The UK Green Building Council has looked afresh at office lighting, putting its trust in lighting controls and abandoning the humble light switch altogether. John Houston reports

Moving premises is an upheaval that has to be endured occasionally in most organisations. The disruption can be unsettling and managing the transition can drain valuable resources, both human and financial. That said, the benefits can soon make themselves obvious as new facilities, extra space and a fresh outlook give a boost to everyone involved.

Another advantage is that the upheaval grants an organisation an opportunity to look at its carbon footprint and consider ways in which it can be improved. This was certainly the case for the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC), an organisation with a mission to radically improve the sustainability of the built environment.

The UK-GBC is concerned about the impact of buildings on the environment – in particular the use of water, materials and energy – greenhouse gas emissions and the health of building occupants. In moving to its new premises, the UK-GBC spotted an opportunity to put into practice the principles that inform its outlook. A goal for the new office was to achieve a Breeam ‘Excellent’ rating for the design, and the lighting scheme was quickly identified as a key element in achieving the award.

A blank canvas

The UK-GBC is one of the tenants at the Building Centre in central London. Along with the Construction Products Association (CPA), it now occupies the first floor of the building in Store Street. Moving from a small office on the second floor, UK- GBC relished the opportunity to expand into a much larger, 186m2 area.

Ridi’s Vision III is an essential element of the scheme

Ridi’s Vision III is an essential element of the scheme

The offices are made up of an open plan workspace, a kitchen, a boardroom, small cellular offices and a shared – with CPA – reception area and breakout space. The challenge for UK-GBC was to achieve a lighting scheme that would be functional in each area and meet the sustainability goals.

To achieve its goal of a ‘Excellent’ rating, the UK-GBC recognised that a well-designed, energy- efficient lighting scheme would be essential. The organisation studied projects that had achieved the ‘Excellent’ rating, and where lighting had been a significant element.

It soon became clear that although there were many examples of lighting schemes in large office buildings to draw on for inspiration, multi-tenanted office space was conspicuous by its absence. The UK-GBC forged ahead with a scheme of its own. Combining Ridi Vision III luminaires and the company’s Control3 software-based lighting management system, the scheme offers a new blueprint for tenanted office space.

Intelligent control

The lighting management system is at the heart of the scheme. Designed by Ridi, UK-GBC and the Building Centre, the system is completely switchless and relies entirely on passive infrared (PIR) detectors in the luminaires. For Chris Wilson, operations and resources manager at UK-GBC, having no light switches was an obvious move, although it did present challenges: ‘In recent years, lighting control technology has moved on apace. One of the key developments in this progress is the in-luminaire multi-sensor. As opposed to being centrally located in a room, as with traditional PIR sensors, these are integrated into the luminaire close to people’s work areas, offering a much greater degree of system programming flexibility.

The Control3 lighting management system is software-based

The Control3 lighting management system is software-based

‘Of course, our staff found the absence of manual control disconcerting at first, but now, having seen the efficiency of the system operation, they are at home with it. Ultimately, it’s all about trust.’

The luminaires are also linked to the amount of available daylight. When daylight reaches a point at which artificial lighting levels can be reduced, the detection sensors dim the luminaires. The reverse is also true – when light levels fall, the luminaires are turned on. About half of the Vision IIIs are fitted with a multi-sensor that detects movement, daylight and IR. The luminaire also incorporates a microprism panel with a relaxing low-brightness output that creates a comfortable and productive workplace that is designed to work with full spectrum daylight tubes.

The Building Centre maintenance team can view emergency lighting logs, check energy use and change lighting group timings from a web browser on any computer connected to the LAN. Also, these operations can be carried out remotely over the internet. The building’s emergency lighting is also monitored over the Dali bus cabling and the controller is connected to the building LAN.

After the success of the UK-GBC project, the Building Centre has added some more areas to the lighting management system. As new areas are refurbished, more will be added.

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