Pennie Varvarides checks out the new lighting at a top London university, and finds out that LED fittings are not only saving energy but also slashing maintenance bills

The London School of Economics and Political Science, better known as the LSE, is one of the UK’s top universities, and this year came second only to Cambridge in the Complete University Guide’s league table – bumping Cambridge’s traditional rival Oxford into second place. The university, founded in the late nineteenth century by members of the left-wing Fabian Society, now has 9,000 full-time students from more than 140 countries and 3,000-plus staff.

Over the past three years, the LSE has been working on ways to meet exacting energy-efficiency standards. Many of the buildings at its central London campus are in use six or seven days a week for 12 hours or more. The university realised vast savings could be made on energy use by upgrading the lighting with LED sources. The LED fittings were supplied by OCG Lighting. Simon Bickerstaffe, vice-president of sales, says: ‘Prior to working with us, LSE assessed various products from different sources to determine whether LED technology was suitable and ready for introduction.’

Bad experience

This project was not the LSE’s first experience of LED lighting. The university had installed LED MR16 spotlights in the past – with mixed results. This time it wanted to make sure it specified the right source and decided to carry out a series of trials. After trying out OCG’s MR16 LED retrofits, the university immediately saw ‘a significant improvement in the quality and intensity of light output’, Bickerstaffe said. Three hundred MR16 lamps have been fitted across the campus – in offices and leisure areas.

After a further trial of six OCG edge-lit panels, several buildings have now been fitted with LEDs, some as part of a £3 million refurbishment of the Tower 1 building. The 12-floor tower, one of several LSE buildings built in the 1970s, houses teaching facilities, research centres and offices.

Edge-lit LED panels emit low-glare, evenly distributed light for offices

More than 600 LED products rated from 60 to 80 lm/W were chosen, largely because of the potential 50 per cent cut in energy use. Other reasons for specifying the panels were the even light output and the low profile of the units.

The university had originally planned to install 430 traditional panels, but the higher light output of the edge-lit panels meant that only 358 were necessary. The 12mm slimline panels are thinner than conventional alternatives, so it was possible to raise ceiling heights in the refurb where necessary, or to make extra space available for other services such as ventilation ducts and air-conditioning units.

Bickerstaffe says: ‘The office areas required a low-glare, evenly distributed lighting design, which produced an average 450 lx at desk level, while the toilet area required a low energy, balanced light.’

The corridors were fitted with OCG’s LED light bar, recessed into the ceiling and covered by a Perspex diffuser to create an unbroken line of light along the length of the hallway.

The 100-year-old Lionel Robbins building is home to the Lionel Robbins Library and the Centre for Economic Performance. It was previously lit by 208 T8 fluorescent tubes, which, says Bickerstaffe, would ‘constantly fail’. OCG’s 30W LED tubes were fitted to replace the 70W T8s. The ceiling of the library is 10m high, so maintenance tower equipment was necessary to change failed lamps – at a cost of about £2,000. The university would put off maintenance until enough T8s had blown for the equipment hire to be worthwhile. This meant the quality of light was often inadequate for reading.

In the university’s Garrick café, it was important that the upgraded scheme match the brightness and colour of the original halogen sources. The large ground floor café was originally lit by 50W MR16 halogen spotlights, which were replaced with 7W LED equivalents. The LED spotlights directly replace the halogens, so there was minimal disruption for staff and customers. Energy use for lighting in the café has been cut by 90 per cent.

Bickerstaffe says: ‘Retrofitting LEDs into existing light fittings allows for a quick installation process and is often preferable for a number of installers and end users. But in some instances a straightforward retrofit is not possible and some additional work is required to allow the retrofit lamps to work correctly.’

More to come

Work doesn’t end here – the LSE has conducted a survey to identify other parts of its campus that could benefit from an upgrade to new lighting technology.

Matt Gale, project manager at LSE, says: ‘The benefits of LED lighting are proving tangible to us in terms of energy efficiency, energy cost savings and labour utilisation savings through the lower maintenance requirements of LED lighting. As a school, LED lighting is another technology to help us achieve our environmental policy objectives.’

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