LEED, lighting controls, and long term efficiency

Back in 2000, LEED was introduced by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage designers to incorporate the greenest, most current building technologies available. Since that time, its relevance has increased dramatically, with energy efficiency taking center stage in today’s public discourse.

The program is entirely voluntary, but has become the de facto standard for building efficiency in the U.S. and more than 30 other countries around the world. While the USGBC doesn’t offer any financial rewards for adopting LEED standards, incentives often come in to form of tax credits and state or local rebates. With energy codes mandating increased efficiency year by year, LEED may also help building managers to comply with the stricter standards we’re likely to see in the future.

Though the idea behind LEED is to approach building design holistically, automated lighting controls can help to obtain certification points in several categories. (By the way, this is true for several other building standards as well.) The following are taken directly from the most current checklist provided by the USGBC and, as we tend to do, focuses on retrofits.

LEED and Lighting Controls

Sustainable Sites: Light Pollution Reduction (1 point)

To get this single point for reducing light pollution, all non-emergency interior lighting exposed via line of sight to the building’s exterior windows or translucent walls must be switched off for at least 50 percent of annual nighttime hours.

Indoor Environmental Quality: Controllability of Systems – Lighting (1 point)

The idea here is to provide more comfortable, task-based lighting control for at least 50 percent of a building’s occupants. However, this means 50 percent of individually occupied areas as well as 50 percent of communal areas, calculated independently.

Indoor Environmental Quality: Daylight and Views (1 point)

To achieve the 50 percent daylighting requirement in this category while not compromising the comfort or requisite task lighting of the building’s occupants is the focus of this category.

Energy and Atmosphere: Optimize Energy Performance (1 – 18 points)

This category aims at commissioning inquiries into inefficiencies, implementing energy saving strategies, and documenting results. Because lighting can contribute to nearly 30 percent of a building’s energy use (on par with heating and cooling) the potential for savings in this category is especially strong.

Investigation (2 points)

Gaining points here requires documenting consumption by end use along with the cost-benefit analysis for proposed improvements.

Implementation (2 points)

Here, possible points are to be had for accounting for occupancy, scheduling runtimes, and adjusting lighting levels.

Innovation in Operations/Design (1 – 4 points)

In this category, points can be earned in one of two ways. First, credit is given for innovative uses of equipment to mitigate inefficiencies not addressed in other sections. And, second, points can be earned for achieving double the requirements imposed by other categories.

Looking Beyond LEED

Since its inception, studies have shown that LEED certified buildings can provide energy savings of up to 30 percent, improve quality of life for occupants, and boost property values. However, LEED is an evolving standard and one that is not without its critics.

Because it is a design specification tool and not one equipped to track performance, some experts argue that we’re likely to see gaps between projected and real world performance. In other words, good design is of little use if the occupants leave the lights on all of the time. In moving toward a more sophisticated energy code, the New Buildings Institute argues that in addition to measuring overall energy usage, we must also “begin to differentiate building energy consumption driven by inherent design conditions from consumption driven by operational and tenant practices.”

Encouragingly, as we have discussed in previous posts, the implementation of intelligent systems for end use metering is becoming a more frictionless process. These systems are then capable of guaranteeing longer term efficiency either through advanced lighting schemes or by delivering usage data to occupants, an increasingly well-established means to reducing energy consumption.

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