How to achieve energy efficient office lighting and improve employee health

Many of us are aware of the energy saving benefits of upgrading office lighting to the latest LED technology.

But the story less told surrounds how a lighting upgrade can also deliver increased comfort for staff. Less glare, better lighting controls and more considered zoning and spacing should all be achieved within a lighting retrofit.

The human benefits are numerous: better concentration, happier, more productive staff and variable light levels to suit the seasons.

LEDs in offices; a telling opportunity for both light and comfort

The Carbon Trust advises lighting typically consumes 20% of the electricity used in commercial and industrial buildings, offices included.

‘In these times of high energy prices, finding cost-effective ways to reduce levels of electricity consumed by lighting can deliver appreciable long-term reductions on business electricity bills,’ it argues.

LED lighting is quick, easy to install, pays back fast, and creates minimal installation disruption. But when considering LED upgrades, it’s vitally important to also think about it will affect staff wellbeing. Here are some of the top elements to consider.

Health issues associated with glare

‘Bright lights and glare, especially if flickering, can induce migraines,’ writes the NHS. ‘This is because bright and flickering lights boost the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, which then activate the migraine centre.’

Modern LEDs eliminate the problem of flicker traditionally found in fluorescents, but some LED products are prone to glare. This can be a big problem in offices, especially as most activity is confined to looking at PC screens.

LED product quality can vary widely, so it’s important to specify LEDs with a ‘low glare index’; this means that light is spread evenly over a large surface area.

Giving staff control over their lighting will also help: by allowing them to turn the lighting up, down or off in their workspace, and providing desk lamps to use as a substitute for overhead lighting.

Daylight harvesting alongside LEDs

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) cites a recent study by neuroscientists, which suggests office workers with windows received 173% more white light exposure during work hours, and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night.

‘Light is also vital for maintaining our circadian rhythm. Overall, the evidence is unequivocal; office occupants prefer access to windows and daylight, which bring consistent benefits in terms of satisfaction and health,’ says UKGBC.

While the facts point towards the benefits of natural light, artificial light has a crucial role to play in keeping up light levels on cloudy days and when daylight hours are short.

Daylight harvesting products (such as our Ultra Slim Panel Light with iDim Active+) provide an efficient solution: they automatically respond to the level of natural light in the room and turn the artificial lighting up, down or off accordingly.

The end game; more productive, healthier light

When firms think about how to save energy in offices, all too often the human benefits become swamped by concerns on payback or ROI. But a happier employee represents not only a vital part of today’s humanistic business, but a more profitable worker too.

For these reasons, developing LED solutions as part of strategic options to bring comfort and humanity into every office must be the watchword for 2017.

Contact us for advice on how to save energy in offices with intelligent lighting solutions.

Hackney Community College saves £25K a year with second major Salix-funded LED lighting upgrade

Following a successful LED conversion project by Energys Group in 2015, 2016 has seen the East London college make a further investment in the latest Energys lighting technology.

Energys estimates that combined savings of the two projects will be £95K per year.

During the second half of 2015, Hackney Community College (HCC) in Shoreditch, East London, implemented a substantial lighting upgrade that resulted in more than 4,900 lamps being converted to LED. The new systems were supplied and installed by Energys Group, which also provided boiler optimisation controls and specialist insulation as part of a far-reaching energy efficiency initiative.

With expected annual savings of £70,000 and a return on investment (RoI) of only 2.8 years on the lighting side of the project alone, its impact has been significant. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that HCC recently decided to move ahead with a second lighting upgrade – this time focusing on internal spaces not covered by the earlier project, as well as external areas of the campus.

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“The Energys LED lighting has brought a definite, cost-efficient improvement to the quality and comfort factor of lighting inside the college, and it made sense to optimise the remaining areas in a similar fashion,” says HCC Communications Director Ruth Lomax. “This time work focused on the dance and performing arts studios, a number of classrooms and offices, corridors, and outdoor areas of the campus.”

Energys’ Business Development Manager, Raj Gunasekaran, adds: “As with the previous project, it was evident that the latest generation LED lighting could deliver significant cost reductions for the college. We specified a number of our most popular current products during the Phase Two upgrade, which took place over the course of four weeks in autumn 2016.”

Salix success again

As in Phase One, Energys was able to bring its comprehensive knowledge of the Salix funding scheme to the table. Once again, the college secured financial assistance under the Salix College Energy Fund with the assistance of the Energys team.

The project called on a variety of products from Energys Group’s industry-leading New Vision range. In the internal areas, specified items included LED tubes, panels, downlighters, wall lights, dimmable solutions and spot lights. Outside, the new installation comprises a blend of LED uplighters, bollard lights, eyelid wall lights, photocell units, floodlights and path lights.

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The project was completed to a stringent and quick-turnaround timetable, but its benefits are likely to be long-lived indeed. Energys estimates that the new internal lighting will save the college £16K a year, with a return on investment (RoI) of 2.6 years. Meanwhile, forecasts indicate that the new external lighting will save £9K a year, giving the college an RoI of 4.5 years.

“These are compelling figures,” says Gunasekaran, “and underline the benefits that LED lighting has both in terms of immediate and longer-term energy savings. With increasingly stringent carbon targets in mind, more and more schools and colleges are now converting to all-LED infrastructures, and we expect that trend to intensify in 2017 as awareness continues to grow.”

The college is full of praise for the Energys team’s ability to supply and install such a substantial amount of new lighting technology in what was a very limited timeframe. “The project went smoothly and there was no impact on college activities,” said Ruth. “But above all we would highlight the quality of the new lighting – it is much more consistent and comfortable for staff and students.

“We had high expectations of Energys and its LED lighting systems after Phase One, and we am delighted to confirm that they have been fully satisfied.”