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Cutting costs, not corners

This tough economic environment means that even more value is required when specifying
lighting solutions, but with so much choice, how do you make the right decision?

New York Times building

Cost is always going to be important for large commercial properties and to a certain degree, expense has to be expected. Therefore, a combination of environmental cost savings and how to achieve energy savings is going to have a big influence.

“As a company we intuitively understood that if we were going to work in a building with so much outer glass, we had to keep a rein on our energy consumption. That helps our bottom line but also is the environmentally responsible thing to do,” comments David Thurm, Senior Vice President of Operations of the Times Company.

Located in Manhattan, the New York Times Company, as parent of the New York Times, built a new headquarters; a 52-storey skyscraper with 1.5 million square feet jointly owned with Forest City Ratner Companies of New York. Its chief attributes are open spaces and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that provide the building’s occupants with wide views.

The importance of lighting controls was recognised by the Times Company from the start. Executives extensively researched the state-of-the-art lighting control options to satisfy their twin desires for daylight harvesting and for the flexibility to reconfigure spaces easily and simply. As Thurm states, virtually every decision fell under tight scrutiny to drive innovation and to avoid ‘well-intentioned guesses by others as to what you want’.

The challenge was to make the employees feel more comfortable, to produce an energising work environment, and to create a system that offers every floor and its lighting zones special lighting schemes that are based on the amount of daylight to penetrate the space.

Research into solutions eventually gravitated to the Building Technologies Department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California. With guidance from the Berkeley Lab, the project design team, manufacturers, and the Times Company built a replica of the southwest corner of its new building at one of its printing facilities in Queens, New York. For six months, from winter solstice to summer solstice, the mock-up tested an array of different lighting technologies and products from a variety of manufacturers, including a new technology emerging from Lutron Electronics; a company with more than 50 years of experience in lighting control.

The testing convinced the Times Company to select Lutron’s Quantum light management solution for its office space. Quantum employs a number of different strategies – including daylight control, occupant control, target set point control (light level tuning), time clock control, and emergency lighting control – to give building occupants maximum comfort, and to give business owners the flexibility to adapt their work environments to meet changing business requirements. Quantum also features software to control, monitor, and report on the lighting usage in the building.

While 1.28 watts per square foot of lighting power were estimated for the building, only 0.38 watts were used with the Quantum system. This equates to yearly savings of $1 per square foot. In addition to these savings, there is a derivative effect from Quantum on the HVAC system energy performance. The reduced output levels of the lighting system means that less heat load is created by the lights, which means that the air conditioning system works less frequently; further reducing energy use in the building.

“We designed our building to use 13.8W per square metre of lighting power. It’s only using 3.6W; that’s 75% less,” comments Glenn Hughes, Director of Construction for The New York Times Company.

“What we have achieved with our building is spectacular,” comments Thurm. “But any office space eventually needs to move in different directions and this lighting system gives us the flexibility to change as we see fit.”

With Quantum, the daylight sensors make the most of natural light pouring into a space, continually and imperceptibly adjusting the electric light levels accordingly, whilst also maintaining a consistent overall light level for the people working in that space.

“With all the daylight coming in, the avoidance of glare was a crucial issue to the client,” said Attila Uysal, Principal and Technical Director of the lighting design firm, Susan Brady Lighting Design Studio. “Lutron’s involvement from the beginning was invaluable. They understood that the ‘quality’ of the lighting mattered as much as anything and they were able to deliver a highly sophisticated digital lighting system with a very powerful control software tool that’s easy to use and that carried the clients’ wishes to the nth degree. Everyone was impressed.”

By using this system, customers save over 9.2 billion kWh of electricity each year, which is equivalent to almost £1 billion; enough to light 4.5 million homes for a year and as much CO2 as two million acres of trees could absorb in one year. Indeed, corporations and universities using Lutron systems have reported reduced lighting energy usage of 60% or more.

These major reductions in energy use can shrink a building’s carbon footprint, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and also reduce light pollution at night.

In the UK, lighting accounts for more electricity usage in commercial buildings than any other connected system. Effective lighting control is therefore a critical component of an energy saving design because it can dramatically reduce lighting energy usage over baseline usage. Combining strategies like dimming, switching, daylight sensing, daylighting, occupancy sensing, individual control, scheduling, and limiting maximum output can have a significant impact on the amount of electricity used by the lighting in a commercial building.

Ecotrucost, an independent body that provides cost and environment efficiency benefits, endorses this standpoint and has a website with a mechanism for lighting specifiers to instantly calculate their potential energy and cost savings when installing commercial property lighting solutions. It can be found at: Naturally, lighting specifiers need to be fully aware of the products and solutions that they suggest, the value of those products, how to advise their clients on the benefits of those products, the impact upon the environment, costs, and installation necessities. Within 90 seconds, this website will calculate the potential savings available. All users need is knowledge of the size of a building in square feet or metres.

At last, there is a way to make the right decision when specifying lighting solutions and make savings too.

A free online cost and environmental efficiency calculator is now available. Go to:

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