Highly Intelligent

A snapshot of some cutting-edge intelligent lighting applications and tips on how to successfully incorporate smart lighting into buildings. CSE: What are building owners' needs and expectations and how do you make sure that they're involved? YORGEY: The lighting design process must begin with the programming step.

By Barbara Horwitz-Bennett, Contributing Editor April 1, 2007

A snapshot of some cutting-edge intelligent lighting applications and tips on how to successfully incorporate smart lighting into buildings.

CSE: What are building owners’ needs and expectations and how do you make sure that they’re involved?

YORGEY : The lighting design process must begin with the programming step. The design team needs to meet with the client and end users, gain knowledge of clients’ needs through interviews and visit other facilities to benchmark similar types of businesses. The goal of programming is to identify the functional, operational and aesthetic requirements that the building owner and occupants expect for all spaces of a project. A programming document is then developed that covers the entire project. The client reviews and approves the document, which serves as a guide to a control system design that the owner desires and understands.

SANDERS : Owners don’t always know what they need, want or expect with regard to lighting controls. It is our job as consultants to educate owners and involve end users early. Important issues to present include local vs. centralized control; wall box dimming, panel and addressable dimming; rough cost and potential return on investment.

A brief survey is then developed to better understand clients’ needs and wants. The survey is used to understand priorities, such as set a mood, reduce energy, monitor energy, attract customers, improve the working or teaching environment, provide individual control or reorganize frequently. In addition, it is important to understand how maintenance plays a role and how simple or complicated the controls should be.

KACZKOWSKI : In my experience, the sooner the design team shows compassion for long-term maintenance needs, the better the team collaborates with the owner. Because lighting is one of a building’s many finite systems that may fail prematurely, the facilities personnel needs to know where the attic stock lamps and ladder/lift are located. We often recommend extra light fixtures for attic stock: exterior floodlights, site poles, interior pendants and decorative lights with potentially long lead times.

Lighting systems often must respond to its project and owner. A privately run corporate campus may be more interested in lifecycle cost than initial cost, whereas an owned/leased facility may lean toward initial cost understanding and the likelihood of property turnover/ownership. With escalating energy costs, diminishing resources and mandatory energy legislation, building owners will be encouraged to lookfurther than one to three years on electrical energy impact of lighting systems.

CSE: What capabilities do state-of-the-art lighting controls offer?

JORDAN : Today’s state-of-the-art lighting control systems offer energy and electrical code compliance, substantial energy savings and individual occupant adjustability, along with the abilities to merge into an overall building management system. Some whole-building lighting control systems are web-enabled.

SANDERS : Getting into specifics, intelligent lighting offers lighting scenes—preset dimming levels activated with the push of a button. You also have time scheduling and occupancy sensing—having users turn on lights, but if they forget to turn off the lights, then the lights turn off after a preset time limit. There’s also daylight dimming, window shade control and energy management system (EMS) integration. The simplest way to share information between the lighting controls and the EMS is through contact closures, but there also are protocol interpreters and custom-programmed gateways that provide information sharing, remote access and infrared remote control and partitioning.

CSE: Describe an exciting and impressive intelligent lighting project that you recently were involved with.

JORDAN : Schneider Electric is working on a lighting control project at a large school district in the southwest. This retrofit includes lighting and lighting controls with keypads that open and close dampers to allow in natural light through solar reflective tubing. Each classroom contains occupancy sensors along with light-level sensors that add artificial light when natural daylight is not available. Overrides also are accessible so teachers may dim the lighting for audio-visual needs.

KACZKOWSKI : At the historic Wrigley building in Chicago, color kinetics, LED lighting and controls systems have been specifed. As a result, incredible color-changing opportunities exist at the push of a button. The lighting control system notifies facilities where a light has burned out and is selective by groups of lights. The system saves time by sending staff to an area or location to actively relamp the floodlighting system. Other project components include programming, monitoring, and reporting of energy consumption with system’s efficiency with graphical interface screens.

SANDERS : At the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa., a lighting control system in the visitors’ center combines theatrical DMX control and architectural daylight switching to minimize energy while creating a visitor-interactive, kinetic lighting experience. The primary source of ambient light is daylight. The indirect lighting supplements the natural daylight only when necessary. Visitors activate a color-changing LED kinetic lighting show in three tower sculptures by spinning a wheel. Each lighting show reinforces the land, water and air themes of the towers.

