Miguel Aguado, marketing and technology manager at Lutron looks at new building regulations: how lighting controls can ensure Part L compliance.

On 15th June 2022, new requirements outlined in the 2021 edition of Part L Building Regulations will come into effect in England. These changes will affect engineers, electrical contractors, consultants, and lighting designers, and apply to all buildings that aren’t a residence. So, whether you work with universities, schools, offices, or any type of non-domestic development, it’s critical to prepare now to guarantee your compliance.

Many of the changes focus on making new constructions more sustainable. All non-domestic new builds must produce 27% fewer CO2 emissions than previous standards, while existing buildings need to install new controls that improve the efficiency of their heating and hot water boiler systems. However, a particularly complex amendment impacts the lighting inside non-domestic new builds.

Changes to lighting regulations and new requirements for lighting controls

In previous editions, there were no explicit requirements for lighting controls, meaning the use of high efficacy lighting was enough to comply. However, this was a missed opportunity. Using lighting controls will always enhance energy savings. With a systems approach, intelligent lighting control can overlay multiple energy savings strategies, such as presence detection or daylight harvesting, with timers, and more importantly with high end trim.

To compensate for lumen depreciation over time, lighting is usually over specified, and spaces are over lit, causing issues beyond the obvious waste of energy. An over lit space can result in uncomfortable glare on computer screens, dampening productivity.

Now, the minimum lighting efficacy will be raised to 80 luminaire lumens per circuit watt for display lighting and 95 luminaire lumens for general lighting. Spaces must not be over lit, and each lighting circuit must have a kw/h meter, unless a lighting control system that can calculate and share the energy usage is installed. Meanwhile, the tools used to verify compliance of a building (SBEM) will also expect the use of occupancy detection and daylight sensors.

This is the first time that UK building regulations have incorporated lighting controls. And initially, these rules may prove tough to meet. So, why is lighting now in the, well, spotlight? And is there a simple way to manage a building’s lighting to ensure adherence and efficiency? Let’s take a look.

The environmental impact of lighting

So far, the CIBSE has focused much of its attention on the heating and ventilating changes of Part L, rather than lighting control. However, lighting can be one of the single biggest energy consumers, and expenses, within an organisation.

According to the Carbon Trust, lighting accounts for around 20% of all the electricity used in the UK. In an average office building, this figure grows to around 39%, and climbs higher in specialised settings such as healthcare facilities (43%) and hotels (55%). So, it’s crucial to explore ways to reduce consumption while minimising impact on an organisation’s productivity and customer services.

Of course, many of us are well accustomed to the classic ways of reducing lighting energy usage. Think energy-saving bulbs, use of natural light, movement sensors, and more. But now, the rules specify the need for a lighting control system. And while it’s great to tick the regulatory box, organisations shouldn’t simply make these changes due to the law—there’s huge business value in being energy efficient and using smart technologies.

Benefits of lighting efficiency

The climate crisis is now firmly at the forefront of consumers’ minds, with recent COP26 events and IPCC reports laying bare the changes required to curb emissions. Net-zero targets are fast approaching, too, with all sectors of the UK economy set to be decarbonised by 2050. As a result, the public is becoming increasingly eco-conscious and voting with their wallets on the sustainable values they want organisations to uphold.

In 2021, 28% of UK consumers stopped using certain brands or products due to ethical or sustainability-related concerns. 34% began using brands because of their environmental values. Greener policies even help to motivate internal workforces, with researchers noting a 16% productivity boost in firms with sustainable practices.

It’s clear, then, that boosting energy efficiency not only reduces overheads, but can boost organisational profits, too. But why the specific need for lighting controls?

The impact of smart lighting controls

A lighting control system allows organisations to manage the lifetime light output of luminaries, right across their properties.

This begins with the installation of both single toom and whole building solutions. Then, facility managers can remotely monitor and adjust levels of electric light and daylight from their computers, while reporting and analysing usage for future optimisation. This extra control helps to slash electricity waste and boost energy savings, while transforming occupant productivity and wellbeing, too.

For instance, managers can nurture moods in indoor spaces with tuneable white and warm dimming tools. They can control window blinds to offer stronger privacy in an occupied meeting room, and greater visibility in a presentation space. They can even focalise natural light on a sunny day to reduce eye strain and headaches, and boost the mood of occupants. After all, 78% of office workers say that access to natural light supports their overall happiness—leading to stronger individual engagement and performance.

So, while there are incredible examples of the cost-saving advantages of lighting controls, such as The New York Times reducing its overheads by $600,000, the benefits span much wider. And with new Part L Building Regulations soon in force, it’s now more important than ever for buildings to be built or retrofitted with a lighting control system. That way, you can ensure your space is future-proofed for long-term compliance, sustainability, and productivity.