Smart Lighting in Commercial Buildings: Where It Is Taking Us

Commercial building owners know that top 3 concerns of their tenants are wasted electricity, uneven illumination and their employees’ difficulty concentrating. Smart lighting looks like a solution which can help effectively tackle these problems and bring a level of comfort in the office to the next level. Moreover, today’s technologies and the speed at which they are advancing prove that the concept of smart lighting and its installation in the office doesn’t look like a futuristic fantase any more – it is becoming a new reality.

Smart Lighting and Commercial Property: Today and Tomorrow

According to the Markets and Markets research report “Smart Lighting Market by Offering (Hardware (Lights & Luminaires, Lighting Controls), Software, and Services), Communication Technology (Wired and Wireless), Installation Type, Application Type, and Geography – Global Forecast to 2023″, the smart lighting market is estimated to grow from $7.93 billion in 2018 to $20.98 billion by 2023. IoT home automation developers envisage a growing number of projects – but what do these numbers mean for companies working with commercial property automation? In fact, smart offices are expected to play an active role in this technology expansion: in 2017 commercial and industrial smart lighting took the biggest 60% share of the whole smart lighting market. Many commercial property owners are no more skeptical about smart lighting incorporation in their buildings: advances in component manufacturing and their decreasing prices are making the offer attractive, while a high demand from tenants and their employees for a ‘smart’ working environment guarantees a return on investment within 2 to 3 years.

Factors Driving Smart Lighting Implementation into Smart Offices

What are the main concerns of a commercial building owner which he or she tries to solve in the most cost-efficient way?

  • Operating costs, their management and reduction
  • Implementation of upgrades and new technologies for attracting and retaining tenants
  • Following occupancy trends and getting to know operating conditions for creating better working conditions and contributing to improved efficiency at the workplace.
Add to this growing environmental and operational concerns surrounding typical fluorescent and incandescent bulbs and impressive development rates of solid-state lighting (SSL) technology – and you will see that turning to smart lighting is only a matter of time.
Smart lighting makes successful both a lighting renovation project and implementation of a smart lighting system into a new building right from the start. Turning to smart lighting can increase commercial building owners’ return by capitalizing on the added value of a smart lighting solution.

Controlling and Reducing Lighting Consumption, Cost and CO2

Conventional lighting design attempts to provide even illumination across the lit space. When activity is carried out in only a small part of that space, the remaining lighting becomes wasteful. As a result, we see that lighting accounts for a solid chunk of the building owner’s energy bill. As concluded by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) report, introducing smart technologies, such as smart lighting systems, into the office can reduce its whole building energy use by 18%.
Smart lighting is moving us to a task, or ambient, lighting model. For example, low levels of light would be provided in the walkway areas, while high levels of light would be turned on directly in the work space.
The main characteristics of smart lighting is that it is customizable and controllable, which is accomplished via lighting fixtures coupled to occupancy detectors, daylight harvesting sensors and facility management systems for further minimizing of their energy use.
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Different types of sensors in use provide a variety of strategies focused on reducing lighting consumption:

  • Daylight harvesting. This strategy means using free light from the outside and reducing light consumption generated by the interior light fixtures while maintaining consistent light levels for building tenants and their employees. As a result, we have reduced lighting consumption while keeping the necessary light level.
  • Occupancy-based control. Through its system of connected sensors, a smart lighting system detects whether a facility is occupied or not and makes relevant adjustments.
  • Color temperature control. Studies show that lighting systems which mimic the natural changes in coloration of sunlight during the day provide enhanced productivity and health benefits. Solid-state lighting provides this adaptability using the smart lighting technologies. This would contribute to a growing level of comfort and, as a result, productivity in the office.
  • Lighting schedules. Scheduling the lights when they turn on and off, and determining the brightness and the color of the light provides a new level of customization.
For accomplishing this high level of lighting management in the office, a system of connected devices is deployed. The devices: LEDs, dimmer drivers and sensors of all types get connected via a wirelessly networked office building automation system to provide targeted lighting. The lighting is controlled via a centralized dashboard. Usage data can be readily captured and analyzed to gain additional insights from lighting patterns and occupancy behavior for further efficiency opportunities.  

Creating Better Working Conditions

No doubt, lighting has a proven effect on the efficiency of work, and, if done wrong, leads to eye strain, headaches, low mood, poor concentration, absenteeism, and in the end job dissatisfaction. Hence, both building owners and their tenants are interested in improving lighting schemes.
Increased occupant comfort positively affects productivity results, which means a greater tenant satisfaction due to the provided working conditions. This results in a growing number of lease renewals and less turnover for the office building owner.
Back in 2012, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO presented a project of a ‘virtual sky’, i.e. a ceiling made up of 34,560 LEDs that created diffused lighting across the entire color spectrum. The aim was to create an indoor environment which would simulate natural lighting conditions and its constant state of change, up to dimming the light for the effect of passing clouds. “The LEDs allow us to simulate these dynamic changes in lighting in a way that is not directly obvious to the naked eye,” said Matthias Bues, head of the IAO research team. “Otherwise the lighting might distract people from their work. But it does need to fluctuate enough to promote concentration and heighten awareness.” Perfectly customizable smart lighting solutions allows the tenant’s workers, each with its own set of needs, to choose their proper lighting regime and determine what type of environment they want to work in.

Improved “Green” Ratings

LEDs are quickly gaining dominant positions on the market, and their productivity is one of the reasons for it. 95% of the energy in LEDs is converted into light and only 5% is wasted as heat. Compare this to fluorescent lights: they convert 95% of energy to heat and only 5% into light. Less energy consumption reduces the demand from power plants and decreases greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike fluorescent lamps, they also contain no toxic elements like mercury, which will contaminate the environment once disposed of. Another serious advantage of LEDs from the ecological point of view is a longer life span – around 25,000 hours on average. A LED bulb lasts more than 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs (1,200 hours) and more than 4 times longer than fluorescent bulbs(8,000 hours), reducing the requirement for frequent replacements. Fewer lights mean fewer resources needed for manufacturing processes, packaging materials and transportation.

Resilience against Energy Price Volatility

Though the upfront costs of LEDs are higher, and deploying a smart lighting network in the office leads to significant investments, in the long run the solution would be beneficial for the building’s owner. Only the use of dimmers can quickly give a high return on investments. Dimming lights means that less power is used. For example, using LEDs with a dimmer cuts down on energy at a 1:1 ratio: dimming it 25% will use 25% less energy. With constant fluctuation of energy prices, using less energy-consuming and more long-lasting bulbs means protecting yourself from market inflation and price determining factors.

Implementing Smart Lighting: Things to Consider in the First Place

  • Flexibility. Tenants’ needs and preferences are changing over time, and the flexibility of a smart lighting system allows to adapt to these changes. Giving control to its users, a system of interconnected compatible luminaires and sensors is adjusted in accordance with one’s personal preferences, while embedded wireless controls allow to configure an office space into lighting zones.
  • Controllability. Within the daylight harvesting strategy, controls and sensors automatically dim electric lighting in response to the amount of available natural light and bring additional energy savings. Occupancy sensing, demand response, scheduling, and individual user control are other capabilities that improve efficiency and tenant satisfaction.
  • Developer’s expertise. Choosing a full-cycle software development services company with a broad portfolio of projects including smart lighting network building makes it easy to put everything together. It means that the developer would know not just the technical side of the project development, but would have a clear understanding of the lighting and control needs of each space. Then choosing the right luminaires and light fixtures, that best suit the application and would be compatible with the control system will make the retrofit and implementation of a smart lighting system much easier.
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