Home arrow Hip & Cool arrow Techno Pop arrow 2008/03: Creating Energy Efficient Lighting Without Getting Ugly – Part 1 Wednesday, 23 April 2014 
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2008/03: Creating Energy Efficient Lighting Without Getting Ugly – Part 1 PDF Print E-mail


contributed by Lisa Barter [interior architect with 3i Design, LLC / lumenologist in the making]

So, you like to think you’re green. You instituted a recycling program at your office, you’re studying up to become a LEED-accredited professional, your next car purchase is going to be a hybrid, and you muse over how the country would be different energyefficientlighting.gifif hanging chads hadn’t determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. Well, try this on for size. Lighting consumes 22% of the nation’s electricity. That’s right, 22%. And it represents 8% of overall energy use. So while you’re reassessing having something shipped from Amazon versus buying it at a local store to save on embodied energy in the form of trucking, think about how you can impact the world by specifying (and using) energy-efficient lighting. Even more importantly, how do you sell your clients on energy-efficient lighting? And how do you do it beautifully (as we designers tend to be concerned about aesthetics)?

Fake ‘n’ Bake Vs. The Real Thing

You know how you might go to the tanning bed when you’re about to go on a tropical vacation and don’t want to frighten small children with your ghostly pallor? Or perhaps you live in Maine (like moi) and need a serious dose of Vitamin D, but the air is so cold that any exposed flesh freezes in mere seconds? What do you do? You fake ‘n’ bake by visiting the tanning salon. Great solution when the real thing just isn’t available or convenient. But you’d still prefer the rays of the sun, right?

Well, daylighting in buildings is comparable. Why use artificial light if you can integrate daylight – decreasing your energy consumption by using less wattage – when there’s enough daylight to provide adequate light levels?

Know that there’s quite a difference between daylighting and just adding windows. Daylighting means that the quality of light is intricately managed for glare with overhangs, window shelves, window shades and appropriate lighting controls so that when the daylight outside increases, the artificial lighting inside decreases, and vice versa. Lighting controls manufacturers are producing systems that sense daylight either inside or outside the space(s), depending on the type of control. When the sensors detect higher light levels, the system automatically dims fixtures and controls window shades to maintain a certain level of light in the space. Cool, huh?

California’s Title 24 energy efficiency standards, which apply to both commercial and residential spaces, require the use of daylighting in “Big Box” buildings and require controls in all buildings using daylighting to step down the artificial light in response to available daylight.

Your response to reading the information above might be: “Yeah, duh. I don’t need to be sold on it, but how do I sell my clients on it? They always want facts and figures to sell them on something that’s not required!” So at your next cocktail party, try out the following statistics, which come from studies utilizing daylighting of spaces with a direct line of sight to the outside:

Retail sales increase by up to 40%. Wal-Mart tried this out in their stores and found enough of a difference in sales under skylit areas to increase daylighting in all their new stores. Can this please mean the death of Muzak?

Office workers display up to 25% better mental recall, as well as improved morale and less absence. Feel free to use this statistic when making your case for why you should get the corner office.

Call center call process times decrease by 6%-12%. Next time you’re explaining yourself to that customer service representative for the sixth time, ask whether they have an outside view. (Poor sods.)

Students log 20% better test scores, along with better attendance and attitude. And your teachers thought you were just daydreaming when you were staring out the window!

Oh, and did I mention that in spaces with daylighting and correlated controls, lighting energy costs drop up to 40%?

Here’s one more little statistic. Ever wonder why you feel so dull and listless when you’re inside all the time, other than a sugar hangover from too many M&M’s? We all have probably seen the light arrays used by people being treated for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Well, the portion of the visible light spectrum that’s most effective for treating SAD is about 460 nanometers (in the blue portion of the spectrum), which is – tada! – the same magic number of the spectrum occupied by average daylight. So you do the math. More daylight = the same benefits as treating SAD with a light array: better hormone regulation, normalized sleep cycles, greater attentiveness, and less tendency towards depression. Now that’s a beautiful thing!

All right, all right – you can’t light most projects with daylight alone. You have to include some electric lights. But if incandescent fixtures suck too much energy, fluorescents have no “punch” and look kind of funny, and LED’s are too expensive and not quite far enough along, what’s a designer to do? Here’s the secret: It takes a little bit of everything.

Dropping The “F” Bomb: Using Fluorescent Lighting Everywhere (And I Mean Everywhere)

Let’s get something clear. There are a lot of folks out there singing the fluorescent song. You know, the one that sounds like: “If you change out every bulb in your house from incandescent to fluorescent, you can save the world! Whee!” Well, there’s merit in the judicious use of fluorescents (duh!), but wholesale substitution of fluorescent sources for incandescent sources is a bit tricky. (So sorry for all you Californians out there.)

Fluorescent lighting has its place. It’s unparalleled for providing even, ambient light without hot spots with a decent color rendering index (CRI), a number which compares its quality to that of a traditional A-lamp, your typical light bulb. It’s high efficacy, which means you get a lot of light output (lumens) for the amount of energy (watts) that the fixture uses. For these reasons, the use of fluorescent light in commercial spaces and yes, for specific fixtures in specific areas in residential spaces, is perfect.

So what are fluorescent lamps’ weaknesses? Really poor color rendering is largely a thing of the past as new lamp coatings have made the color closer to that of incandescent lamps. But those very coatings that create a color closer to incandescent also diffuse the light, so you never get focused light out of a fluorescent lamp (such as you’d need to create sparkle and contrast). And they’re much more expensive to dim (the screw-in replacements can’t be dimmed effectively, so don’t even try). Then there’s the whole quality of light issue. Even in good situations, a compact fluorescent lamp still looks like a fluorescent. So what’s an energy and aesthetics-conscious designer to do, other than use fluorescents everywhere?

More To Come

Well, at the moment, an energy and aesthetics-conscious designer is going to have to wait to find out the answer. But just until next month, when we’ll be covering the provocative lighting topics:

You’re Kind of Dim (and I Mean That in a Good Way)
Trying a New Dish
Once More, With Enthusiasm


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