Outdoor Lighting Controls: The State of the Art

Outdoor lighting controls is undergoing a mini-revolution that offers new design and selling opportunities while challenging electrical professionals to stay on top of technological change.

Traditionally, outdoor lighting control was relatively simple. A typical scheme featured a controller providing automatic ON/OFF based on time of day (using an astronomical time switch) or daylight (photosensor). The luminaires were typically controlled at the circuit level with no individual luminaire control.

Commercial building energy codes imposing requirements for more advanced sequence of operations, coupled with greater controllability of LED lighting, have resulted in outdoor lighting control design becoming more sophisticated.

Energy codes and outdoor lighting control

ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2010, the national energy standard, requires all outdoor lighting be controlled by a photosensor. Building façade and landscape lighting must be controlled by a time switch that turns the lights OFF at some point during the night.

The energy standard also requires all outdoor lighting power—other than building façade and landscape lighting, but including advertising signage—be reduced by at least 30% after normal business operations based on a schedule or occupancy.

Parking garage lighting power must be reduced by at least 30% based on occupancy, with control zones limited to 3,600 sq.ft. Daylight harvesting and separate control for daylight transition areas (i.e., entrances and exits) must be implemented.

These simple requirements, created to save energy, have had a big impact on the world of outdoor lighting control, increasing demand for sensors, individual luminaire control and controllability. This in turn has increased demand for good design and commissioning.

While not all states have adopted an energy code at least as stringent as ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2010, the products and experience developed around compliance provide ready-to-go solutions for other states as well as existing buildings.

Control options

Today’s product offering from manufacturers offers electrical professionals a spread of choices for outdoor lighting control with distinct capabilities.

A lowest-cost solution for outdoor lighting may include circuit-level, contactor-based switching of luminaires grouped in functionally appropriate control zones, each with its own schedule and/or photosensor as needed. The lighting would be controlled at a panel. If the lighting is dimmable, control wiring must be run the luminaires.

A more robust solution might include luminaires with attached control devices that provide individual multi-level occupancy- and daylight-based luminaire control. The photosensor activates the lighting, while the occupancy sensor raises/lower light output and electrical input based on occupancy. In a parking lot, for example, this solution would be appropriate for area lighting, while signage and security lighting could be operated dusk to dawn using a photosensor of a limited time of night using a schedule.

Outdoor lighting control is trending toward individual multilevel control. At the Collection Auto Group Fort Mitchell dealership, the lights dim to 10 percent of light output at night (schedule) but automatically ramp up to full output if a vehicle approaches (occupancy sensing). Image courtesy of GE Lighting.

Outdoor lighting control is trending toward individual multilevel control. At the Collection Auto Group Fort Mitchell dealership, the lights dim to 10 percent of light output at night (schedule) but automatically ramp up to full output if a vehicle approaches (occupancy sensing). Image courtesy of GE Lighting.

The most advanced solution in terms of capabilities is an integrated wireless control system that provides ON/OFF and dimming implementing daylight-, occupancy- and time-based strategies. In a parking lot, for example, the area lighting could be zoned and controlled as individual luminaires or groups, while the signage lighting could be controlled on a schedule and security lighting dimmed as individual luminaires or groups.

Occupancy-based multi-level outdoor lighting control is a relatively new phenomenon. Currently, options are limited to passive-infrared (PIR) detection. These options may expand in the future to include options for digital imaging (non-recording video), which offers more precise detection in the dynamic outdoor environment.

While the LED continues to displace other light sources in many applications including outdoor lighting, it will not eliminate the need for control; in fact, it facilitates the adoption of greater flexibility. Intelligent multilevel control is well suited to LED lighting due to the inherent controllability of the digital LED source.

Wireless lighting control

Wireless control demand and technology continues to advance at a rapid rate due to its advantages of allowing devices to communicate without costly installation of wiring. It offers further advantages of two-way communication and individual luminaire control.

Kim Altitude LED luminaire with integrated wireless (wiHUBB) control.

Kim Altitude LED luminaire with integrated wireless (wiHUBB) control.

Two-way communication creates two distinct capabilities. Operators can calibrate/recalibrate the system, change schedules and distribute commands from a central point. Many wireless control solutions incorporate intelligence enabling the capture of performance data that can be reported to a central point for maintenance, performance and security purposes. Systems such as these are supported by a web-based interface that enables operators to remotely visualize real-time performance, set schedules, zone luminaires in groups, and generate custom reports that can optimize management of outdoor lighting as an asset. Some offer GPS-location capability allowing operators to understand what is happening at each control point and where that point is, which can be highly useful for maintenance of street, public space and large area lighting.

