Why lighting control should be an integral part of refurbishment

Published:  10 March, 2009

Ex-Or - John Forsythe
Lighting control as an aid to reconfiguration — John Forsythe.

Much refurbishment work requires lighting control to be incorporated, which, properly done, can make churn and future refurbishment much easier. John Forsyth explains.

Building owners and occupiers are increasingly seeing refurbishment as an opportunity to improve lighting levels and make the lights more energy efficient, so reducing the lighting element of their electricity bills. This nearly always means a degree of lighting control needs to be incorporated into the refurbishment scheme.

Indeed, the Building Regulations and other legislation place a duty on those carrying out building refurbishment involving lighting to take into account the energy usage aspects of lighting. The Building Regulations state: ‘Where it is practical, the aim of lighting control should be to encourage the maximum use of daylight and to avoid unnecessary lighting during time when spaces are unoccupied…’ In existing buildings, if the area to be refurbished is in excess of 100 m2 provision has to be made for energy-efficient lighting and controls.

Whether the project is a complete internal refurbishment or a lighting upgrade where inefficient luminaires are being replaced, refurbishment is an opportunity to incorporate lighting systems and controls and to reap the benefits they bring.

Effective lighting management delivers three real benefits: significant reduction in energy costs by eliminating unnecessary lighting; compliance with legislation and the creation of a more comfortable and productive working environment.

However, there is a misconception that lighting control is a hindrance in dynamic offices which experience frequent layout changes in response to changing work patterns. In fact the opposite is true. Correctly designed and installed lighting control actually facilitates the processes of both ‘churn’ and ‘hot-desking’. The right lighting control systems allow managers to introduce flexible office working practices more cost effectively and help them to manage them successfully on an ongoing basis.

Let us start by defining churn and hot-desking before demonstrating where lighting control comes in. Churn refers to the frequent changes in use and layout of office space that are needed to meet constantly changing work patterns in a dynamic office environment. Hot-desking is where workers share the same desk space at different times of the day — sometimes 24/7.

How does lighting control facilitate churn? When desks and workstations in open-plan offices are moved around or changed in size as the number of people in work teams increase and decrease, demand for the delivery of light is constantly changing. This means there is a frequent need to alter lighting systems to match the changed workstation layouts. Maintenance and refurbishment managers often assume this involves hiring maintenance staff or electricians to alter hard-wired cabling and switching, or to carry out the complicated and time-consuming process of reprogramming managed lighting systems via a PC.

But it is possible, as long as the managed lighting system is specified correctly, for maintenance or facilities staff to use a simple hand-held programmer similar to a TV remote control to quickly alter the delivery of light. They just need to use the programmer to alter and reset the programmable features within the lighting system’s detectors. These detectors are either ceiling mounted or an integral part of the lighting luminaires. All that needs be done is to point the programmer at the nearest detector or luminaire, and the changes are easily made at the touch of a button. The process takes just a few seconds.

In offices where hot-desking is prevalent, desk space is used irregularly and often outside normal office hours. Indeed, flexible office workers can spend around 45% of their working time on the move, away from their desks. Again, effective lighting control comes to the aid of those responsible for maintenance and refurbishment. Quite simply, lighting-control systems employing presence-detection technology ensure lights come on only when desks or workstations are occupied. They automatically come on when people are detected and levels of natural light need supplementing. They automatically switch off when the space is unoccupied.

A major lighting refurbishment incorporating sophisticated lighting management from Ex-Or was carried out recently at Royal & SunAlliance’s Birmingham office complex. It allows the company more flexibility as a growing number of its 700 employees work outside the core 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. time frame.

The prestigious 7600 m2 8-storey office building on Fetter Lane in the City of London underwent a complete refurbishment with the interior being gutted and refitted. Consulting engineers Foreman Roberts Ltd specified the Ex-Or MLS Digital Lighting Management System throughout the building. Now maintenance and facilities managers there can alter lighting patterns and access further levels of functionality as required by individual tenants — a cost-effective yet supremely flexible solution to meet the aspirations of this prestigious, multi-occupancy office development.

Changing levels of occupation and space usage at Yorkshire Water’s three-storey office HQ led to the installation of Ex-Or managed lighting systems. These were designed to cope with regular re-configuration of space occupied by different sections and departments within the building. The use of hand-held programmers makes any change to lighting panels fast and simple.

The message to those involved in maintenance and refurbishment is clear. Effective lighting control will facilitate the process of churn and hot-desking — not hinder it.

John Forsyth is general manager of Ex-Or.

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