Enhanced smart lighting systems to save energy for buildings

Understand how to leverage emerging smart lighting technologies to reduce energy consumption and enhance building automation

By Suzette Vazquez November 28, 2023


Learning Objectives

  • Understand the components of smart lighting system controls and how it can integrate with other aspects of a building.
  • Identify the different ways that the code-required lighting control devices can leverage technology to provide more than just lighting control.
  • Recognize the importance of team collaboration for smart lighting controls to operate as intended.

Smart lighting insights

  • While smart lighting systems offer numerous benefits, there are also challenges associated with their implementation, including system programming, device connectivity, communication protocols and the need for sufficient internet bandwidth.
  • Smart lighting systems offer advanced control, automation and data-driven decision-making capabilities that can significantly reduce energy consumption, enhance comfort and optimize lighting.

At the start of every project, it’s important to understand the two primary enhanced energy codes, International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and ASHRAE Standard 90.1: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, and how they align with the building city’s adopted building codes. Both codes update every three years, with most recent versions being IECC 2021 covering both residential, commercial, homes and buildings and ASHRAE 90.1-2022, which covers efficiency for buildings higher than four stories. Both establish minimum energy efficiency requirements for the building.

Depending on project budget, size and goals, the architectural and engineering design team should discuss how to select the best compliance route for the overall building envelope, with lighting and controls requirements being at the fore front.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, lighting accounts for 15%-20% of a building’s energy consumption and lowering this energy use can save millions of dollars in the long run. Recent changes in IECC 2021 and ASHRAE 90.1-2022 now have lower power density requirements for interior and exterior spaces, introducing secondary daylight zones, advanced daylight controls, additional occupancy sensor requirements (including bilevel lighting control for public spaces and corridors using occupancy sensors) and time-based scheduling.

With the advancement of smart lighting, achieving a code compliant design now provides a highly effective solution. Smart lighting systems can provide flexibility and adaptability as a key enabler to meet IECC and ASHRAE 90.1 code requirements. Understanding what is required will help the designer articulate what is needed on their lighting documents to show how spaces need to be controlled.

In recent years advances with the internet of things (IoT), smart lighting devices and smart sensors have revolutionized the way we interact with lighting and the building environment. Smart sensors are changing the lighting control landscape with a multitude of sensing capabilities such as motion, temperature, humidity and light intensity, providing information for a comprehensive overview of the building’s performance. Empowering facility managers to create strategic scheduling, building automation and track building maintenance can help them make informed decisions to provide a comfortable working environment.

The use of IoT and smart lighting systems allows for the integration of various building systems and promotes energy saving by about 29%, according to a study conducted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. There are several drivers of increasing the adaptation of IoT, such as providing a building with a smart infrastructure that can respond to internal and external environmental changes.

Components of a smart lighting system

In a smart lighting system, there are several components and interconnected devices that work together and be configured in multiple ways, based on the complexity of the system and application. Understanding how they work and communicate is important for the successful installation of a proper working system.

Figure 1: Network lighting controls support quality lighting and provide the tools hospital staff need to identify or locate an item. Courtesy: Certus

Figure 1: Network lighting controls support quality lighting and provide the tools hospital staff need to identify or locate an item. Courtesy: Certus

Below are components that are commonly found in a smart lighting system.

  • Cloud/network infrastructure: A network infrastructure ensures stable communication between smart lighting components that can be accessed through cloud connectivity. Providing remote access and management of the smart lighting system allows it to be monitored from anywhere using mobile apps or internet-based platform.
  • Energy manager: Enables operators to use software to report and monitor energy consumption patterns, track cost or savings and optimize lighting efficiency.
  • Smart lighting gateway: A gateway can pre-process communication from several devices to consolidate data before sending it to a cloud-based platform. For the gateway to process communication between devices, it must recognize protocol conversation from a sensor network to a traditional communication network. The gateway receives data, which is digested from the transmitted protocol, then translates the data received to convert it into signals and control instructions. The smart gateway allows for centralized management to ease the integration of various devices and third-party systems, creating seamless communication under one umbrella.
  • Communication protocol: Data exchanged between different components of a smart lighting system creates a communication protocol. Common communication protocols for commercial use include 0-10 volt/pulse width modulation, power over Ethernet, digital addressable lighting interface, digital multiplex, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Note different communication protocols operate at different communication ranges, frequencies and speeds. Understanding system limitations is important to scale the smart lighting system for optimal performance.
  • Smart lighting controllers: These devices manage how smart fixtures are controlled and operated. These controllers receive and transmit signals from system automations or user interface to control fixtures.
  • Smart lighting fixtures: LED fixtures equipped with integrated sensors that can be remotely controlled to adjust light intensity, track location, Kelvin temperature and function based on programed parameters.
  • Smart sensors: Sensors receiving and transmitting data based on environment and occupancy, providing real-time data. Smart sensors are designed to be firmware-upgradable, adapting to evolving communication standards and merging functionalities to provide a future-proof infrastructure.
  • Real-time location system (RTLS): A system that can accurately locate an item or person in real time. RTLS technology allows users to access the systems network through workstation or mobile app to track inventory, monitor and locate an asset or employee location in real time.

Combining these components, the smart lighting system provides advanced control with the use of automation and logic rules to control indoor and outdoor lighting. The system enhances how it responds to environmental changes such as time of day, occupancy and sensor readings. This is forever modifying the actual use of a building’s lighting to promote optimization, comfort and well-being for its occupants.

