Shining a Light on Greater Building Efficiency

Shining a Light on Greater Building Efficiency

Lighting has long been identified as the low-hanging fruit in efforts to make buildings greener. Retrofits that include replacing bulbs and fixtures and installing smart controls and management systems can provide swift returns on investments as well as continued savings.

But those upgrades represent just one element of a larger process that can yield even greater savings, better energy performance and enhanced worker productivity in commercial buildings.

"Smart facility managers are doing more than simply swapping out bulbs and fixtures," said Chairman and Executive Editor Joel Makower.

They're developing a more holistic understanding of lighting, said Makower. Applying that understanding to lighting upgrades and other strategic improvements is the key to amping up savings and building performance, according to Executive Editor Rob Watson and Philips Lighting's Environmental Marketing Manager Steve McGuire.

McGuire and Watson shared their insights on the subject today in the webcast "Bringing Building Efficiency to Light," moderated by Makower. (An archived version of the free, hour-long presentation will available for download for a year.)

Understanding the basic interactions between lighting other aspects of a building is at the heart of the process, said Watson, who is chairman, CEO and chief scientist of the EcoTech International Group, which helps clients around the world achieve cost-effective high performance green buildings.

For example, more efficient lighting produces less heat, which in turn can significantly reduce air conditioning demand, which then results in a smaller chiller retrofit and fewer fans and pumps -- all of which result in cost savings.

It's also important to be aware of the misconceptions about lighting that can stand in the way of savings, said Watson, dispelling five popular notions about lighting and energy savings.


In dashing the myths, Watson underscored several points. "More is definitely not better," he said. "And (as to point No. 2) saving energy is saving energy -- the question is how can we have a package of energy savings starting with lighting."

Applying integration principles from the onset -- in the design of retrofit projects and new buildings -- will go a long way toward accomplishing savings in cost and time, and maximizing efficiency, he said.

"Think before you act," Watson said. "Carpenters say, 'If you measure twice, you only cut once, but if you only measure once, you have to cut twice.'  It's much easier to solve problems on paper than in the field ...

"Reduce the load first through design, and then see what technology can do. Design technology out, not in -- technology will get you 40 to 60 percent of the way there, so I really want to emphasize the importance of design."

Considerations include glare, comfort, color, illuminance ratios, distribution and activities in the building. Are the occupants performing detail, creative or knowledge work? Are they mostly focused on their computer screens? All factor into lighting design.

For example, for knowledge work, daylight with outside views should flow through occupied spaces for better worker productivity and health, said Watson, pointing to the effectiveness of designs that couple task and ambient lighting.

All the components of a lighting system must work in concert -- "If you're taking out a T8 lamp driven by a T8 ballast, make sure a T8 lamp goes back in," Watson said -- and the lighting design must take into account the building envelope and windows, he said. Similarly, a window retrofit should take into account building orientation and available natural light.

"The envelope and windows work with lighting systems and all of that works with the HVAC," said Watson.


Controls such as building automation systems, occupancy sensors, dimming and lumen maintenance both support and enable integrated systems and the savings they make possible.

An integrated system may cost 10 percent more than one that is not, but at least twice the savings result, he said.

Further returns on the investment include a better space, greater comfort and control, higher productivity, better retention of employees and tenant and greater property value, Watson said.

Benchmarking is key to making the business case for holistic strategies, determining what needs to be done and ensuring that once improvements are in place, the savings and performance continue, said McGuire, who brought his experience of more than 25 years in the lighting industry to the discussion.

McGuire walked listeners through the Philips' free online tool at that allows users to calculate their energy efficiency of their company or home as well as how much they can save by improving it.

"Having an accurate benchmark tool will help you get the picture where your facility stands," McGuire said.

By inputting information about their building, its location and energy bills, ASimpleSwitch users can also see how their facility stacks up against others in the area and those that are "best in class," McGuire pointed out. Users interested in learning more can click on links in the tool to consult Philips on strategies, services and products to make improvements.

SimpleSwitch Chart

Questions from webcast viewers questions included queries about LED lighting, wireless technology and how to gauge the right time to invest in efficiency upgrades.

"LED is technology that's coming on extremely fast," McGuire said, adding that industrywide the LEDs are not yet where they need to be in terms of cost and consistency in performance.

A recent study from Pike Research forecasts that LEDs will account for almost half of a $4.4 billion market for lamps in the commercial, industrial and outdoor stationary sectors by 2020.

Currently, however, "with LEDs it's a buyer beware market," said McGuire. "Whenever you're selecting them, make sure the manufacturer is testing to IES [Illuminating Engineering Society] standards for light rating and lumen output." [Philips unveiled its 12-watt EnduraLED light bulb at the Lightfair International tradeshow in May. The company said the latest addition to its EnduraLED line will replace the commonly used 60-watt incandescent light bulb and save businesses and households buying it about $120 per lamp because of its long life and energy efficiency.]

Strong performing products can be used indoors and out, McGuire and Watson said.

"I really like LEDs in display  -- for any place you'd use a halogen for any type of display or accent lighting," Watson said. Outdoors is a great place for those. And stay tuned, because it's a rapidly evolving field."

As to wireless communication, expect application of the technology to grow in integrating "not only lighting systems but entire buildings," said McGuire. "Looking at controls, I think that's really going to change in the near future."

So with the speed of advancements in technology, should a company to invest now or wait for the next iteration to begin efficiency upgrades, a viewer asked.

 "The best time to start is always now," said Watson, noting that the latest existing technology can give firms a good foundation for efficiency.

"Customers tend to put things in buckets, like an ROI bucket," said McGuire. He said his advice to companies is "look at the net present value -- what's it going to cost you to wait."

The archived webcast is available at and more information about Philips' A Simple Switch campaign is available at

Top image and inset chart on energy savings courtesy of Philips. Five Myths of Lighting chart courtesy of EcoTech International.