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Making light work

Lighting accounts for around one third of energy costs within commercial buildings so in our latest roundtable, industry voices assemble to discuss how FMs can best achieve efficient and effective lighting.


1 July 2010


The panel

Cathy Hayward (chair) is editor of FM World

Bruce Griffin, director energy 
solutions, Lutron

Martin Preston, specification sales manager, N Europe, Lutron

Paul Worswick, entrepreneur and author

Tom Ogilvie, managing director, Brett Martin Daylight Systems

Andrew Mannion, Associate, Atkins

David Benson, divisional technical services manager, ISG

Clive Hall, director, BDGworkfutures

Jane Langton, director, Mace Macro

Sophie Hutchinson, sustainability manager, Morgan Lovell

Miles Pinniger, lighting consultant, Mitie

Peter Hall, director, risk management, SGP

The roundtable


Cathy Hayward (CaH): How do you make FM embrace sustainability and turn those lights off?

Jane Langton (JL): If people are not happy using the technology, then it’s a waste of money. It needs a culture change, showing them what they can and can’t do, and about educating them.

Paul Worswick (PW): Yes, but you have to motivate people as well as tell them why they are using the technology.

Clive Hall (ClH): People often feel that sustainability is someone else’s responsibility. Passive, automatic control of lights is a good thing but it reinforces that belief. People will leave a building at night in the belief the building isn’t their responsibility.

Miles Pinniger (MP): In three big post occupancy evaluations I’ve worked on not one of the workforce was interested in their environment. Systems to control daylight and heating must be automatic.

CaH: Don’t people want to feel in control?

Tom Ogilvie (TO):
There assumption within the SBEM Part L calculation tool for design is no automatic lighting control means users leave them on all the time.

CaH: Is the technology right? In a meeting I’ve seen people jump up and wave their hands in front of a sensor to turn lights on or off.

David Benson (DB): People in a meeting room just switch the lights on full even though they need only a third of that. One group leaves the room, another comes in and lights stay on full all day. Only certain people in an office you can train to use the lights. In nine out of 10 instances we train the wrong person.

Stuart Moorhouse (SM): Make some aspect a discomfort for them so they take an interest.

JL: Our generation may think the technology a nuisance, but Y generation are more interested in it and the environment. They’ll accept the latest ambient lighting on automatic control but want personally controlled task lighting.

MP: Future systems won’t go from completely zero to 100 per cent but will simmer on, using only 10 per cent of energy, and adjust automatically when you walk into the room.

ClH: Lighting can be like the now multifunctional photocopier where you need an instruction manual to turn on the lights.

CaH: Should FMs then be more involved at the design stage?

DB: An FM is normally involved a month before the end of the construction. I have yet to be involved with a client and their FM from day one.

Peter Hall (PH): I was involved in a hospital, sat for weeks with a designer but had to do an immediate renovation because it was not what people wanted.

DB: If you build for an end-user, they have focus groups telling us what they want. When you build for a developer, it’s “build me a building to meet all planning permissions, give me some energy conservation features”, and then “who wants to buy it from me”.

Tom Ogilvie: Regulations help set base levels and designers can mix and match natural and automatic top-up lighting to meet lux design levels.

CaH: But why don’t more people just switch off the lights to save energy?
Sophie Hutchinson (SH): Studies at the University of Sheffield have shown reducing the lux level from 500 to 400 can save you 20 per cent of energy.

MP: Some marketing agents perpetuate historic ideas about 500 lux levels and category two lighting which means we need more education of occupiers.

DB: Nowadays we’re doing more 350-lux installations. Many say it’s good for sustainability, but it also simply needs fewer lights and therefore saving installation costs.

JL: Yes, but if you use 350 lux with no task lighting and with today’s aging workforce, there will be more eyestrain.

Andrew Mannion (AM): The higher lux levels were more appropriate 15 to 20 years ago when there was more writing on paper, but now it’s more on a PC whose screens are much brighter.

DB: We just finished a job with white work surfaces, glass cupboards and bright paint. Reflection is being used to improve lighting. Carpets are lighter and more 20 per cent gloss paint is used. We put 400 lux lighting in an office and then installed light carpets and the light levels went up by 150 lux. But if you are working with a developer, they might say just put in a grey carpet and be done with it.

