Project Management: Successful Lighting Retrofits

  January 14, 2011

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, lighting system retrofits.

Commercial and institutional facilities measure the success of building retrofits in many ways, including cost savings, reduced energy use, and improved productivity of those responsible for maintaining the new technology. But one important indicator that is difficult to quantify is the level of interest from peers outside the organization. A prime example of this dynamic is taking place at the University of California, Davis, where lighting retrofits are garnering a great deal of attention.

"It's been an interesting ride so far," says Chris Cioni, the university's associate director of utilities. "We've had a lot of inquiries from folks in the field who have found out about the projects just by searching on the Internet."

The university's Smart Lighting Initiative has turned the campus into something of a lighting laboratory, thanks in large part to the university's relationship with the California Lighting Technology Center, or CLTC, a demonstration and education facility on campus that develops energy-efficient technologies. Cioni uses CLTC staff as a sounding board when considering cutting-edge lighting technology for retrofit projects.

Cioni, his team, and the CLTC joined forces in retrofitting fixtures in campus parking structures and surface lots. Their next set of projects will focus on pathways, roads, and fixtures on building exteriors. The opportunities for savings are great, considering the number of exterior fixtures on campus — 2,300 fixtures in parking structures and surface lots, as well as 700 fixtures on roads, 1,300 on pedestrian and bicycle paths, and 3,000 on building exteriors.

The Smart Lighting Initiative does include interior lighting, but Cioni concentrates solely on exterior fixtures. The university spent almost $1 million retrofitting fixtures in its surface lots and parking structures, which generated about $300,000 in utility rebates. The projects have resulted in additional benefits, including energy savings, reduced maintenance, and improved safety.

"The energy savings were the first target," Cioni says. "What drove me was having those very large and prominent parking lots right near a very visible part of campus. We have a big performing arts center, and it's kind of a focal point. Seeing these empty parking lots when I would drive in early in the morning when it was still dark, it just caught me as wasteful and a real opportunity to do something different."


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