Lighting control – an integral part of the sustainability initiative

It will save energy. It will have a positive impact on the climate. And it will most certainly create a better living environment for people. Lighting control is an extremely effective way to make a holistic approach on sustainability. Fagerhult’s Product and Application Manager Daniel Unoson and Henrik Clausen, Director at the Fagerhult Lighting Academy, explain how.

Why is lighting so important for a successful sustainability initiative? 

Daniel: Lighting consumes more energy than you might think. According to the Global Lighting Challenge, the lighting of cities, households, industries and office premises account for 15% of our global electricity consumption and 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than double the emissions of global air travel. An overnight global transition LED lamps would avoid 801 Mt of CO₂ emissions, equivalent to displacing 684 coal-fired power plants around the world. The transition to energy-efficient lighting could be one of the most significant short-term sustainability initiatives. Though, I find it extremely important that we do not confine ourselves with just replacing light sources. Changing to LEDs is only the first step. By connecting energy efficient light sources to intelligent lighting controls we can boost the effect. Studies recently carried out in collaboration between Fagerhult, Swedish researchers and public authorities show that lighting control can reduce energy savings by, for example, a further 40% in an outdoor installation. (Read more at page 26.)

Henrik: It is also relevant not to reduce the discussion on lighting and sustainability to a question of energy and money. Reduced energy consumption automatically implies a positive impact on the environment, but one must not forget the human aspects. New intense light sources require accurate lighting control to avoid glare and flicker. By using lighting control systems we can also make better use of the opportunities that the new lighting technology offers. Creating healthier and more inspiring environments, outdoors and indoors.

Daniel UnossonDaniel Unosson, Product & Application Manager at Fagerhult.

What’s the significance of human centric lighting in this context? 

Henrik: Light affects us both physically and biologically – and you’ll find the explanation to this seven million years back in time. For about six million years, our ancestors lived on the savannah in central Africa. That’s where our visual system evolved. The daylight on the African savannah is bluish and it was in this light that our ancestors hunted and collected. It became, and is still perceived as, our ”working light”. A million years ago, humans learned to control fire. The safe, warm light from the fire had a profound impact on our perception and became our ”dialogue light”. An intimate light that reflects our faces in a pleasant way, when gathered around the fire to talk. Relaxing and comforting. With the help of control systems and tunable light, we can use this knowledge to influence people’s energy levels and well-being, which is another interesting aspect of sustainability. You can create working environments in which individuals have the opportunity to influence the light based on their feelings and the duties to be performed. People become happier, more alert and perform better. The research also shows that we sleep better if we get the opportunity to spend our days in the right kind of light – and as we all know, sleep is extremely important for health. The big challenge is to get society to understand that Human Centric Lighting actually works and is of significant importance.

Henrik ClausenHenrik Clausen, Head of Research Fagerhult Lighting Academy.

Why is lighting control important from a sustainability perspective?

Henrik: Whether it is about saving energy or Human Centric Lighting, technology must be used – and used in the right way. A common problem in the history of lighting control, is its complexity. People don’t understand how to use it. Instead they override it or simply turn it off. Actually, there are studies showing that approximately 3% of the existing light control facilities are fully and optimally used, because users do not know how to handle them!

Daniel: This is a great challenge for the lighting industry; to create better and more user-friendly lighting control systems. A control system should be intuitive – much like a water tap. Up and down to increase or decrease the flow. Right and left to change from hot to cold. When people understand how it works, and the benefits of lighting controls, they will also start using the technology. I believe that communities and businesses using lighting control will benefit from a stronger brand. People find it attractive to live in cities, and to work for employers who can offer better living and working environments. 

What are the key trends in lighting control?

Daniel: Personality and simplicity! The possibility to easily control the lighting based on personal premises will have a huge impact on people’s working environments. New systems will be easier to handle, not just for the end users, but also to install and program. The latter through clever plug and play-solutions. Connectivity and interoperability will be considered important in order to create more sustainable solutions.  

Henrik: Yes, in the future I think we’ll be better to cross-collaborate with other industries, integrating our different control systems. For example, today lighting is often controlled via one system and shades via another. This practically means that when the sun visor goes down, the sensors of the lighting control systems are triggered to raise the light levels. So, instead of taking advantage of daylight, we end up using more energy. Kind of non-intelligent and not sustainable at all!

Text: Amelie Bergman 

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