Why It Pays To Have ‘Well-Connected’ Lighting In Your Building

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Lighting can do more than brighten your day. As more building owners have come to realize, it can also provide insight into how to run properties more efficiently, and attract tenants by giving them control over their environment.

The Internet of Things has made data on how people interact with spaces more readily available. Smart outlets in an office, for example, can inform office property managers about how much electricity a tenant is using during peak work periods, and when to reduce consumption. Smart windows, which adjust their tint based on the intensity of light and temperature, improve tenant comfort and reduce energy costs to heat or cool a building.  

“Connecting to the IT infrastructure of a building gives the customer the ability to take advantage of asset tracking and space utilization data,” Con Edison Lighting Specialist Peter Jacobson said. “These connected devices can monitor everything from temperature controls to security, and allow owners to automate operations at individual room level. This can all be done over Ethernet connections in the building.”

Intelligent lighting can provide similar information on energy use. Smart lighting fixtures, connected to a building’s Ethernet network, consistently monitor lighting use, as well as any outages or maintenance requirements. Building owners can use this data to automate processes like shutting off lights at the end of the workday or programming certain areas of the building to dim when not in use. These decisions can also be made remotely through the tap of the mobile device on the same network.

LED (light emitting diode) lighting has helped fast-track the evolution of smart lighting. Unlike older lighting, LED technology allows fixtures to be integrated into a network while using the Ethernet backbone of a building, to communicate with each fixture and send data to a central management dashboard.   

These Power Over Ethernet systems free up wireless access points and allow a central, uninterruptible power supply to service the network. POE systems allow devices with a combined data and power to interface together. This new standard allows customers to work with existing lighting to satisfy customer needs with greater energy efficiency.

In the long term, the investment in this technology leads to increased savings. In office buildings, lighting operates anywhere from 15 to 24 hours a day. Implementing controls can save 30% to 70% in energy use within these spaces. Beyond cost-savings for the owner, networked lighting solutions allow tenants to analyze their use of the space and make adjustments based on their needs.

“Owners see the same level of energy savings that they would with standard LED lights, but now with these POE systems, they have so many other tools to monitor and control their buildings and observe how tenants use the space,” Jacobson said.

Smart lighting taps into wellness trends by providing both building owners and tenants the data they need to make more informed wellness decisions. Whereas these systems used to be solely for the benefit of building owners, who could more accurately track and bill for energy use, tenants can now also use this data to constantly improve their workspace environment, Jacobson said. 

As more companies incorporate wellness techniques into their corporate cultures to attract employees, office spaces must aid in that mission. Employees want access to natural light, temperatures that meet their comfort levels and acceptable air quality. Benchmarking organizations tracking these amenities, such as the WELL building standard, have emerged to reward properties that implement wellness measures.

Focusing on wellness does more than help employees feel good. It also boosts productivity, saving companies more money than they would with energy savings alone. A survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans discovered that businesses offering wellness programs saw a decline in employee absenteeism, which costs U.S. employers between $17 and $286 per employee annually. The survey also found that 66% of these companies reported increased productivity.

“In the open office architecture that exists today, giving people the tools to better adapt to the workplace environment improves the value of these spaces for both the landlord and the tenant,” Jacobson said. “It’s a benefit to the worker without making drastic changes, which you would have had to do before this IT capability.”

This ability to provide customization of the space to meet individual employee’s comfort levels, in turn, attracts a greater variety of tenants to office spaces, improving the value for building owners.

Advanced lighting controls can also connect to a larger network that monitors HVAC, occupancy and security systems through a centralized system or via the cloud. Managers can then make holistic energy use decisions based on this data and get feedback on how these systems are operating.

Energy providers, like Con Edison, are rewarding building owners for making energy-efficient upgrades to smart building technology to help meet New York City’s carbon emissions reduction challenge. 

“These POE systems represent the next level of building monitoring and controls in a reliable way,” Jacobson said. “Con Edison’s goal is to make the initial cost of these systems more attractive and accelerate the adoption of these lighting solutions.”