BUILDINGS - Smarter Facilities Management


Lighting Automation Becomes the Norm

Lighting Strategies - Online Exclusive


Lighting Strategies is written by Craig DiLouie. Craig DiLouie is principal of ZING Communications Inc., a consulting and marketing communications firm specializing in the lighting and electrical industries and servicing a broad range of manufacturers, publishers, and organizations.

Craig was formerly publisher/editor of Architectural Lighting and, and owner and operator of UpWord Publishing Inc., a publishing company specializing in books targeting facility owners and operators.

Lighting automation is now becoming the rule rather than the exception, according to a new study funded by The Watt Stopper and conducted by Ducker Research. The study, consisting of telephone interviews from a sample of 158 facility managers, electrical engineers, and architects, found that lighting automation is being used in a majority of new construction and renovation projects in the office and school markets.

The research was made available as part of the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Lighting Research Program - a two-year, $5.2 million research and development program that creates new lighting technology and products that save energy, reduce peak demand, and reduce pollution for the citizens of California.

Building managers and owners, as well as specifiers, want the advantages of lighting automation - such as energy savings and energy code compliance - but also want simple, low-cost solutions, according to the study.

Four popular lighting automation types - building automation systems, lighting control panels, occupancy sensors, and daylighting systems - are regarded as effective and relatively problem-free. Occupancy sensors and scheduling systems are most popular. Respondents said the most desirable potential technology advances are standard protocols, plug-and-play solutions, and low-cost electronic dimming ballasts. Of these, standard protocols and low-cost ballasts would have the greatest impact.

Lighting Automation Becoming the Norm
Based on data provided by the respondents, more than half of all commercial new construction and retrofit projects finished over the past two years, on average, included automated lighting controls. In new construction projects featuring automated controls, more than 50 percent of the floor area is controlled by automated lighting.

For retrofit applications, the degree of penetration is somewhat less - particularly in the study's "other" category - library, retail, hospital, government, recreational, and industrial. Nearly 80 percent of new construction projects completed by respondents in these applications over the past two years feature automated lighting controls, while less than half of retrofit projects included them.


Projects Utilizing Automated Lighting Control in Past Two Years
K-12 Educational Higher Education Commercial Office Other*
New Construction
% Penetration 65.0% 71.4% 61.8% 78.7%
Retrofit Construction
% Penetration 53.1% 61.9% 57.5% 42.8%

*Other includes library, retail, hospital, government, recreational, and industrial.

Floor Area Covered by Automated Controls
in Projects Featuring Automated Lighting
K-12 Educational Higher Education Commercial Office Other*
New Construction
% Floor Area Covered 59.0% 57.6% 65.4% 62.5%
Retrofit Construction
% Floor Area Covered 50.8% 45.2% 59.2% 45.8%

*Other includes library, retail, hospital, government, recreational, and industrial.

Demand Drivers
The top five drivers behind growing adoption of automated lighting controls include:
Increasing energy savings.
Complying with owner requests.
Compliance with state and national energy codes.
Providing occupant control capability.
Obtaining utility rebates and incentives.

Load shedding was not considered as important as other concerns, such as energy savings and code compliance. A trend to note is emerging demand for occupant control of lighting, validated in other studies conducted by the Lighting Research Center, and more recently, the Light Right Consortium.

Popular Technologies
The study focused on three lighting automation methods: scheduling, occupancy sensors, and daylighting systems.

The study found that occupancy sensors are the most popular automated lighting control solution for all major building types and are adopted by both large and small buildings. Respondents said that false-offs and delays are the largest barriers to use, along with initial cost.

Scheduling systems are also somewhat popular, followed by daylighting systems, which are used much less frequently, with initial cost being the biggest inhibitor to use.

Scheduling technologies include building energy management systems, time clocks, and lighting automation panels. Building energy management systems are most often used for scheduling (39 percent), followed closely by time clocks (35 percent), and lighting automation panels (26 percent).

Building automation systems, rated the highest by respondents for meeting expectations and reliability, are traditionally associated with larger buildings 100,000 square feet and larger. Respondents said the primary barriers to adoption include initial cost and end-user lack of experience with the technology.