Because it’s a relatively young technology, it’s unclear as to what the best and most reliable methods are at this point. ZigBee, 6LoWPAN, proprietary and cellular approaches are all on in various stages of implementation.

What’s best for your application?

Selecting the optimal solution involves evaluating necessary control sequence of operations, need for multilevel control, configurability and information needs for predictive maintenance, energy analysis and security. The selected control solution should be able to reliably deliver the desired feature set.

During their decision-making, electrical professionals should consider outdoor lighting control not as an isolated system but part of the total building lighting control system. With the integration of luminaires and controls, the traditional view of these as two separate items is changing to one that regards lighting as a system. In existing building lighting upgrades, controls should be considered as part of a lighting and control solution supported by utility rebates that recognize controls as well as lighting. With intelligence, communication and the ability to collect data, today’s lighting can be viewed as systems that deliver sensing, decision-making, control and prediction. Electrical professionals involved in the selection and delivery of outdoor lighting controls should stay educated on what’s new and how it works to continue offering the best value to clients.

Reflect at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center Lobby Wins IES Lighting Control Innovation Award Of Excellence

The Lighting Control Innovation Award was created in 2011 as part of the Illuminating Engineering Society’s Illumination Awards program, which recognizes professionalism, ingenuity and originality in lighting design. LCA is proud to sponsor the Lighting Control Innovation Award, which recognizes projects that exemplify the effective application of lighting controls in nonresidential spaces.

This month, we will explore the role that lighting controls play in enhancing the visitor experience at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center Lobby, which features a special permanent light installation called “Reflect.” Lighting and control design by Brett Andersen, Dan Henry and Heath Hurwitz with Focus Lighting. Photography by Ivan Toth Depeña and Heath Hurwitz. Lighting and controls by Philips Color Kinetics using custom software developed by Focus Lighting.

“Reflect” is a permanent installation that utilizes sensors and light to explore the idea of circulation within the space – a government lobby adjacent to a transit hub.


Light boxes, internally illuminated with RGB LED’s, were designed to precisely fit the lobby’s columns. The boxes enliven the space without intruding on the lobby’s existing architecture using a slim 6-inch profile that creates the illusion of interactive columns.


Using movement as inspiration, the lighting designer developed custom camera-tracking software. Data generated from this software was then used to control the LED’s to display abstract reflections of passers-by.


As visitors pass by the boxes, their pixelated, abstract reflection follows. When there is no movement within their vicinity, the light boxes replay animations from previously recorded interactions with visitors.


Off-the-shelf video game cameras at the base of each box feed motion-tracking data to the custom software, which interprets the data and then commands each LED to a specific color. A full-size mock-up allowed the lighting designer to fine-tune programming details prior to being on site.


The designer varied the sizes of the “pixels” within the box to create an interesting visual composition while adhering to incredibly tight budget constraints.


LEDs minimize maintenance and maximize energy efficiency. In the rare instance maintenance is required, the boxes are constructed to swing open on a sturdy hinge.


The lighting designer tested fixture brightness and multiple types of diffusion against the amount of daylight present to ensure the boxes were neither too bright nor too dim.


Based on time of day, the control system cycles through a palette of predetermined color schemes that always look pleasing to the eye.


“Reflect” engages visitors and promotes a sense of community through group interactivity and high-tech playfulness while enlivening the space itself through the constantly shifting looks of each lightbox.


Siemens Publishes Whitepaper on Integrated Lighting Controls

Siemens and Building Operating Management Magazine have produced research that examines how lighting control can be integrated into building management systems and why doing so offers facility executives better control of their building systems.

Click here to read it now.

LCA TV: Universal Dimmers by Leviton

This short video, produced by the Lighting Controls Association at the 2012 LIGHTFAIR event, introduces the building industry to Leviton’s universal dimmer line.

LCA TV: Gamma Lighting Control System by Siemens

This video introduces the building industry to Siemens’ Gamma Lighting Control, an integrated control system with a distributed control architecture, which allows owners to manage all aspects of their lighting without worrying about single points of failure. Designed for buildings of any size, Gamma’s seamless integration with the company’s building automation system enables management of an entire facility from a single operator station.

Click here to learn more about Gamma Lighting Control by Siemens.

Lighting Controls Association Welcomes Daintree Networks as New Member

daintreeThe Lighting Controls Association is pleased to welcome Daintree Networks as a new member of the organization.

Daintree Networks is a trusted provider of one of the industry’s smartest building energy management solutions. Daintree’s ControlScope™ is an open-standards-driven energy management and monitoring solution for lighting, temperature and other energy controls. The solution delivers up to 70% energy savings, operational efficiencies, as well as occupant friendly work environments while providing actionable decision-support information through Big Data analytics. The solution can also support monitoring of other environmental conditions such as air quality, humidity, food safety and more that comprise the “Internet of Things” (machine-to-machine) eco-system.

