How hard is it to turn the lights off?

It’s 2.35 on a Saturday morning. I’m in a van, driving around the deserted streets of Whitehall.

The glove compartment light gives a warm glow to my battered copy of the A-Z of London.

‘It’s around here somewhere… there!’ The van pulls in and I jump out, followed by Tom the photographer. We run up the granite flight of stairs to a smart plate-metal sign. ‘Department of Energy and Climate Change.’ This is it alright.

Tom stares up uncertainly at the imposing six-storey façade: ‘Not much point getting a pic, is there?’

Tom’s right – the building is in total darkness.

‘They knew we were coming,’ he says.

Welcome to Lux magazine’s ‘black ops’ – the closest thing the war on inefficient lighting has to a front line. Under cover of darkness, a crack team of Lux magazine scouts criss-crosses the capital to assess the extent of energy wasted on lighting empty buildings.

We didn’t get much of a picture at Decc, but it wasn’t difficult to find empty buildings with all their lights burning.

Yes, the media people at Decc probably know they’re a target for stuff like this. They don’t want pictures in the Daily Mail of the government’s Climate Change HQ with all its lights on. But it raises the question: if Decc can do it, why can’t everyone else? Turn the lights off, that is. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it seems extraordinarily difficult for some of the most sophisticated organisations in Britain.

The difference is, of course, Decc is motivated.

Because it’s not about money. No matter how much energy prices rise – and they are expected to rise significantly over the next two years – it’s peanuts to an organisation such as a bank.

And it’s not about the controls. One (deserted) building we photographed – with thousands of lights burning in the early hours – has one of the world’s most sophisticated lighting control systems.

It isn’t even about legislation. I’d bet most of the buildings with their lights left on over the weekend comply with Part L of the Building Regulations and have the certificates to prove it.

No. The day when they’re all as motivated as Decc is the day our work is done.

Atoning for our crimes

It’s everywhere, isn’t it? Rubbish lighting. Inefficient, poorly-designed lamps and luminaires. Post-top globes, 600 x 600 modulars, T12s, switch start fluorescents and, God help us, the 500W security light.

How not to get the blues

There’s a time and a place for blue light, the Lighting Fixture Design conference heard yesterday.