Case Histories: Office Lighting
Managing Light: There’s More to Lighting Management Than Switching Lamps
By Randy Brown, Managing Editor
Good lighting is often transparent to the customer. Unless an employee can’t see her desk in the shadows, or his computer screen in the glare, lighting is typically only a background concern.
Buildings professionals, of course, know better. They know that good lighting practices deliver many benefits, including:
- Increased worker productivity.
- Better aesthetics.
- Reduced operating costs.
- Improved safety and security.
What even building professionals may not realize, however, is that the interrelation among multiple facilities factors makes lighting management as much an art as a science. Say that Human Resources wants to reshuffle office space. Maybe update it a little, too. Have managers thought about how moving cubes affects the efficacy of the lamps as they’re currently placed? Or how the selection of darker, cooler paint colors will reduce the reflection of ambient light?
Or what about the office crusader who eliminates half the lamps to decrease workplace energy consumption, plunging his co-workers into a 9-to-5 version of the Dark Ages?
As always, the best defense is a good offense. Lighting management is an active pursuit of a number of goals, including:
- Providing adequate and appropriate illumination to customers, whether to the internal workforce or to the external public.
- Planning and managing lighting investments, installations, and inventories, to maximize cost and labor efficiencies.
Both management and maintenance factors comprise an effective lighting management program. Buildings professionals can start managing their lighting systems more effectively simply by taking inventory. By identifying the types of lamps, ballasts, and fixtures currently used in a building, managers can also better plan for relamping requirements, or retrofit opportunities.
In terms of maintenance, it’s a dirty little secret that many lighting systems fail to perform over time due to dust buildup. According to theNational Lighting Bureau, Washington, D.C., two maintenance factors affect lighting levels in a given workplace. One is lamp lumen depreciation, the steady lessening of light output from a lamp over time, while energy consumption remains constant. Different types of lamps decrease in lumen output at different rates. Another is luminaire dirt depreciation, the fixture’s ability to resist dirt build-up on light reflecting surfaces and lamps.
An active, planned lighting maintenance (PLM) program can address both factors. By regularly replacing and cleaning lamps during off-business or unoccupied hours, buildings managers can deliver a consistently high level of illumination — at a labor savings. (Demands on operations personnel actually decrease if they’re not constantly “putting out fires” by replacing burned-out lamps.)
Additionally, managers can often eliminate overlamping by designers by ensuring proper maintenance — and, thereby, lamp performance. Interior planners often add up to 25 percent more lamps to correct for both lamp lumen and luminaire dirt depreciation.
Generally, a lighting management plan is a five-part process, beginning with an initial assessment, and developing into full implementation and maintenance.
According to the National Lighting Bureau, the process includes:
- Conducting a lighting system audit. Simply put: know what you have and how it’s performing, given current maintenance practices. Knowing your system’s capabilities, as well as its current performance, is good insurance against making a hasty, and potentially unnecessary, decision toward a complete overhaul.Audits can be performed by lighting consultants, independent contractors, product manufacturers, or in-house personnel with appropriate training and equipment.
- Identify options. Avenues of further investigation can include: installing new types of lamps in existing fixtures, retrofitting or replacing fixtures, installing new controls, and more. Often, lamping alternatives can be implemented as part of other buildings projects. A heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning project requiring access to vents could, for example, provide an additional opportunity to replace lighting fixtures with minimal workplace disruption.
- Develop a plan. What options will you pursue? What timeline will you follow: Recommendations should discuss factors relevant to your management goals, including quality of lighting, energy savings, cost reductions, and payback.
- Implement the plan. Consider implementing over a number of phases. Pursue those elements with the highest benefit-cost ratios first, then focus on more cost-intensive efforts. Inform other managers and employees of upcoming changes, and make sure to mention the benefits of the project.
- Monitor and revise the plan. Document energy savings, changes in productivity rates, and other factors to judge the efficacy of the lighting management plan. Continue to review and revise the plan, particularly given the continued development of new lighting, lamping, and controls technologies.
By creating and implementing a lighting management plan, buildings professionals can help their organizations integrate seemingly unrelated goals: productivity, aesthetics, efficiency, and more.
It’s important to remember that best intentions don’t generate energy savings — or increased customer satisfaction. Properly focused, the bright idea of improved management can illuminate the way to success.
Good Lights, Good Benefits
Reduced Operating Costs
- Reduces energy and demand costs because of improvements in energy efficiency.
- Reduces air-conditioning costs, depending on lamp type.
- Lowers insurance costs due to risk reduction.
- Reduces visual fatigue and absenteeism.
- Reduces error and improves work performance.
- Saves time spent on redoing work.
Better Quality Control
- Decreases waste of source materials and energy due to lower error rate.
- Increases effectiveness of visually oriented quality control procedures.
Enhanced Business Image
- Improves appearance of “first impression’ lobby areas.
- Highlights paintings, sculpture, and other art objects.
Heightened Safety & Security
- Reduces safe harbors for vandals, muggers, and other lawbreakers.
- Eliminates shadows that can mask hazards.
- Highlights particular hazards or provides more illumination where people must work with sharp or heavy objects, near exposed moving equipment, or in areas subject to liquid spills.
Increased Retail Sales
- Creates the proper ambiance for a given display.
- Brings out color and texture of fashions.
- Lends sparkle to crystal and jewelry.
- Reveals features, details, colors, and wholesomeness of the displayed products.
- Motivates larger quantity, higher-priced purchases.
- Prompts confident buying decisions and reduces returns.
- Triggers impulse and seasonal sales.
- Attracts customers to the store itself, departments, and products.
- Guides building visitors along preferred routes.
Improved Visual Environment
- Creates lively visual environment.
- Improves working conditions.
- Makes image statement.
- Lets customers enjoy and extend stay in stores.
- Instills confidence in store’s fashion or quality awareness.
- Enhances curbside appeal.
- Creates mood-affecting ambiance.
- Improves profitability.
Reprinted, with permission, from Buildings, The Facilities Construction and Management Magazine, April 1997.