Industry journalist Craig DiLouie, LC, CLCP recently interviewed Matt Ochs, Senior Marketing Director, Lutron Electronics for an article for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. The topic: the role lighting controls can play in risk mitigation during the pandemic. Here’s the transcript.
DiLouie: How can lighting controls support the reopening of buildings and business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic? Why are they an important part of the mix for a lighting solution that promotes healthy building use and minimizes potential transmission of pathogens?
Ochs: Lighting impacts virtually every area of a building – it is essential to making a space comfortable, secure, and productive. Smart, wireless controls and sensors offer automated, touchless options to ensure no one needs to enter a dark space, and lights are not left on when a space is vacant, while also providing peace-of-mind that employees and visitors won’t need to touch a control surface to be in a properly lit space. Since it doesn’t require any manual interaction to operate, a touchless control strategy can potentially reduce virus transmission and the amount of cleaning and disinfecting required in a space.
Wireless control can be designed and installed quickly – up to 70% faster than wired solutions – to accommodate new builds and renovations during critical times. A great example of this is the need to expand patient-care areas in hospitals. Lutron was recently involved in building out five floors of a New York hospital – from initial design to occupancy – in less than 3 weeks.
Because the Lutron Vive Wireless control solution was in-stock at a local distributor and could be installed even before final design decisions were made, the lighting control system was able to be designed, installed and programmed to meet the hospital’s very aggressive timeline, and serve a community in need of hospital beds. When spaces need to be built or reconfigured quickly, wireless control solutions offer significant advantages.
DiLouie: In what ways can touchless lighting controls support building operation with reduced risk of infection? In what ways can the space utilization feature of intelligent lighting control systems support building operation and health?
Ochs: Spaces are inherently subject to change. The need to adjust space layout is likely to be even more common as updated COVID-19 occupancy guidelines continue to impact the way people work and interact indoors.
Solutions such as Lutron Vive Wireless Lighting Control, make it easy to quickly program and reprogram lighting zones and set up scenes right from a convenient app on your smart device. For example, contractors or facility managers can configure the lighting to accommodate socially distanced work areas. Lighting can be reconfigured at any time with no rewiring, no opening up walls, and very little impact on people in the space.
With more sophisticated software, like Lutron Vive Vue, building owners and managers can access occupancy and energy-use reports to help determine which areas are underutilized, or where there is high demand for a conference room or meeting area. Lighting can be reconfigured right from an app to immediately reallocate space where it is needed most.
Smart, wireless control systems also include options for installing occupancy and daylight sensors anywhere in the space in just minutes, for automated, touchless control of lighting. With wireless personalized controls, like Lutron’s Pico wireless remote, facility managers can provide individualized remote controls at each workstation to facilitate personal control with few common touches. These solutions minimize surfaces that need to be cleaned and may give employees greater peace of mind.
DiLouie: What other capabilities or data could be deployed or extracted from a lighting control system to support building operation that is healthy, particularly during the pandemic?
Ochs: Using an integrated, smart lighting control solution ensures that building data such as energy use, occupancy and lighting levels, and system alerts that help identify and address problems before they impact space use, can contribute to enhanced building operations.
All this data can now be available on your smart device and can be accessed and configured remotely. A contractor or facility manager doesn’t even have to be in the space to make adjustments and respond to employee concerns. This can be especially important as more employees are working from home or working with adjusted schedules to minimize building occupancy.
Flexibility is going to be more important than ever from both a manufacturing and product design standpoint. We are likely to see a continued surge in the use of wireless and digital devices that allow for quick space changes and the freedom to make last-minute design decisions without having to open up walls and pull extra wires.
As employees head back into the workplace, wellness will be on everyone’s mind – tunable white lighting, automated shading solutions, and technologies such as Ketra natural light solutions will contribute to enhanced feelings of well-being, comfort, and peace-of-mind.
DiLouie: Why should the sales channel get excited about this opportunity? What is the potential sales opportunity? What can contractors and distributors do to position their firms to recommend lighting controls as part of a healthy building solution?
By working with a manufacturer who can ensure product availability, distributors can offer their customers solutions that are available when and where they are needed. In addition to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, contractors across the country are already dealing with skilled labor shortages. Less time waiting for products means more time focusing on getting on and off the job quickly. Product availability is critical to increasing profits and keeping customers happy.
Contractors can choose a provider who is committed to keeping product in stock, available, and reliable. As many contractors are already dealing with skilled labor shortages, the less time they have to spend waiting for products, the more time they have to focus on getting on and off the job quickly.
Contractors can also pivot to wireless control solutions that install quickly – up to 70% faster than wired solutions – reducing both time and material costs. This helps them increase the number of jobs they can take on, as well as their profit per job.
Manufacturers are now offering powerful, online support tools, like QuEst-D from Lutron, that require only basic information about the job to provide quick estimates, code-compliant solutions, and even good-better-best options to help the customer make an informed decision. Look for tools that make your jobs easier right from the start.
DiLouie: Please describe your company’s approach to this trend and associated product lines, and how they can be used during and after the pandemic to promote healthy building operation.
Ochs: Lutron offers smart lighting and shading solutions that are simple, scalable, and reliable. With a wide variety of controls from a simple, standalone dimmer to fully integrated systems for a room, building, or campus, Lutron offers the right solution for your current needs, and for the future of your project.
Lutron’s approach is based on its first and guiding principle: Take care of the customer with superior goods and services. This principle has informed our business, and our approach to our customers, for nearly six decades. We are here for you today, have consistently offered state-of-the-art technologies, and will be here with innovative, reliable, beautiful, energy-saving solutions to meet your customer’s needs tomorrow as well.
DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about lighting controls as a solution for operating buildings during the pandemic and after, what would it be?
Ochs: Design, install, and implement lighting control solutions that are built for today’s realities and tomorrow’s possibilities. Lighting plays a key role in both indoor and outdoor spaces so focus on solutions that are designed and built for flexibility, efficiency, aesthetics, and scalability. Change is inevitable. You should feel confident that the lighting control solution you choose can handle whatever the future brings.