Guest post by Thomas Paterson, Director, Lux Populi
Delivering lighting controls is the work of the membership of the Lighting Controls Association. But who is responsible for commissioning them? As architectural lighting designers, we commission controls companies through a single document set – plans, performance specifications, details and specifications. This package forms the basis of the contract documents that will be priced competitively and turned into a final contract.
This nexus is where the challenges of controls begin.
Client briefs typically consist of basics – easy to operate, low cost, energy saving, future flexible, future-proof. Some articulate greater detail – daylight harvesting, occupancy sensors, maybe individual control. But prior to having a lighting design, it’s hard to land specifics.
ROI is impossible to measure as any final design is being measured against a straw-man, an inefficient design. And that’s an energy saving, not ROI which must consider value generated not just savings. Productivity allegedly improves with personal control, or more refined occupancy sensing. Recently we’ve been adding Wellness to briefs, whether the generalized ambition of Wellness/Human Centric Lighting or specifically the Well(TM) Standard.
Color temperature differentiation through the day can be forced by artificial lighting or layered daylighting over night-appropriate lighting that emerges as the sun sets. Such a project might look like our work at Dentsu Aegis Network in Culver City, as space in which daylight predominates. Artificial lighting is warm, downward (shadow-making), glare free and effective. It’s also zoned.
Documenting such goals is hard.
Here we arrive at the challenge of the marketplace. A single controls manufacturer brought in from the outset helps establish a design? When the job goes to market, GCs propose alternates and there is a trail of wreckage of controls manufacturers collaborated, only to be cast aside. Where successful, they save cost burdens to all, because the design is coordinated and coherent. Does the alternate match? Who is responsible for ensuring true equality?
Alternatively, do we wait until bidding and market test a variety of potential manufacturers. This is the most convenient way, as the GC brings with them their preferred team. The challenge for lighting designers is how to arrive at this point ready to serve our clients interests.
How do we, as practitioners, serve our clients’ interests. Typically they want a project delivered quickly, with minimal variations – remember, in the 3/30/300 split, lighting sits at best as $3 against rental or ownership costs at $30 (let’s get moved now!) and the risk of losing staffing in chaos, who represent $300 in the cost mix. Changing manufacturers also often means changing control protocols, respecifying and rebudgeting luminaires midstream.
At the time of the project, there’s a broad stakeholder team with a limited number of imperatives. Once handed over, there are a handful of stakeholders (essentially just the physical plant/operations team) with detailed interest in every operational aspect of the system. These are the ones who will reap the immediate benefits of a ready-to-use, well engineered, fully commissioned system. The rest have left already!
So let’s return to the question of the document set.
How does one define a control system in a contract set? In principle, you can define hardware. That’s dangerous for everyone – does it work? How will it be commissioned? Who is responsible for product mismatch? There is a promise of commissioning, but controls manufacturers consistently undersell hours to keep their bid competitive.
The only way to develop a truly effective contract set is through use of a performance specification – a statement of what the system must be capable of achieving, and how it must be commissioned. Lighting designers drafting these documents bring a plethora of issues. The GC and often EC are only interested in it as a way of acquiring that package, not understanding it. The body of information necessary to define what full commissioning looks like is far beyond what anyone will actually read.
As controls get more sophisticated, how do we capture the behavior of a system? Factoring a sequence of performance criteria through the day, from occupancy to glare control, color temperature, brightness, etc.
Where does this information come from? How is it organized? Once it’s inputted into the system, how is it tested by the controls company prior to handover? How does a client or their lighting designer validate that it was delivered?
These are the controls challenges facing lighting designers now.
Perhaps what the industry needs is an industry-wide template (master spec) for the way systems might perform – a document with draft text for each feature, occupancy sensors, time-of-day wellness scenarios, the implementation of each sensor type. Designers could then narrow the document to relevant chapters, populate the tables and deliver an easily used document to the contract set. By bringing together a single document expressing all these elements, every party could learn those parts relevant to the project. Is this something the Lighting Controls Association could be driving? IESNA? Because everyone doing something different isn’t working.