Case Histories: Educational/ Institutional
Why do you have lighting in and around your buildings?
It’s not a silly question. The answers may be more involved than you think.
by John Philip Bachner
Security is the first reason most people will give for lighting. That is a good answer, but it becomes more complicated when security is broken down into elements. For example, improved security lighting prevents, or at least reduces, incidences of break-ins, but it can also eliminate or reduce the cots of damage repair, replacement of stolen materials, and/or police report preparation and administrative report preparation.
More importantly, it creates a more secure environment for students and personnel. Security lighting also provides less likelihood of slip/trip accidents, as well as a reduced risk of vehicle/vehicle and vehicle/pedestrian accidents.
The same lighting can enhance aesthetics by illuminating selected aspects of the building and natural environment, giving the school and its grounds a better image. By using different types and/or colors of light, walkway illumination can cut clear, safe pathways for students and teachers.
When evaluating a school’s lighting, certain questions need to be answered: What would be the effect of improving the current lighting? What would be the effect of installing additional lighting?
High-Benefit Lighting is designed to optimize the performance of the functions it is installed to support. The concept is particularly important in this era of budget-cutting and energy conservation. To many budgeting authorities, electric illumination is nothing more than an expense, but if done properly, the results can be better lighting that costs less to operate and maintain. The savings associated with lighting can be maximized only when one considers the bottom-line effects of what it is lighting does and can do.
For example, improving the lighting also results in fewer accidents, fewer assaults, reduced patrols, etc., all of which have financial implications that need to be considered in the overall equation.
Consider the case of Clark School in Swampscott, Massachusetts. A school department spokesperson reported that before taking preventive measures, the school suffered damage from vandalism and break-ins. Children were able to climb onto the roof and rip off shingles, resulting in leaks that caused damage, as well as the need to repair the roof. In another area of the building, kids would light fires in the corners. Windows near the boiler room were constantly being used for target practice with missiles of all sorts. Altogether, damage estimates came to more than $1,000 per year.
The school installed a far more effective security lighting system and, as a result, the vandalism problems disappeared. In addition, the new lighting system was far more energy-efficient. A school representative said that if the lighting situation had been evaluated only in terms of energy and other operating and maintenance cost savings, the upgrade may not have been made because the payback was estimated at 4.5 years. However, because management asked the questions, “Why do we have lighting here?” and “What would be the effect of improving the lighting?” they realized the savings would also include the elimination of the expenses resulting from the vandalism. As a result, the modification was made and payback was achieved in 15 months.
At the Red Lion (Pennsylvania) Area Senior High School, a group of parents wanted the school board to install lighting around Horn Field so their children could participate in athletic contests at night, when parents could be there to watch. The felt so strongly about it, they volunteered to raise the $75,000 necessary to install the lighting. The school board agreed to pay for the system’s operation and maintenance.
Far more parents and community members turned out for nighttime games of varsity, junior varsity and other teams. In addition, the installation of light permitted the school to charge a modest admission fee. Greater attendance also had a dramatic effect on concession stand sales. As a consequence, the school enjoyed unanticipated revenues of almost $13,000 in the first year. Had they taken those issues into consideration before, chances are no fund-raising, or only a modest effort, would have been needed. Had they studied the question, “What would be the effect of installing additional lighting?” they may have anticipated the increases in revenues and the lights may have been installed sooner.
In another high school, studies showed that by improving the lighting in the gymnasium, students performed with a higher degree of eye-to-hand coordination and, even more significantly, the lighting improved safety conditions resulting in fewer injuries when the teams were using the facility. The same types of results were reported in another case, where the installation of new, more efficient lighting in an industrial arts classroom reduced the number of injuries, thus improving the level of safety for the students.
Details, a teacher once told me, are essential. Now, I say the same thing to teachers and administrators. Reducing the costs of operating and maintaining a lighting system is important, but by examining the details, you will quickly discover that there is significant dollar value and many other benefits associated with high-benefit lighting.
To take advantage of all of the benefits available from High-Benefit Lighting, schools should rely on the help of an experienced, knowledgeable professional, who will evaluate the existing lighting system and data associated with the its purpose, e.g., accident rates. The professional should identify, and provide costs for, appropriate lighting options, outlining the effects it will have and the dollars involved.
John Philip Bachner is the author of several hundred published papers on the subjects of property/facility management and general and lighting management. Included in his works is The Guide to Practical Property Management, published by McGraw-Hill. He was the chief staff executive of the Property Management Association for more than 20 years.
Reprinted with permission from School Planning & Management Magazine, April 2000.