A retrofit lighting scheme for John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester saves energy and helps preserve the past, as Lux discovers

The rare books and manuscripts in the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library include a first folio of Shakespeare’s plays and a 500-year-old edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Also on display is an early carbon filament light bulb – a reminder that the library was one of the first buildings in Manchester to be lit by electric light. Nearly a century later, the Grade 1 listed building has gone fully LED.
When the library was built, the decision to use electric light rather than gas was driven by the need to protect the antique books and manuscripts from fumes, and the library had to generate its own power on site, which it did until 1950.

Minimum disruption

However, the latest upgrade was driven by a need to cut energy costs and reduce maintenance, without disrupting the building’s look.

The relamping of the John Rylands Library is one of dozens of projects at the university funded by Salix and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Salix says the University of Manchester is one of its top-achieving clients, with ‘outstanding’ figures for return on investment. To date, 80 LED projects at the university have cost £759,648 to implement and saved more than £250,000 a year, with estimated lifetime savings of more than £4 million and more than 20 tonnes of CO2.

The lighting in the library, from 40W incandescent lamps, was becoming problematic from an academic, environmental and financial point of view. Endless maintenance work was required to replace failed lamps, and the heat from the lamps was causing concern because the library’s manuscripts must be kept within strict humidity limits.

The library was one of the first buildings to be lit by electric light

Out with the old

The university started by testing a batch of 8W Philips MasterLED lamps in one of the library’s rooms, and went on to roll them out across the entire library, beginning last autumn and finishing in time for Christmas. About 1,000 lamps have been replaced with the Philips LED version which has a warm colour temperature of 2700K and can be dimmed.

The energy used by the library’s lights has been cut by about 17 per cent – a monthly saving of just under £1,000 and nearly five tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. The university estimates that it will save about £10,000 and prevent emissions of 56 tonnes of CO2 every year. The installation cost was about £25,000 and annual energy savings are £10,000 (as well as savings on Carbon Reduction Commitment payments, replacing and disposing of used lamps, air conditioning and maintenance costs). As a result, the project is expected to pay for itself in less than two years.

Lost in the noise

Assistant mechanical and energy engineer Damian Oatway says: ‘In a lot of the buildings where we implement energy-saving measures, it can get lost in the noise. If I put LED fittings in an office or something, all it takes is for somebody to turn on an air conditioning unit and it wipes out my savings.

So in a building like this where the consumption is probably about 50-60 per cent lighting, changing out 1,000 lamps has made a huge impact.’

Other benefits of the LED lighting scheme include savings on maintenance, better illumination and happier staff. The new scheme even made its way on to national TV earlier this year when it was used by the BBC’s Blue Peter to broadcast a live programme marking World Book Day.

Damian Oatway, mechanical and energy engineer

‘The John Rylands Library is one of the iconic buildings of Manchester. We wanted to maintain the character but deal with the maintenance issues and reduce energy consumption.

‘With about 1,000 40W lamps in there, they go quite frequently, so you never get a completely lit building. We have a lot of people who come in just to look at the architecture of the building and if it’s not fully lit it detracts from the ambience and the architectural features – the archways, the cornices, all that kind of thing.

‘You have to have a person on site all the time changing out lamps and some of them are quite hard to reach. What they would tend to do is change out an entire area at once because it takes so long to construct and dismantle the scaffolding.

‘As you can imagine, the look and design of the old light fittings would not have suited compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Another reason we didn’t go for CFLs was that they emit quite a lot of ultraviolet, which degrades organic materials at a much faster rate than normal [incandescent] lighting. When we looked at the photometric data from the LED lamps, the band of output was pretty much within the visual spectrum, so we were much happier to install them.’

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