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Building Operating Management

Lighting Controls, Occupant Involvement Are Big Pieces Of Successful Lighting Projects

By Karen Kroll July 2013 - Lighting   Article Use Policy

Successful lighting projects often hinge on two different areas. Both lighting controls and occupant involvement are important pieces to consider.

When operating properly, lighting controls can ensure the system is working as efficiently as possible. Moreover, a growing number of control systems can be administered via WiFi, and adding devices like occupancy sensors to circuits that previously lacked them has become more cost-effective. "Especially if you're in a high-cost energy market or hit pretty heavily by peak pricing, this can help with the bottom line," Stacy says.

At the same time, before altering the controls, you'll want to prepare occupants for any changes to the user interface, Fitzpatrick notes. Many occupants, and especially those who work in multiple offices or spaces, such as doctors, may not have time to teach themselves even an uncomplicated new system. "They want to walk into a room and have the lighting work," he adds.

When installing automatic controls, such as occupancy or daylight sensors, you'll usually want to allow for some manual re-adjustments, or provide task lighting at people's desks. "People really do want control over their lights," Clanton says.

Once in, controls should be tested to ensure their sensitivity and time delays are reasonable, Mesh notes. And it's increasingly possible to make any further adjustments remotely. "You can do it at the computer versus walking around," says Mesh. Some software-based systems also allow for greater functionality, such as the ability to turn the lights down, but not completely off. "Just in case someone is there," Mesh adds.

Involving Occupants

Before embarking on a significant lighting upgrade or re-lighting, it can make sense to gather input from the occupants. Clanton recommends a pre-retrofit survey on the lighting quality. Some questions to ask: Do occupants like the lighting? Do they have enough? Is it glaring? Uniform? Can they control it?

A mock up can be helpful in allowing contractors to more accurately price the job and in preparing occupants for the changes to come. Some occupants may wonder about spending the money if the lights currently are working fine, even if the space is unwelcoming and unattractive. And some won't really be convinced of the positive aspects of a re-light until it's done, Benya says. A mock up can boost occupants' eventual acceptance of a lighting upgrade.

However, the mock-up process needs to be carefully managed. To develop a realistic scenario, you'll want to use a portion of the actual space when possible, Mesh says. It's also helpful to provide the occupants with a chance to work with the controls that will be used, as those typically prompt questions.

While a primary reason for undertaking a mock up is to prepare occupants for the changes coming, asking for input from hundreds of occupants could be overwhelming. Instead, "mitigate the number of people who will nitpick it because it's different by structuring the flow of people through there," Stacy says. In addition, it helps to have a lighting professional available to discuss topics like visual quality and glare, and to show how the new system addresses these.

Similarly, educating users on the new system once the project is complete is key, Graf says. A case in point: If the lights nearest the windows are programmed to stay off when daylight is lighting the space, let users know that, as well as the amount of energy that will be saved. Otherwise, they might wonder why the lights are off, even if the area has plenty of natural illumination.

Even if you take all the recommended steps, you still may hear a few complaints. Some occupants simply prefer not to change. However, taking steps to balance the need to save energy with a goal of providing a space that's well-lit and pleasing to be within, and then educating occupants on the new system can go a long way in mitigating any negative reaction. "Even if it's an energy-driven project, you have to maintain a minimum standard of design in terms of the proper light levels and glare," Fitzpatrick says. "Otherwise, nobody's happy."

Karen M. Kroll, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, has written extensively about real estate and facility issues.

Part 1: Lighting Quality Is Often Overlooked In Commercial Building Lighting Upgrades

Part 2: Harsh Lighting, Glare Among Quality Concerns In Commercial Lighting

Part 3: Lighting Controls, Occupant Involvement Are Big Pieces Of Successful Lighting Projects


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