The orientation theater also uses color changing LEDs to backlight a translucent wall behind the projector screen. The backlit wall accentuates the seasonal changes of Presque Isle. All of these controls are combined into a centralized panel dimming system with interactive and daylighting controls integrated through a contact interface.

YORGEY : Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, recently proved that a state-of-the-art lighting system is ideal not only for students and the environment, but also for bottom lines. A digital addressable lighting system, serving the college’s three campuses, centrally and locally dictates light levels throughout buildings, corridors and rooms. It supports customized lighting schemes for each environment and also takes into account seasonal and time-of-day information, and daylight harvesting.

The project used approximately 3,300 lighting fixtures in seven campus buildings, which represents a 30% reduction in the number of existing fixtures, but produced more and better illumination. Existing fixtures were removed and a combination of standard lighting fixtures and recessed fixtures with new reflector technology, both fittedwith addressable dimmable ballasts, were installed.

Daylight sensors installed in windowed areas dimmed fixtures to take advantage of natural light. Georgian is saving more than 70% in energy costs than the previous lighting system, which is $137,000 (Canadian) a year. The project also won an award of recognition for energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gases from the Ontario Power Authority’s chief conservation officer, and the school wasnominated for the Bell Canada Business “GreenAward.”

CSE: What are the most significant barriers to incorporating intelligent lighting in buildings? How are these obstacles overcome?

SANDERS : Concerns of initial cost, complexity, reliability and maintenance seem to be the biggest barriers to installing intelligent lighting controls. Providing lifecycle costs and returns on investment to clients may show the long-term cost savings of using lighting controls to justify the initial expense.

In general, people become overwhelmed by controls. Our challenge is to design controls that are easy to understand, affordable and easy to maintain. Rewards include lighting flexibility for users and tremendous energy savings.

JORDAN : In my opinion, the biggest key is education. I believe that building owners do not understand the benefits of lighting control with regard to productivity and energy-savings potential. Conversely, designers don’t fully understand the maximum capabilities afforded by these systems. As for installers, they are all too often unaware of the purpose of these controls, how important they are to energy codes and the potential of the devices themselves.

YORGEY : Two myths stand in the way of greater use of intelligent lighting: perceived cost and complexity.

Digital dimming ballasts—the core technology for intelligent lighting systems—cost more than standard ballasts, but they reduce wiring and labor costs, making installed first costs competitive with conventional lighting, according to a 2006 report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy. Intelligent lighting systems also must be commissioned—an added up front cost, but these costs are offset by the savings in energy and improved lighting environment. However, these savings are only realized over time and may be a challenge to justify to those trying to build or renovate a facility with a fixed budget. The key to overcoming these barriers is better education on total cost of ownership over the life of the lighting system. In addition, new building codes, standards and incentive programs are requiring, or at least encouraging, the use of intelligent lighting controls.

CSE: How are stricter energy codes in states like Oregon, Wisconsin, Florida and California affecting lighting control system design?

JORDAN : I think it’s putting more responsibility on the designers to accurately depict the requirements. In short, there is more of an onus on making sure a design is compliant with energy and electrical codes; that means there is more work required on behalf of the designer to ensure compliance. It also puts pressure on the designer to be more explicit in terms of what the installer of the system is supposed to do.

YORGEY : By both mandating and encouraging the use of lighting controls, these codes establish a baseline of minimum controls that must be used. As the codes have reduced the allowed lighting power densities, they are creating two effects. First, the cost of controls is now being compared against a smaller energy bill, which reduces the potential energy cost savings.

In other words, as a building’s total energy consumption drops because of lower lighting densities, the cost savings that can be realized from intelligent lighting decreases proportionately. On the other hand, we are reaching the point where lamp technology and fixture design improvements are maximized, and the industry will increasingly look at lighting controls to reach the next level of energy efficiency.


Scott Jordan , Product Marketing Manager, Square D/Schneider Electric La Vergne, Tenn.

Tom Kaczkowski , AIA Vice President & Director of Lighting, HOK St. Louis

Dane Sanders , EIT, LEED AP Senior Lighting DesignerClanton & Assocs Boulder, Colo.

Jim Yorgey , P.E., LC Technical Applications Manager, Lutron Coopersburg, Pa.