Automating lighting controls

Current trending technologies use smart lighting controls to automate daylighting zones that are controlled independent of each other and incorporate human-centric lighting throughout the building. Natural daylight triggers the brain to produce serotonin, reduces stress and improves overall mood.

Research from Cornell University professor Alan Hedge noted that daylight reduces eyestrain and headaches by 84% percent and drowsiness by 10%. Most workers spend more than 90% of their time indoors, so providing the maximum amount of natural light is crucial to human experience, physiology and comfort.

The art of artificial lighting can be controlled to automatically adjust color temperature and light intensity, which has been proven to stimulate a person’s circadian rhythm. This can improve productivity and mood, boost energy and regulate sleep/wake cycles. By using smart lighting controls, daily scheduling routines can be programmed to control lighting throughout the day, monitoring light level and adjusting LED fixtures accordingly.

Table 1: A summary of the interior control requirements for various health care spaces found within ASHRAE 90.1 2019 and IECC 2018. Courtesy: Certus

Table 1: A summary of the interior control requirements for various health care spaces found within ASHRAE 90.1 2019 and IECC 2018. Courtesy: Certus

By creating automation through the life cycle of a building, daily tuning of the lighting system can provide occupants a better experience and increase overall well-being. Thoughtful design consideration must account for the original equipment manufacturer, fixture compatibility, fixture dimming and control capabilities, as well as how lighting is grouped and controlled based on space and function. These are all important aspects in creating a well-lit environment and user experience.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that lighting in the country consumed 213 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2022, accounting for 5% of America’s energy consumption. Based on all sectors and reports, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) accounts for 44% of commercial building energy use.

Building system controls

Two core aspects of all buildings revolve around lighting and thermal comfort. Analyzing how these building systems are controlled is key to lowering the overall building energy consumption. The global lighting control system market’s rising adaptation is expected to grow to $29.8 billion by 2030 with a forecast compound annual growth rate of 7.6%. The amount of energy waste and carbon emissions are rising and, as a result, industry managers are inclined to use energy-efficient lighting solutions through automation.

A vital component of a smart lighting system is the use of smart sensors within the building, which contribute data and insights that inform a data driven decision-making process. Smart sensors sample data several times per minute, compiling a wealth of information throughout the day. Depending on the size of the building, engineers and owners could have thousands of sensors receiving and transmitting data all at once. Analyzing and leveraging real-time data to identify environmental changes and track occupant activity allows the system to track patterns and use machine learning to enhance building optimization.

Not every space can be treated the same. Tracking activity patterns can help identify over and underutilized spaces, creating more informed decisions on building renovation, office layouts, seating arrangements and room scheduling. It also provides insight on when to adjust heating and cooling with integrated HVAC control. Many of these sensors can generate visual heat maps per floor, which helps the facility manager understand which areas are busiest and which are used least. Understanding the patterns aides in controlling occupant crowds and addressing HVAC needs to efficiently heat and cool spaces throughout the building.

Smart lighting integrations

Other popular third-party, smart lighting integrations include building management system (BMS), asset tracking, wayfinding and security control, which can increase employee productivity and smooth building operation.

The workplace is meant to be modern and technologically advanced to allow for an efficient workday. This is especially true when a new employee is seeking information or personnel and needs to locate various items within a building. The use of RTLS technology in a smart lighting system may help employees access system information to track inventory, personnel and locate shared equipment with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. The same RFID technology is used in employee badging to provide a certain level of access control throughout the building and monitor location throughout the building.

A BMS control is highly sought out to monitor and control various integrated systems from one central location. Large business entities that standardize on these smart lighting systems can provide oversite for an entire business campus through BMS control. A visual overview can help determine what resources are available or needed for smoother operations and optimize energy management for the business. As technology helps solve common day-to-day problems, the adaptation of smart lighting controls will continue to rise. Because businesses value time, providing employees with an efficient work environment is key.

When it comes to implementing smart building systems, a designer must have a level understanding of the system architecture, so that the design documentation is clear about system performance and expectation. When designing these systems, it is important that all parties involved understand what a smart lighting system is and goals of the project. This includes the owner’s team, design team, installing contractor, vendor and end user. The key to this collaboration is to install a complete system that is accessible, usable and, at the end of the day, does what it was intended to do.

Table 2: This table demonstrates communication protocol characteristics. Courtesy: Certus.

Table 2: This table demonstrates communication protocol characteristics. Courtesy: Certus.

Challenges with smart lighting

As with any new system, there are challenges that contractors and installers face when it comes to system programing, device connectivity and communication protocols needed for integration. There also must be an understanding of the internet bandwidth needed to support large scale data networks. This will avoid system traffic jams and delayed system responses because all these systems have the potential to operate at different connectivity.

Even with good intentions, if the system is not intuitive and usable, it does not do what it was intended to do and will waste time and money. Commissioning and training of systems are important, as they reflect the design sequence of operations and train the end users how to operate the system. The commissioning process includes programming, testing and calibration to ensure proper space function and control. System calibration ensures sensor accuracy a lack of system calibration can create inefficiencies and user discomfort. To increase the likelihood of proper use, the user controls must be simple and easy to use.

Author Bio: Suzette Vazquez is an electrical engineer at Certus Consulting Engineers