Daintree Networks is a channel-friendly company with leading strategic and technology partners helping serve its customers globally with major locations in Silicon Valley, California, and Melbourne, Australia.

Click here to learn more about Daintree Networks and its products.

GE Delivers One Complete LED Lighting and Controls Solution for Net Zero Energy Office

When LPL Financial, the nation’s largest independent broker/dealer, an RIA custodian and an independent consultant to retirement plans, began envisioning a new zero net energy (ZNE) office building, it set four strategies to drive the project—energy efficiency, health and wellness of employees, connectivity and flexibility. Architects had a vision for a 13-floor, 415,000-square-foot office tower in San Diego, and designers had a desire for an efficient office lighting system that felt comfortable to occupants, allowed for added savings through dimming and daylight harvesting and could easily accommodate the changing needs of a growing business.

“GE rolled up their sleeves and got to work,” said Otto Orr, V.P. of project management, corporate real estate, LPL Financial. “They flew to Charlotte and immediately got engaged with our engineering team—looking at sketches, switching from fluorescent, eliminating fixtures. I’ve never seen a supplier jump in like this. Generally they’re looking for the architect to churn out drawings, and then they’re going to give you a proposal.

“From the start we felt like GE was one of us. They showed us that an LED solution was possible.”

At ease with LED
After investments in fuel cells for a consistent source of clean electricity, as well as an under-floor air-distribution system to reduce heating and cooling loads, LPL needed a similarly energy-conscious lighting strategy to help achieve its net-zero goal.

“We went in assuming we couldn’t afford LED office lighting within the project scope, and were hesitant to trust the technology in an interior space,” said Orr. “We’d seen a lot of advancements with LED in exterior and commercial areas, but we hadn’t come across counterparts doing it in a classic office setting. We pushed hard to explore available options with other manufacturers, before we realized GE was in the indoor fixtures market segment.

“After we sat down with them, we got very comfortable with the technology very quickly.”

By analyzing architectural drawings, GE’s experts conceived a new lighting scheme that converted fluorescent fixtures to LED, and further eliminated a number of them entirely, reducing total fixture count by nearly 40 percent. Lumination™ BL Series LED Luminaires were chosen for common aisles and employee areas—the long, narrow bands of light are integrated within the ceiling to lend a stunningly clean, contemporary look to LPL’s new office.

“The lights just go away in the ceiling,” said Orr. “It’s gorgeous. As you look down the plane you can’t even see the fixtures, and there are no shadow marks. It really works well with our layout.”


Control of costs
Orr explained that when it came to office lighting controls, GE again simplified and streamlined what could have been a complicated process.

“We were actually looking at a fairly complex lighting control system that added a lot of cost to the project. That’s when GE demonstrated a much simpler solution that met our needs. More importantly, when you have a project this size, typically you have a lighting supplier, a controls manufacturer and a project manager involved.

“With GE it felt good to have all of that—a full lighting solution and a controls package to go with it—all in one bucket.”

With GE’s LightSweep™ lighting control system and Aware™ occupancy sensors, LPL now enjoys dimming and daylight harvesting capabilities on every floor, which are zoned to allow individuals to make their own adjustments.

“If an employee wants to dim down a workstation or a programmer wants a certain light level, we can do that without paying a fortune for features we don’t need,” said Orr, adding that throughout the entire project, LPL appreciated how GE was able to coordinate delivery and implementation for all lighting needs via its local San Diego partners Del Sol Resources and Crescent Electric Supply.

“Crescent’s partnership with Del Sol Resources and area contractors, plus its ability to provide dedicated project management and storage, staging and timely delivery of the LED fixtures by floor were also factors in making this a very successful project,” Orr said.

Designed to adapt
GE’s improved office lighting layout also gives LPL Financial a great degree of future flexibility.

“We designed the building with raised flooring and demountable walls in order to easily tear down and build up new configurations over time,” Orr said. “GE helped us create a regimented lighting pattern that puts all the fixtures right where they need to be to accommodate either an office or a workstation. It’s a universal plan that will allow us to ebb and flow seamlessly with our business unit reorganizations.”

Tracking returns
LPL will save an estimated $38,000 annually in lighting energy costs with LED opposed to fluorescent. Each floor of its new San Diego tower is metered to measure HVAC, plug, and lighting electrical loads separately. This data, displayed on an LCD monitor in the main lobby helps to make employees more informed about energy savings in the building.

The tower utilizes three fuel cells to convert biogas into carbon-neutral electricity that will allow the building to achieve net-zero energy status, and all surplus power is pushed back to the grid through San Diego Gas & Electric. Eighty-eight percent of the tower’s water consumption, nearly 2.5 million gallons annually, is recycled and used for irrigation and other building needs. On-site charging stations for electric vehicles are also available for employee use at no cost.

