The lights are on but no one’s home

It’s London, the early hours of a Saturday morning, and it’s deserted. So why are all the lights burning brightly? A special Lux magazine ‘black ops’ team finds out who practises what they preach about energy

01:45 Energy Saving Trust building

Energy Saving Trust buildingDartmouth Street
In the lobby of the building the Energy Saving Trust shares with Exxon Mobil and Johnson Controls among others, four comfortable armchairs sit around a coffee table. The latter is decorated with a vase of bright yellow flowers and around it, the lobby is bright with CFL downlights. It’s the perfect setup for a meeting, but the only thing that’s missing is, er, people.
The EST says a night security guard was on duty in the building at that time although there was no sign of anyone during our visit. The EST also points out that the lights on its floors – the third and fourth – are on a timer and sensor control so it has full control.

12:23 Greenwich Creekside

Greenwich Creekside
Creek Road
This upmarket mixed-use development of apartments and offices – designed by Squire & Partners for Telford Homes – has just been completed and is still largely unoccupied. The offices – through which this walkway runs – are still unlet.
WHAT THEY SAY: Telford Homes points out that some of the apartments are now occupied, and as it’s responsible for public safety and this is a public walkway then the lights need to be illuminated. It also points that the lights are photocell-controlled.

02:09 Rush hair salon

Lighting at Rush hair salonThe Strand
From Brazilian blowdrys to ‘ammonia-free Inoa regrowths’, you can get it all at Rush. But presumably not at 2am. So why is every single luminaire in this enormous salon illuminated, from the twin- gimbal AR111s to the CFL downlights to the recessed fluorescents behind the mirrors? Either the staff have had a very bad hair day and forgotten to turn the lights off, or the illumination of the Strand is what they mean by ‘something for the weekend’.

01:05 2 More London Place

Lighting at 2 More London PlaceMore London Development
This corporate restaurant and meeting area on the ground floor of 2 More London Place has a pretty good lighting design. Groovy gelled fluorescent tubes accentuate the bright raft ceiling and high bays provide good ambient and a bit of sparkle. Trouble is, there’s no one there to admire it. We bet the T5 fluorescents are highly efficient, as are the CDM lamps in the high bay, but there’s not much point choosing lamps with care if you go and leave them burning all weekend. Sort it out, guys.

12:50 Sainsbury’s

Lighting at Sainsbury MertonSainsbury’s Merton
Sainsbury’s in Merton has parking for 920 cars. But it’s 1am on a Sunday morning, and the store’s been closed to customers for three hours – and every light is illuminated.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: ‘The lights at our Merton store car park remain illuminated at night for health and safety reasons. Although the store is closed to customers, there are people working there, taking deliveries and stocking our shelves overnight.’

12:52 Ernst & Young

Lighting at Ernst & Young11 More London
If there were any accountants staring at spreadsheets in this building at almost 1 o’clock on a Saturday morning, we didn’t see them.
Ernst & Young says on the night in question maintenance staff were working on the distribution boards. It also says that as it’s a global business, its offices must be open for its staff around the clock. As the lights are motion-controlled, there must have been some staff working. Additionally, it says a security team would have been present.

01:05 Riverbank House

Lighting at Riverbank HouseSwan Lane
The 10-storey Riverbank House will be the new home of the investment managers Man Group. When we visited every light was on, but no-one was to be seen on any floor.
‘We’re preparing to move and the lights were on for some longer periods in January while our fit-out contractor commissioned the control system. Riverbank House is equipped with a modern control system which is designed to minimise power consumption. It is not our policy to leave lights on when they are not required.’

12:57 Price Waterhouse Coopers

Lighting at PriceWaterhouseCoopers6 More London
The accounting practice PwC doesn’t taken possession of its low-energy building until next month so we can’t blame it for every single light in the place being on for one lonely security guard in the lobby. Neither can we blame the control system: it boasts absence detection, individual zoned control from laptops, task lighting, timed zoned control and daylight sensors.
The contractor says work is continuing 24-7 to meet handover targets, but we didn’t see any evidence of activity the night we visited.


02:35 Houses of Parliament

Lighting at the Houses of ParliamentParliament Square
Yup, that’s the clock face in front of Big Ben, the only part of the Houses of Parliament that is illuminated in the early hours. Here’s a novel thing: when the (excellent) evening facade lighting scheme is no longer being viewed by lots of tourists, it gets turned off. Simple, really. We have the technology. The Houses of Parliament lights have also been turned off temporarily for Earth Hour and the Capital 95.8 Lights Out for London campaign, but we’ll forgive them that.

02:35 Department of Energy and Climate Change

Lighting at DECCWhitehall Place
Chris Huhne, the secretary of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), has clearly instilled in his civil servants a sense of responsibility for the environment. The whole building was in total darkness when we visited at 1.35am. If there’s a security guard in there, he’s sitting in Stygian gloom. Maybe a greater incentive is that Decc doesn’t want the bad publicity from pictures of its lights burning brightly in the early hours. If Decc can turn off all its lights, why can’t everyone else?

01:10 Lux magazine office

Lighting at Lux magazine offices3 More London Riverside
To prove that we practise what we preach, here’s the Lux magazine office at 3 More London Riverside at 1.10am. And every light in the place is off (phew!). But as can be seen elsewhere on these pages, the More London development as a whole doesn’t emerge smelling of roses. That’s because the control of the lighting is left to individual tenants rather than the landlord. But landlords are not without influence. For example, Land Securities encourages low energy use by providing a low-energy design guide.

Office that makes a mockery of ‘greenest government ever’

The month our candidate for naming and shaming is our very own government, which is never backward in berating the rest of us for wasteful use of energy. Ray Molony reports

Euston, we have a problem

Repeat after us: lights are to see in the dark. They are not to demonstrate your incompetence with controls (we’re looking at you, Network Rail)