighting Bureau
A good source of information on these cases is the National Lighting Bureau, a 24-year-old educational nonprofit organization sponsored by professional societies, trade associations, credentialing organizations, manufacturers and federal government agencies. The Bureau’s purpose is to help decision-makers use high-efficiency lighting wisely by deriving the maximum benefit from its application. If a situation calls for more lighting and more energy consumption than before, so be it. Such expenditures can–and generally must–be shown to produce a positive effect that goes far beyond whatever cost may be involved.
To what extent is your condominium property now achieving everything it could through what the National Lighting Bureau calls High-Benefit Lighting®? Any number of techniques are available to help you make an assessment, and a substantial amount of guidance is available free on the Bureau’s Web site. Most of the Bureau’s sponsors also provide helpful information, and a number of these sponsors have members or employees who can help you make a lighting assessment (in some cases without charge).
Do not put this assessment off! You will be pleasantly surprised at the benefits of good lighting, including enhancing the environment, lowering operating and maintenance costs, and improving asset value.
John Philip Bachner is the author of several hundred published papers on the subject of property/facility management in general, and lighting management in particular. Formerly, he was the chief staff executive of the Property Management Association for more than 20 years.
Reprinted from Condo Management Magazine, February 2000, New England.