In smaller buildings, lighting control panels - also regarded highly in terms of meeting expectations and reliability - and time clocks are more likely to be adopted. This is probably because of initial cost issues and because electrical contractors want standard items with readily available parts and applications support, no PCs or special programming tools, and simple commissioning.

Incidence of Use of Various Lighting Automation Solutions
Scheduling Occupancy Sensor Daylighting Sensor
New Construction
K-12 Education 48.0% 65.7% 10.5%
Higher Education 48.0% 75.4% 12.7%
Commercial Office 54.3% 61.7% 11.7%
Other* 58.0% 67.0% 20.0%
Retrofit Construction
K-12 Education 35.2% 65.2% 11.4%
Higher Education 39.2% 72.3% 10.4%
Commercial Office 41.5% 59.7% 7.5%
Other* 58.0% 67.0% 20.0%

*Other includes library, retail, hospital, government, recreational, and industrial.

Trends to Watch
The study identified five trends influencing the controls field and asked respondents to rate each trend on a scale of 1-5, from extremely important (1) to not important (5). These trends ranked:

1. Standard protocols for lighting automation systems:
2. Integration of the lighting automation system with the building management system:
3. Increased need for enhanced occupant control of lighting:
4. Increased demand for flexible use of use of space:
5. Increased use of architectural daylighting design practices:

Standard protocols were ranked by respondents as the most important trend. Standard protocols provide assurance that components of the lighting control system would work together, and also provide a common set of base functions and commands accessible to the building automation system. Respondents identified this as the most important trend primarily for three reasons: Easier specification, a more simplified and convenient process, and the advantages of the systems working better together.

Integration of the lighting automation system with the building automation system was identified by respondents as the second most important trend. They said this was desirable primarily because centralization provides easier operation of both systems, allows one technician to control both systems for ease of operation, and increases the potential for energy savings.

Occupant control was identified as a significant trend. Respondents were asked another question related to price sensitivity regarding sophisticated lighting options: Given the installed cost for a traditional parabolic system is $2.00 per square foot., which of the following three options would they elect to use to improve lighting quality?

#1 Use a direct/indirect fixture for $2.50/sq.ft. installed
#2 Integrate occupancy sensors for $3.00/sq.ft. installed
#3 Integrate occupancy sensors and provide personal dimming control for $3.50/sq.ft. installed

Option #1 was desirable to respondents primarily because it represented a lower initial cost. Option #2, however, was desirable primarily because it is "cost effective; a good value." Option #3 was desirable primarily because it increased occupant comfort.

While daylighting was not seen by respondents as a major trend, most agreed with the statement, "As architects begin to use more daylighting, it has an impact," speaking in terms of the future, and noting that this will have an impact when architects begin to adopt it in greater numbers.

Technology Directions
Respondents were read a list of potential advances in controls and asked whether these advances would help facilitate the use and application of control systems. They responded favorably to all, with the strongest interest being in low-cost electronic dimming ballasts, standard protocols, and plug-and-play solutions.

One-Stop Solution Such as Integrated Controls with Light Fixtures
Plug-and-Play Solutions Low-Cost Electronic Dimming Ballasts Addressable and Dimmable Electronic Ballasts Industry Standard Communication Protocols
Yes 69.3% 77.8% 84.3% 62.2% 78.6%
No 29.9% 20.6% 15.0% 21.4% 21.4%
Unsure 0.8% 1.6% 0.8% 0.0% 0.0%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%


Later, when asked to rank these advances (scale of 1-5, from extremely important to not important), standard protocols ranked highest, then low-cost ballasts, then plug-and-pay solutions.

1. Industry standard communication protocols:
2. Low-cost electronic dimming ballasts:
3. Plug-and-play solutions:
4. One-stop solution such as integrated controls with light fixtures:
5. Addressable and dimmable electronic ballasts:

Standard protocols were regarded as desirable primarily because respondents felt that this would enable simpler, easier operation, while promoting competition among manufacturers to lower costs. The implication here is that there are currently problems with various control systems working together.

Low-cost electronic ballasts were desirable primarily because "cost effectiveness is always important" and because these ballasts are currently viewed as too expensive.


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