Finishing touches
The near 100-percent LED-lit building also uses GE’s Lumination™ BT Series LED recessed troffers in ceilings, as well as LED architectural lighting on walls and LED task lighting at workstations.

“You read stories about LED lights degrading—the color spectrum getting away from you, lights actually turning a different color,” said Orr. “After we heard about the research and all the hours of testing that GE puts in, we felt much better about product quality. But if there would be a failure, you want to make sure that a replacement is available, and we felt GE would be there to support us years down the road, which is something you can’t say for all brands.”

“The cost, the warranty, and the payback were all there, which made it easy to absorb GE’s LED lighting solution into the project scope.”

Future plans
LPL will closely study the San Diego building for the next few years and will immediately employ best practices like LED lighting in new construction projects, including an office in Charlotte, N.C.

“We believe we are the country’s largest net-zero commercial office building,” Orr said. “The passion was there, and now our group, including GE, drives it forward. This building shows our dedication to our employees and the environment—we created a net-zero strategy that, when we look back, we’ll be proud to say our activities and outreach started here.”

Universal Lighting Technologies Enters Occupancy Sensors Market with New Cento Line

universalUniversal Lighting Technologies recently announced the energy-saving CENTO® occupancy sensor line. The CENTO line joins Universal’s already comprehensive product offering as one of the most effective components for lighting control solutions on the market today.

Occupancy sensors can be specified for energy-saving control strategies in spaces having intermittent lighting requirements, including office, commercial and industrial applications. These include classrooms, offices, washrooms, light assembly, warehousing and many other spaces where large energy savings are available by assuring a lights-off condition when unoccupied. When combined with other controllable lighting measures, these sensors can enhance savings provided by an already effective system.

The CENTO line of occupancy sensors includes ceiling and switch mounted devices, color variation options for the switch mounted products, line voltage (Universal 120/277 and 347 volt), and low voltage devices in both basic and feature rich models. The CENTO family includes 25 initial SKUs of PIR occupancy sensors with expansion of the line slated for later in the year.

Click here to learn more.

Lighting Controls Association Welcomes Siemens Corporation as New Member

Siemens-logoThe Lighting Controls Association is pleased to welcome Siemens Corporation as a new member of the organization.

Siemens AG is a global electronics and electrical engineering company operating in the fields of industry, energy, healthcare and infrastructure, notably green products and solutions including Siemens Gamma, the lighting control system offered by Siemens USA. Gamma is an integrated control system with a distributed control architecture, which allows owners to manage all aspects of their lighting without worrying about single points of failure. Designed for buildings of any size, Gamma’s seamless integration with the company’s building automation system enables management of an entire facility from a single operator station.

Click here to learn more about Siemens USA and Gamma Lighting Control.


OSRAM SYLVANIA recently launched the QUICKTRONIC® HELIOS™ 10, a universal-voltage dimming system for T8 fluorescent lighting applications. The ballast interfaces with standard low voltage (0-10VDC) controllers, making them ideal for office lighting or automated building applications, both
in new construction and retrofit projects. Depending on the control strategy, dimming ballasts offer energy savings of 20 to 75 percent compared to fixed output T8 electronic systems. The QUICKTRONIC HELIOS 10 T8 ballasts are dimmable to 10% on 0-10V dimmers and feature anti-flash circuitry.

The QUICKTRONIC HELIOS 10 system is also suitable for use with occupancy sensors and in energy management, load shedding and daylight harvesting applications. For advanced systems, such as daylight harvesting or building automation applications, standard low voltage devices (0-10VDC, Class 1 or 2) are used to control the lighting system. In daylight harvesting applications, each lighting fixture (or fixture row) is controlled by its own photosensor, regulating the light output to compensate for changes in natural daylight, making HELIOS 10 ballasts a good choice for these applications.

QUICKTRONIC HELIOS 10 ballasts coupled with OCTRON® XP® XL or OCTRON XP XL SUPERSAVER® lamps are covered the QUICK 7XL+™ lamp and ballast warranty, the longest warranty in the industry covering lamps and PROStart® programmed start ballasts for up to seven years.

The QUICKTRONIC HELIOS 10 is NEMA Premium Electronic Program compliant. The program promotes the use of high efficiency T8 electronic ballasts by meeting or exceeding the Ballast Efficiency Factors (BEF), established by the CEE (Consortium for Energy Efficiency). Additionally, the QUICKTRONIC HELIOS 10 assists in achieving energy code requirements such as ASHRAE 90.1 and CA Title 24.

Click here to learn more.