Bright idea: How LED technology is key to future smart buildings

Cost and functionality have traditionally been two big hurdles for the widespread use of LED lighting technology in commercial buildings. With technical improvements and increasing awareness of LED energy efficiency beneits, there has been some limited adoption in parking and exterior applications.

But the convergence of building automation and information technology that is transforming the facilities management industry -- and helping define the smart buildings market -- presents a significant opportunity for deployments in LED (light emitting diode) applications.

Smart buildings are defined by integrated controls and automation that optimize how equipment operates to manage costs and improve efficiencies. Lighting is one of six key smart building technology segments, as outlined by IDC Energy Insights, that enable building systems to respond to internal policies, weather, or even utility price signals to balance the occupants' needs, in this case for lighting, and business objectives.

We've outlined three distinct benefits a business can reap with a smart building lighting system. And when the lighting technology is a LED, the benefits are amplified and illustrate an opportunity for investment that can trump the pushback on upfront cost.

Energy Efficiency: LEDs have long been touted for their superior energy efficiency benefits in comparison to other lighting retrofit options. This benefit is counterbalanced by the challenge for consumers to incur a significant cost premium.

The industry continues to evolve with innovation improvements in chip and driver technology, the components engineered to deliver light, are helping drive down this pricing challenge.

Even more, when integrated into a smart building lighting solution, the automation and controls of the LED system amplify energy savings potential by optimizing lighting in response to daylight and occupancy.

Operational Efficiency: The energy savings generated by an LED system can be quantified in terms of a reduction in demand and illustrated in real dollar savings by comparing utility bills.

Next page: Corporate benefits and how to spur widespread LED adoption