Facilities Management (Managing Assets)
Consider Your Outside Lighting
Many times as I’m on a plane crossing over a city, I am
struck by how much exterior lighting
exists in some areas, and how little has been
provided in others. Inadvertently, I hunt for
lights that appear to be missing, either actually
or because they’re nonfunctional. On rare occasions,
I might be lucky to glide above a college
campus. There also I might notice dark areas in stark contrast to
obviously over-illuminated pockets of light. It quickly becomes clear
to me that often too much energy is wasted lighting the sky and undersides
of trees than is directed toward the ground, where lighting
is intended to provide safety and security to all who pass.
I have written previously about how those involved with construction
projects appear to pay less attention to outside details than
they do inside stuff. FMers may have the same set of priorities. After
all, the majority of FM employees work in the daytime. Out of sight,
out of mind, right? Is exterior lighting any exception?
I’ve learned that there are at least three facets to providing effective
Is There Enough?
First, is the provided amount of lumens appropriate to the type
of space being serviced? Case in point: When we were building a
substantial new student learning-living complex 15 years ago, the
project designers were pressured beyond resistance by the student
housing administrators to double up on code and existing standards,
convinced that if a little is good, much more is exponentially better.
They won. Later, when student residents moved into those new
buildings, two complaints arose almost immediately. First, residents
complained that they couldn’t sleep because it was too bright, like
daylight, outside their windows — and in their rooms. Second, people
smarter than us (obviously) on security/safety issues potentially
associated with the 2002 Winter Olympic Games convinced all of us
that too much light actually made the environment more hazardous.
The excessive lighting was almost blinding, making the dark spots
even darker because of the contrast. We removed nearly half the light
poles, drastically reducing the number of complaints and making the
general area safer. Problem solved, but money wasted.
Can They Be Easily Maintained?
Second, are the luminaires and fixtures easily accessible, and is
there an effective maintenance program?
Parked cars, each of which might be there for long periods of
time, may consistently block light poles in parking lots. If hinged,
do the poles collapse away from those cars? Is a bucket truck
required? Is there a clear method of identifying nonfunctional
lights? Do maintenance personnel wait until there are a certain
percentage of lights burned out in order to control labor costs
(usually the most expensive aspect of a lighting maintenance
program)? Are those bulbs, tubes, etc., in stock or do they need to
be ordered? Are the luminaires cleaned periodically? If not, how
effective is the lighting when compared with new installations?
Are tree umbrellas blocking some of the light? Is attention paid to
replacing older bulbs, known to lose a substantial part of their lumen
output at 70-80 percent of their respective life expectancies?
Is there a “walk after dark” program on campus? Are students,
maintenance staff, administrators and lighting experts involved?
If the answer is no to any of these questions, there may be an issue.
Are They Efficient?
Finally, is energy efficiency a concern? Until recently, the types
of lighting provided for exterior lighting purposes were not very
energy efficient. More recently, some institutions started to replace
traditional incandescents with CFLs. These are more energy efficient
and have a longer life expectancy than filament-based lights.
They have a downside: they don’t work very well when it is cold
outside. Is that acceptable? Even more recently, some of us have
started installing LEDs in our exterior lighting. Those represent a
promising technology, one that is constantly evolving and improving.
They use 80 percent+ less energy, and last many times longer.
Except if the LED installed is not of a good quality, or the drivers
installed are not the right ones or if they are installed in areas
known for hot summer days and nights. LEDs don’t like being hot,
and regularly require a heat sink.
Conclusion: exterior lighting is expensive — both in first-time
and ongoing costs. Additionally, there is a tremendous amount
of liability associated with lighting. Without the right kind in the
right places, you have one problem. If you have lights and they are
ineffective or not working, you have a much bigger problem. They
should never be an afterthought.
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.
Pete van der Have is a retired facilities management professional and is currently teaching university-level FM classes as well as doing independent consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.