Following the Government’s publication of a COVID roadmap to recovery many businesses are now turning their attention to the future of their workplaces and specifically their office versus remote working culture. A growing amount of research suggests that we will never see a pre-pandemic return to the office, so the pressure will certainly be on those who manage buildings to maximise the efficiency of their assets. Mark Willmott, smart lighting solutions specialist at Prime Light explains more.
There are a huge number of predictions out there around the future of remote working with some think tanks suggesting that anything up to 70% of the workforce will be working remotely by 2025. In reality, the likelihood is that rather than an all or nothing scenario businesses will actually be looking at a more hybrid solution and the BBC backs this up suggesting that 72% of knowledge workers will want a hybrid remote-office working culture once social distancing measures are eased. This will pose some real challenges for anyone responsible for office space as they will be called upon to balance this flexible hybrid approach with maximising the efficiency of their assets.
But with so much to consider where do you start? Well, with lighting accounting for anywhere between 20% and 35% of a business’s energy consumption, it’s certainly one area with the greatest returns when looking to increase efficiency. And whilst you may have already made some positive headway into this by installing LED lighting, it’s still thought that the introduction of controls, such as sensors, could further reduce energy consumption by 30-50%, equating to a staggering 24 million tonnes of CO2 a year in less electricity usage.
We all know the scenario, typically a person walks into an office or meeting space and if it’s dusk or a darkened area they turn the light on and quite likely leave it on when they leave the area. Post-pandemic this age-old challenge will still be an issue, but there will also be an added challenge of lower and inconsistent occupancy in offices, so intelligent lighting will become a must when considering energy efficiency in the running costs of buildings.
At an entry-level, the introduction of a basic sensor in a room can automatically turn the lights on and off depending on the occupancy – so already you are starting to gain efficiencies. This is a very simple and cost-effective starting point for anyone looking to increase the intelligence of a building. But what happens when you talking about a larger area, where you need a number of lights to stay on at the same time or you want to have more control over performance and efficiencies than simply an on or off function?
In these two instances, you need to think about the next level of smart lighting. For larger areas, you need to link sensors together and this has traditionally been achieved through wired programmable sensors, there are some great products on the market for this category. But newer technology now enables us to offer wireless solutions that are controlled by a Bluetooth app. These wireless systems are undoubtedly becoming more popular as they’re easy to fit and they also have the advantage of being controlled by an app that can not only provide you with greater control over your lighting scheme’s performance, but can also deliver additional benefits such as the automated testing and reporting of emergency lighting or, when linked to a building management system, control other functions such as air conditioning units – amplifying the efficiencies to be made.
Most of the newer wireless sensors on the market measure the level of ambient light in a room or part of a room, then depending on the parameters you’ve set, as long as it’s with an acceptable and safe range, will dim or turn the lights off accordingly. So for instance a light near a window turns off, whilst a light over the seating area in the centre of a building dims, we call this daylight harvesting. This ability to fully control the performance of a lighting scheme can have a significant impact on efficiencies with research suggesting that by dimming your lights by 50% of the time you can cut your electricity costs by 40% and make lamps last 20 times longer.
These wireless systems are ever-evolving and we will definitely see them being used even more intelligently in the future. For instance, there are already products on the market that will detect your bespoke personal lighting setting, so that when you sit a particular hot desk the system changes to reflect your preferences. Again this is a real win when we consider the likelihood of businesses operating this hybrid remote-office style of working where employees don’t have a fixed desk to call their own.
The great thing about efficiencies from controls or smart lighting is that there’s always a solution and the return on investment of installation balances out quickly with the lower running costs. From the basic switching on/ off sensor to a fully automated system that can daylight harvest– they will all have an impact. These systems are always going to be best installed as part of a new lighting scheme but products are available that enable you to retrofit a solution to gain the efficiencies – these can either be standalone solutions, such as the on/ off sensor, a networked solution where sensors are joined up or a bespoke hybrid solution where new technology can be installed in line with older technology – it’s really dependent on budget.
So there’s no one size fits all, it’s really about understanding the needs of a project and then looking across a portfolio of products to find the best fit solution for client needs. With almost 30 years in the business, Prime Light prides itself on the quality of its expertise, its strong product range and the quality of its products. Over the past 12 months, it has bolstered its offering in particular areas of growth, including smart lighting solutions and that’s why I chose to join the company in autumn last year. We’re always more than happy to talk through potential solutions, so I’d urge you to get in touch if you would like to find out more.