CaH: What about tasking security personnel to turn off the lights?

JL: That’s rare. It’s really about who pays the bills.

PW: Lighting is such a small fraction of the overall cost of running a building.

MP: Not always true. It might be 30 per cent of total energy costs, especially if there is air-con. We should start lobbying Eric Pickles [Communities and Local Government secretary].

TO: Lighting is seen as a natural part of the environment, an ambient thing. We don’t turn the sun off when we go indoors. We will control task lighting. Turning off office lighting is just not going to happen.

CaH: What about naming and shaming people?

DB: If you leave your computer on overnight in my office, the next morning you have a dirty great sticker on it. Hardly anybody leaves their computer on now. It might be we need the government saying install more efficient lighting control.

CaH: Do we need more regulations?

PW: The Carbon Reduction Commitment is trying to achieve this by the price of carbon emissions going up. Whether you want to address that cost by improving lighting or changing AC units, that is up to you.

PH: Sustainability is sometimes only a buzzword. There needs more education within FM itself. KPIs should be written into a contract. It will take a long time to get the message across, unless there are financial incentives. But as for regulations, there are always ways around them and we are over-regulated now anyway.

JL: It has to come back to public awareness, maybe a national switch-the-lights-off day.

Bruce Griffin (BG): As an experiment, we linked up to 40 university and schools through the internet and challenged them to compete to use less energy. These kids running around now turning off lights will one day enter the workforce with the same attitude.
PW: What motivates me is my when car and heating fuel bills go up and what affects my niece’s asthma. We have to make sustainability real to people for them to do something about it.

PH: Try telling the board you want to talk about sustainability. They’ll ask what’s in it for us? You must quantify it for them to take notice.

CaH: If the Holy Grail is about increasing productivity, how can lighting do this?

MP: More daylight can be negative because of sunlight glare, but positive with giving an employee a view out a window.
DB: We’ve put small trees in the centre of a large floor where there is not much light and put UV dimming lights shining on the trees. This light rises and falls as natural light levels rise and fall. It made people happier.

PH: We simply changed the blinds in our office and allowed people more control. Productivity appeared to go up, but we couldn’t measure it.

CaH: How can we measure that productivity in knowledge workers?

TO: Measure absenteeism rates.

PH: We had far fewer complaints to FMs.

JL: In Germany you can’t put a desk in a position where a regular worker has no line of sight out a window. It’s back to regulations.

SH: But sometimes designing to Breeam specs is highly expensive.

TO: Building Schools for the Future has improved natural lighting but with the enormous windows all the blinds must closed so students can see the interactive white boards.

JL: It’s about works zones and placing them in the right places according to how much lighting an employee’s task may require.

CaH: What feedback do you find on post occupancy reviews?

MP: Glare is the biggest negative. We’ve been through the era of Category Two louvres with bright fluorescent lights which hopefully nobody still specifies, which led to much glare. If you see better with your hand over your eyes there’s a glare problem. You can do a lot with fritting and external shading, and electro-chroming glass to reduce complaints.

JL: Another problem is poor or low lighting levels, especially in meeting rooms.

TO: Contrast – the diffusion of light over an area – is another issue. Bright areas are too bright and other areas too dark. An evenly diffused low level of light is better.

ClH: Design and architectural industries must sharpen their game, especially for meeting rooms where you have lights for feature, ambient, task work.

DB: How long will it be, five years, before an entire building uses LED lighting?

MP: Yes, but don’t assume that it will be good LED lighting because it isn’t the lighting industry investing in LED, it’s the flat screen people like Samsung, Sharp, LG and Toshiba.

CaH: How can god lighting help churn, the problem of moving people around a building?

JL: You’ll never stop churn but good lighting in the fist place will cut the costs of people moving around. Sometimes a storage area will block natural light, so move it out or move nearer a wall. In older buildings this often works well.

CaH: So talking about lighting often involved talking about something entirely different?

DB: We are looking at project with no ceiling lighting. Desks have task fluorescent lights with large windows. But when the sun goes from once side of the building to the other, the workers are never happy.

JL: It is something we have to deal with the UK because our light is poor, especially in winter, unlike the Mediterranean.