Facilities (Campus Spaces)

Tackling a Lighting Retrofit: Ten Tips for Success

Lighting retrofitWhen it comes to cost-effective ways to reduce energy use, it’s hard to top a lighting retrofit. Combining advances in LED fixture technology with the use of sophisticated controls, such a move can bring new levels of efficiency to any institution.

“Lighting retrofits are one of the most cost-effective sustainability projects a college or university can undertake,” says Danielle Marquis, director of strategy at AM Conservation Group. She says that by replacing inefficient fluorescent or High Intensity Discharge (HID) lighting with LEDs and adding motion sensors or photocells, campuses can improve light quality, enhance safety, save energy and reduce costs.

“Both interior and exterior LED fixtures have decreased in cost in recent years, making the payback period very attractive,” Marquis says. “The projects can be completed relatively quickly, often during school breaks or in off hours to reduce or eliminate the impact on instructional time.”

Campus professionals and company reps alike can attest to the potential benefits of a lighting retrofit. For those considering a move in this direction, here are ten expert opinions on making a successful transition.

1. Keep things simple. “In today’s LED world, where every fixture comes with native dimming, it can be tempting to design an overly complicated control system into a project. But the age-old saying of ‘keep it simple’ still applies. The trick to utilizing the latest technology for lighting control systems is to keep the light switch intact. When occupants enter a room, they should have to turn the lights on; hopefully this will train them to turn the lights off once they exit, but with technology we can turn the lights off should they ‘forget.’”
— David Rabold, capital projects manager, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA

2. Blitz it. “We plan to perform an LED lighting retrofit blitz on campus this summer. This will include installing LED lights in approximately 85 percent of campus buildings with installation of the remaining lights over the next three years. Facilities Management and specifically the electricians in the department are fully on board with the movement to LED lights. In addition to reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, they last much longer than other bulbs, and therefore reduce maintenance time and improve safety, since less bulb replacement equals less ladder time. Plans also include making all outside lights LED, which is considered a major improvement as they burn an average of 12 hours a day annually.”
— Ken Shultes, associate vice president for sustainability & facilities planning, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

3. Consider wireless. “In recent years, wireless control functionality has significantly improved, while costs for this technology have decreased. Keep in mind this can also be beneficial in controlling lighting for various classrooms to adjust to each professor’s timely needs. Advanced controls have also improved in their ability to communicate between both interior and exterior lighting; they can even integrate into existing HVAC or BAS controls.”
— Scott Tapia, sales manager, electrical& lighting, ABM

4. Sing a new tune. “The ability to tune color temperature of the light is one of the most significant advances in lighting. Research indicates that changing the color temperature based on the activity or task at hand can positively impact mood, behavior and concentration. A class with intensive laboratory-style learning may benefit more from a different color temperature than a class focusing more on reading or independent studies. With the advancements of LED technology and the easy-to-use controls platforms, every campus can now benefit from tunable white lighting.”
— Mark Kelly, president, Able Services

5. Avoid wasting time. “While technology continues to evolve and prices continue to drop, waiting to upgrade from inefficient fluorescent or HID lighting is often more costly in the long run. LEDs now allow for longer-lasting fixture output, in some cases over 100,000 hours. Linear retrofit kits that are typically used for metal halides (bright lights best used for parking lots and stadiums) use a lower wattage with the same lumens (brightness). This technology gives you more lumens per watt at a lower cost.”
— Danielle Marquis, director of strategy, AM Conservation Group

6. Think security and more. “Indoor and outdoor spaces should be well lit with good wayfinding for students, staff, educators and visitors. Safety and security are paramount and can affect not only individual well-being, but also recruitment for the school. Education facilities have a broad range of programs with many being held outside of the traditional academic year, which should be considered in a space utilization and lighting design audit. While energy efficiency and sustainability are obvious goals for an audit, the programming and scheduling of all buildings must be considered when evaluating the lighting design requirements. This approach will certainly lead to energy-saving improvements as well as greater productivity and functionality.”
— Karen Lee, head of applications marketing, LEDVANCE

Campus lighting

PHOTO COURTESY OF DADEROT

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT. Outdoor lighting is intended to enhance safety and security at night, but too much lighting can actually have the opposite effect. According to the International Dark-Sky Association, there is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crimes. Visibility should always be the goal. Smart lighting directs light where it is needed, creating a balance between safety and starlight.

7. Analyze for the future. “As a result of advances in lighting technology, administrators should begin to ask more targeted questions in regard to fixture design and ability to be maintained or modified over time. Focus on items such as maintenance, replacement of components and the ability to tailor light levels and integrate controls. Also, ask about the manufacturer’s ability to support proposed products over time as LED systems now have a greater life cycle than legacy technologies. This analysis will support tailoring lighting systems to meet specific needs.”
— Tom Veltri, product manager, new product innovation, Hubbell Lighting

8. Take small steps. “It’s important to test technology. We advocate for installing small pilots first. This will expose system flaws, while providing a real proving ground for new technology. Also, build on the past. Many colleges choose to keep their existing fixtures, because the original fixtures are part of the heritage of the building. We recommend preservation over replacement, and focus on modernizing existing fixtures. This is also a fraction of the cost of a new fixture.
— Matthew Sallee, director of strategic marketing, Terralux

9. Explore options. “There are a number of different levels at which colleges and universities can engage in energy efficiency upgrades depending on available budget, time and resources. The simplest option is to replace lamps with more efficient light sources. Nearly every lamp type is available in a more efficient LED version. An alternative would be to upgrade the components of a light fixture, which can be done with a UL-recognized retrofit kit to ensure safety for the occupants and the installation. Many of these retrofits can be done without disturbing the ceiling plenum, which is ideal for situations where contamination might be an issue. Another option would be to replace the luminaires entirely, preferably while evaluating a redesign of the space to offer the most long-term flexibility and best fit for the planned program. With each of these options, integration of controls should also be considered. It should be noted that there are often utility incentives or rebates available that can significantly mitigate the initial cost of these upgrades.”
— Karen Lee

10. Get knowledgeable help. “Lighting designers/engineers and architects are great resources. Engage the users of the space, and realize most people want the lighting to be supportive of their use of the space and are not looking for a theater-like capability in the space.”
— David Rabold

Savings at Dartmouth

Lighting energy savings of 75 percent? That’s the potential offered by a recent retrofit at Dartmouth College’s Leverone Field House in Hanover, NH. The 91,000-square-foot facility, which houses a weight room, indoor track and multi-use practice area, has been updated with a new lighting system from Digital Lumens. For more info, check at the case study at www.digitallumens.com.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

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