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

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.

A smart building LED system also generates significant operational improvements, but these benefits are often referred to as reduction in soft costs because they are more difficult to quantify due to the link to behavioral changes.

The operational savings come by giving facilities managers greater visibility into how their equipment is operating and identifying key problems to help direct maintenance efforts through analytics that recognize when equipment is failing.

LEDs last far longer than traditional lighting and can lower the total cost of operation for a building. And they offer superior technology for extending  energy efficiency benefits through dimming.

Corporate Benefits: The enhanced energy savings generated by using LEDs help building owners meet strategic greenhouse gas emission reduction, corporate social responsibility and sustainability goals. The energy conservation that generates these benefits is inherent in LED technology and enhanced by building automation and control architecture for energy demand.

So what needs to happen to see widespread adoption of Smart Building LED solutions?

The challenge today is to promote a shift in the decision-making paradigm over investment opportunities for lighting retrofits. A total cost of ownership perspective on investment opportunities is an important shift in thinking for promoting the utilization of smart building solutions including LED retrofits. This framework will enable decision-makers to account for the overall system benefits including operational savings and corporate business goals generated by smart building technology.

Overall, smart building LED solutions represent a mature energy management strategy for building owners looking to drive down costs and streamline operations and maintenance. Increasing awareness of the value of sophisticated energy management systems and technology innovations emerging from the LED industry will make such solutions an increasingly viable investment for a growing audience.

For more information, a new IDC Energy Insights report dives deeper into the opportunities and challenges of LEDs for Smart Buildings.

LED lights against blue sky by uneeenesanweeraphon via Shutterstock