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How Smart Lighting Control Systems Can Make Smarter Buildings

By Eric Lind

Lighting and HVAC affect the utility and comfort of every building space, and almost without exception they make the most significant demands on electricity use. Lighting control systems, especially connected control solutions with the capacity to provide system data, have a tremendous ability to help facility managers and building owners improve building operations, while enhancing the overall user experience.

Generating and collecting data, however, is just a first step. To deliver the greatest value, smart control systems have to make this data actionable: 

• Easy to understand.

• Easy to share with other building systems.

• Designed to help improve the total building environment.

Start by Making Data Easy to Understand 

The lighting control industry has come a long way from complicated dashboards and colorful graphs that look good, but practically require an advanced degree to read and understand. Today, graphical user interfaces (GUI) and smart device apps can make it easy to navigate through visual floor plans of your project, focus on information related to specific control strategies and building areas, and even look at granular data from a single fixture, room, or floor of your buildings. 

The system GUI is an important consideration for evaluating potential impact. If the data itself is hard to access or presented in a confusing manner, your facilities team is much less likely to get engaged with it. With a simple GUI, it’s easier to monitor system status, make quick adjustments to improve operations efficiency, and be more proactive about system maintenance. 

Data driven reports and alerts can eliminate guesswork, providing evidence-based information to help reduce a building’s energy use and carbon footprint, improve space utilization, proactively identify system abnormalities so they don’t become problems, and simplify scheduling and time-based events. 

Sharing Data Is Key to System Integration

Efficient, sustainable buildings rely on data integration rather than individual information silos that complicate decision making. Your facilities team and your operational goals are best served with lighting control solutions that offer seamless, reliable integration with building management systems, security systems, and HVAC control using standard industry protocols, such as BACnet. Systems that are BTL-certified offer assurance of compatibility between BACnet devices, making integration easier and more cost-effective, facilitating seamless interoperability between fixed devices, mobile devices, and external systems, and ultimately delivering smarter buildings. 

It may not seem intuitive to start a conversation about data with lighting control, but lighting affects every space in a building, and it is fundamental to comfort and productivity. Data can ensure that lighting is more responsive, automatically adjusting to environmental conditions, and better able to accommodate individual preferences in the workplace. 

For example, the lighting control system can detect occupancy based on both sensors and the presence of a smart phone, and communicate that to other building systems. Stronger connections between systems ultimately create more robust networks, and benefits emerge organically. The next step is enhanced affordability, opening up integration to more applications. 

It’s important to point out that smart, integrated control isn’t limited to total light management systems. Simple, scalable, wireless lighting control solutions offer smart control that can start with a single fixture or space, and expand over time, leaving the door open to enhanced capability and greater control options when budget and timelines allow. With the right solutions, once the foundation is in place, it can be expanded and adjusted easily. 

As connected control and the Building Internet of Things foster even more advanced integration, device-to-external-data-sources (such as lights to weather data) will play a bigger part in delivering responsive buildings that anticipate lighting needs and seamlessly adjust lights, shades, and temperature to provide the ideal working environment. Technologies such as tunable white and advanced shading solutions will help you offer spaces even more closely aligned with individual employee preference — but better design depends on better data. Specify commercial solutions designed to deliver these features immediately and for the life of your lighting system. 

Lighting upgrades are major endeavors, with far-reaching cost implications. A data-driven, integrated smart lighting control solution is an investment that continues to make a positive impact for the life of your building. Before you invest all the time, labor, and materials to install your next lighting control solution, make sure you have chosen a smart solution designed to support scalability, flexibility, and value as part of a long-term integrated building management strategy. 

Eric Lind is vice president, global specifications, Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.


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posted on 12/27/2017