The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) recently published a new report analyzing the energy impact of lighting designs that satisfy three prominent circadian lighting guidelines. The researchers discovered a potentially significant increase in light levels and associated energy consumption.

An open office and a classroom were modeled, with the luminaire lumen output, spectral power distribution, surface reflectance distribution, and desk orientation varying between the simulations in order to explore the magnitude of the different parameters. The simulations aimed to comply with the design guidelines WELL v2 Q2 2019, UL Design Guideline 24480, and Collaborative for High Performance Schools Core Criteria 3.0. A total of 45 unique simulation conditions were evaluated in the two models.

The researchers determined that meeting current IES light level recommendations did not satisfy existing equivalent melanopic lux and circadian stimulus values for any of the office and classroom circadian lighting recommendations. They found significant increases in indoor light levels and corresponding lighting energy use; in some cases, meeting the circadian metric recommendations required an average illuminance that was more than double the IES recommendations, which may negatively affect lighting quality and increase energy use. Based on the results, the study estimates that lighting energy use may increase by 10% to 100% because of the higher luminaire light levels used to meet the circadian lighting design recommendations listed in current building standards.

Said PNNL:

Further research may show more-efficient ways to meet design recommendations through varied light distribution or optimized spectral characteristics, as well as advanced control systems. Until circadian lighting design metrics and effective delivery of light stimulus are better understood in realistic settings with recognizable health and well-being benefits, the tradeoffs between design recommendations and energy efficiency goals cannot be fully expressed.

Click here to check out the report.