Lighting the way to business efficiency
The ease of updating residential lighting to LED luminaires has allowed for a widespread move towards more energy efficient lighting solutions for households. However, this wave of updates has not yet had the same impact on commercial buildings in Australia. Businesses operating in older buildings are often burdened with outdated lighting solutions, meaning higher energy use, and consequently higher costs.
On average, lighting accounts for up to 50% of a business’ energy usage, yet updating it is generally one of the simplest methods with which to reduce energy use and its expense. As awareness of sustainable practices increases, and consumers become savvier when it comes to energy use, the demand for ‘green’ commercial buildings is expected to increase.
LED lighting solutions can reduce energy use by up to 82%, when compared with conventional solutions. They can result in reduced operating costs, impacting the appeal of a commercial property to potential lessors. They also appeal to the growing sustainability-minded market in Australia.
Office buildings rank highly when it comes to energy intensity, and as established lighting can have a heavy impact on energy consumption. Currently only 26% of Australian office space has a NABERS star rating, indicating high rates of inefficient space. This presents a great opportunity for contractors, and a great business case for building owners to invest in a lighting overhaul.
For electrical contractors, there are a few key considerations when it comes to updating the existing lighting infrastructure in a commercial building.
Comfort: As with the home environment, lighting in the workplace will invariably impact comfort.
In the workplace the impacts of lighting can be even more acutely felt, and can affect productivity. Office workers spend between eight and nine hours a day at their desks – therefore it is important to consider comfort from a lighting perspective, including exposure to natural light, light quality, application, glare control and lux.
Practicality and functionality: Any commercial project should be approached with consideration as to the total cost of ownership, being the initial cost of the update, operation costs and maintenance costs.
As we know, the installation of LED luminaires can reduce operating costs substantially. However, they can also positively impact maintenance costs, largely due to the lifetime of the lamp. The most common lifetime specification is L70, which indicates estimated operating hours before light output falls to 70% of initial levels; from a well-designed LED luminaire you can expect 50,000 hours of use offering up to 70% of initial lumen levels. This compares favourably with conventional lamps which offer an average lifetime of 15,000 to 20,000 hours.
From a functional standpoint it is also important to consider current Australian standards, both in regard to the Australian Building Code and those set by Standards Australia. This often relates to appropriate lighting, it is common to take a uniform approach to lighting, but it should be considered on a needs basis, specific to the area being lit to avoid over-lighting.
Finally, when considering practicality – with the rate at which LED technology is developing – it is vital to take into account the upgradability of the installation, particularly in this commercial context. This will allow building owners, and lessors, to keep up with technology without the need for another expensive redesign.
Australian lighting standards: While minimum energy performance standards (MEPS), which are a common standard applied to lighting, do not currently apply to LEDs there are other safety requirements to be aware of.
All imported and locally manufactured electrical and electronic equipment must comply with EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) emission requirements, as stipulated by the government. Compliant products are identifiable by the RCM (Regulatory Compliance Mark). It’s important to be aware of this, as non-compliant products do still make it onto the shelves, and can hinder building approval processes, as well as incur additional costs for the client.
Leverage your network: From planning through to installation it is important to leverage the knowledge at your disposal.
As discussed the impact of a lighting upgrade goes beyond driving down cost to a business, it is also vital for employee wellbeing and reducing the environmental footprint. Generating a lighting plan upfront, during planning – rather than as installation starts – will allow all elements to be catered for and provides a pathway to achieving a satisfactory result.
It’s also worthwhile considering the growth in building certifications during the planning phase, and when required, seeking options that will allow these to be met.
For example, many new builds and retrofits strive for a Green Star Certification, which will – because of the energy consumption of lighting – undoubtedly inform the overall lighting plan. The earlier lighting can be considered in the broader refit or build, the more likely the building is to achieve the certification.
Getting it right
While it seems a big undertaking, the opportunity in the commercial space for lighting refits is substantial, particularly with the wider focus on sustainability. It is suggested that contractors look to upskill where possible and develop in the area by gaining accreditations through trusted solutions providers to ensure they are well positioned for this type of work.
Building and working within a network of practitioners will also help to develop exposure to the process of planning. Lighting design has an important role in commercial spaces, some products will be better suited than others, and working with partners in design will help to ensure the best fit.
Building relationships with partners, such as Registered Lighting Practitioners, and working with them to plan lighting requirements early on will result in a better outcome for the client.