Studies show that commercial buildings produce about half of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change—making these buildings the top emitter of human-caused greenhouse gases, ahead of cars and trucks—while consuming nearly three-fourths of electricity produced at power plants.
The Commercial Buildings Initiative (CBI) is a public-private partnership formed to achieve an ambitious goal: By 2030, new commercial construction will be zero-energy. That is, buildings of the future will consume 20% of the energy they do now, and meet the remaining requirements through renewable resources. Meanwhile, the existing commercial stock will reduce its own energy demand by 50%.
CBI’s creators state on their website: “As with the Apollo Program, which put the first astronauts on the moon, and the Manhattan Project, to design, build and test the first atomic bomb, CBI’s scope is broad, is intended to affect society comprehensively, and will require a large and concerted effort among many diverse players to achieve success.”
This is not about initial cost and quick paybacks, but a broad effort to halt the effects of climate change and its predicted impacts on all humans.
Reducing energy consumption in buildings by 50-80% is a tall order. We’re already asking these questions in the lighting field: How low can we go with watts? How low can we go with light levels?
Legendary lighting designer Howard Brandston writes in his new book, Learning to See: A Matter of Light, about what he calls the Political Energy Law: “Lighting consumes energy; therefore, when energy is abundant, use may increase, and when energy is scarce, it must be rationed.” Between 1913 and 1972, for example, light level recommendations for offices increased; since then, they have been decreasing. People’s visual requirements, Brandston notes, are not part of his Law. But while light is a commodity, lighting is an asset whose product is essential for commerce. Approach it only from a cost point of view, and you tamper with commercial success.
The U.S. Department of Energy sees LEDs as a likely solution. By 2025, DOE predicts, LEDs will reach efficacies as high as 160 lumens/W, about two times higher than fluorescent, 10 times higher than incandescent, and more than three times higher than the global and North American average of 50 lumens/W for lighting in all sectors. DOE, in fact, believes that solid-state lighting will provide most of our general lighting needs within the next 20 years. More light, fewer watts, more flexibility for design.
Don’t expect traditional lighting systems to go quietly (if ever), however, but instead become more and more efficient themselves into the near future. How can this occur, if we are indeed squeezing all of the watts out of luminaires and footcandles out of design? According to recent research, the answer may come from integrated design and lighting controls, lighting efficiency resources that have only been partially tapped.
Lighting controls, in particular, represent the new frontier of energy savings. At Lightfair, nearly 30 controls products entered the Innovation Awards, and a controls product claimed the Most Innovative Product of the Year and the Technical Innovation Award.
The California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) recently demonstrated a task/ambient Integrated Office Lighting System (IOLS) combining high-efficacy direct/indirect luminaires with an LED Personal Lighting System (task lighting). The system demonstrated lighting power densities of 0.5-0.7W/sq.ft., 36-55% lower than ASHRAE 90.1-2004/2007. The addition of an occupancy sensor controlling the task lighting was found to reduce energy consumption by another 20-30%. Learn more here.
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) recently studied another system produced by CLTC and manufacturer Finelite: the Integrated Classroom Lighting System, or ICLS. ICLS consists of teacher-controllable direct/indirect and whiteboard luminaires, occupancy sensor and optional photosensor. LRC studied ICLS in 28 classrooms and found it to produce an average 0.73W/sq.ft., nearly 50% lower than ASHRAE 90.1-2004/2007. Learn more here.
Both systems were developed to save energy while achieving lighting best practices, although they warrant further study in this area. They require changes to traditional design approaches, one requiring integrated design of general and LED task lighting, the other requiring the specification of controls as an integral part of the lighting system. They are also each likely to catch the attention of policy makers looking to save large amounts of energy fast while ostensibly preserving lighting quality. And each may be a sign of trends such as energy codes increasingly mandating design choices and controls increasingly being integrated into lighting systems and luminaires.
If LEDs are the future of lighting, are highly integrated systems such as IOLS and ICLS its near future?
Learn more about the Commercial Buildings Initiative here.