Guest post by Brent Protzman, PhD, CEM, LEED GA, LC
Brent Protzman is the Manager of Energy Information & Analytics at Lutron Electronics.
Today, smart building technology is changing the way we think about lighting control and building integration. Manufacturers can increasingly deliver components that maximize energy-efficiency and integrate with other building systems to provide automated, data driven control. But, as lighting controls become smarter, it is critical to remember that first they should create the best possible experience for the people who live and work in the space.
Ultimately, the customer’s perception of quality starts with the expectation that whatever is installed in the building will work – that it will, first and foremost, achieve its intended purpose. A dimming system, for example can help optimize energy efficiency, reduce installation and operating costs, and integrate with building management systems – but most importantly it has to dim smoothly and improve the lighting environment.
In regards to lighting control, quality can be defined by four basic principles:
1. Devices require a dependable control system. Think about what happens when a lighting control system fails. A single day of failure over the life of the system can cost a business almost as much money in productivity losses as the cost of the lighting control system itself. Lighting is one of the most operationally essential aspects of any building.
2. The lighting experience is important. Lighting control systems are becoming more complex, and greater integration is required. Manufacturers have to understand how to apply the best control strategies and how to properly integrate them to achieve high performance and deliver the expected results.
3. Manufacturers must be accountable for the performance of their products. No system is perfect, and problems will come up on some jobs. To account for this risk, it is important that the manufacturers have a service and engineering organization capable of quick response to solve the problem instead of creating delays and additional callbacks.
4. Devices have to be compatible across systems, even in the face of constantly evolving technologies. It is difficult to see the future of integration and interoperability. Systems must be designed with this in mind and allow for a wide breadth of existing and future integration possibilities.
A smart lighting system considers both electric light and daylight control.
Lighting systems must provide the right illumination levels for people to go about their visual tasks. And, although it is extremely difficult to isolate the productivity benefits of appropriate lighting levels, research has found a clear link between control over their personal environment and employees’ comfort and motivation. A comprehensive approach means that both electric light and daylight control are used to maximize comfort and energy savings.
Shading systems, for example, are primarily designed to reduce glare and provide thermal protection for building occupants. Without effective glare mitigation, a shading system would provide little overall value. However, glare control does not eliminate the ability for advanced daylight harvesting, preservation of occupant views, and opportunities for passive heating or heat reflection. A truly high performance system understands the hierarchy of control and always maintains primary functionality first, before addressing advanced benefits such as energy optimization and data analytics.
Energy efficiency is important – not only as a cost-saving factor, but as part of a growing global commitment to sustainability – but the emphasis on energy saving is relatively new. Lighting controls have been around for more than 50 years and the primary purpose has always been to provide a meaningful benefit to the people working and living in the space. As we evaluate building lighting control strategies, the first point of emphasis must be the sociological impact on building occupants. This results in bottom-line savings in terms of reduced energy consumption, employee effectiveness and overall well-being.