Facilities (Learning Spaces)

Saving Money on School Lighting Design

School Lighting Design


Today’s schools are loaded with interactive whiteboards, tablets and flexible furniture, promoting advances in education, such as blended learning whereby students partly control the pace of learning. Sadly, however, many schools are also loaded with outdated, mercury-containing fluorescent lighting, complete with its humming, flickering, poor color quality, short lamp life and energy inefficiency.

The lighting movement is toward energy-efficient LEDs, which are known for lasting 10 years or more, being environmentally safe and recyclable, providing a more comfortable light for learning and not containing mercury. So, if you plan on upgrading your lighting, it only makes sense to upgrade to LEDs.

Another Step Forward

Now, even LEDs have taken a giant step forward and, hopefully, schools will soon be loaded with tunable LEDs, so forwardthinking classroom will be evenly matched with forward-thinking lighting. Comprised of LEDs and flexible controls, tunable white light creates a more ideal classroom learning environment, in that it allows the light color temperature to be adjusted to optimal light levels for specific classroom activities. Warm lighting provides a relaxing environment for tasks like reading or to calm students when their energy levels are high. Cooler lighting is well suited for more intensive academic tasks like test taking.

school lighting


Acuity’s BLT Series Tunable White Luminaire system, manufactured by Lithonia Lighting, is one example; there are many on the market from which to choose. With simple controls, the system allows teachers to create scenes by controlling the intensity of lights as well as dimming in selected zones. For example, teachers can dim the lights at the front of the room when the class is using a whiteboard or A/V screen. The controllability of the lighting system is like having four or more different classrooms.

To achieve these dimming effects, classrooms are equipped with Acuity’s nLight control system, which delivers both dimming and color tuning effects that teachers can operate at the touch of a button. The system is equipped with the WallPod Scene Controller, which provides four scene controls with on/off and dimming settings.

Control pad presets of the classroom system include:
Reading – warm white light at 3000K, for relaxation and focus
Testing – cool neutral white, effective for concentration
General – cooler neutral white light for discussion and collaboration
Energy – coolest at 5000K, similar to daylight, refreshing light for heightened engagement and to combat afternoon fatigue

School Lighting Design


The preset control pad scenes include:
Scene 1 – all lights on
Scene 2 – lights nearest teaching wall are off for smartboard use, others dimmed for presentation
Scene 3 – lights nearest teaching wall on 100 percent, others dimmed for presentation
Scene 4 – all lights dimmed down

Dale B. Davis Elementary School, for Example

Now, thanks to a research partnership with Acuity Brands in which the system was installed in their school, administrators at Dale B. Davis Elementary School (Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD) in Carrollton, Texas, are addressing both energy management and classroom learning goals at the same time.

Jenna Jones, fifth grade math and science teacher at Davis Elementary, offers her experience as to how the system is working. She has a windowless classroom in which she instructs 25 students
per class. Tunable white lighting allows her to “tune” the color of the light to be just right for their activities. She can change the lighting scene in her room at the touch of a button, which she does four to six times each day, which helps the students focus on the task at hand.

School hallway lighting


“In the morning, the first class is extremely quiet,” Jones says. “The lighting really helps wake us up. Then, when the children come in from recess all riled up, we change the scene, and it helps bring down our emotions before we go into a lesson. We change the lighting quite a bit.”

Jones notes more than an effect on behavior: “It’s how they feel,” she says. “They feel more in control. If they feel in control, they will focus more and get it done. That’s when they’re going to be really successful.”

“Energy management is important, but it’s not the number-one priority by any means,” sums Victor Melton, energy manager for the school district. “The focus of everything we do is improving the classroom learning environment. Tunable LED lighting helps us reach our goal.”

Cheshire Public Schools, for Example

school lighting from high ceiling


Administrators at Cheshire Public Schools in Connecticut also recently turned to tunable LED lighting and, as a result, are saving $125,000 (82 percent) annually in lighting energy costs. They installed Mustone LED Illuminations featuring Sunnyvale, Californiabased Enlighted’s Smart Sensors in all seven of their schools, and it provides task tuning, occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting and utility grade metering to verify energy use. It configures and manages lighting behavior by adjusting software profiles while retaining lighting data up to 36 months. The system also generates reports on lamp and fixture outages, carbon reduction, energy and financial savings.

With the Enlighted system in place, Cheshire administrators have the opportunity to tap into more than lighting savings; they can tap into additional Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, including monitoring and controlling building temperatures, monitoring space utilization, tracking equipment and people, and smart surveillance and emergency response.

“While Cheshire is reaping the benefits of controlled LED lighting, it has unlocked the opportunity to better manage all its schools with the IoT,” says Mike Xenakis, Enlighted’s vice president of Education Sales. “IoT allows us to support the development of the next generation of schools — brilliant schools — offering energy efficiency, HVAC management, space utilization, micropersonalization and security. This leads to a truly enhanced environment for the students, faculty and staff.”

stairway lighting


Schools are made more intelligent by installing a network of smart sensors that gather data on things like light, heat, occupancy, security and asset location. This data is shared anonymously to a central repository, so that a suite of proprietary apps can harvest it for insights and interface with building systems to optimize the building environment in real-time. The system and apps make schools significantly more efficient, productive, comfortable and secure.

Saving Money

So there isn’t money in the budget for tunable lighting or IoT, you say. That’s okay. There may be other things you can do to save on lighting expenses, which can account for more than 30 percent of the total electrical energy consumed. Here’s what the experts want you to know.

1. It’s about LED. “Presuming a lighting upgrade in an existing school,” says Bill Foley, vice president of Brand Management at Durham, North Carolina-based Cree, “first and foremost, choose an energy-efficient source, which LED is. It’s the cream of the crop and state of the art in terms of energy savings capability.”

LED lighting


Focus on Lighting. It is not difficult to understand that different areas of a facility will require different lighting solutions. The Fisher Middle School Café, in Greenville, S.C., uses a unique system of two versions of LED lighting, while architects made other, appropriate choices for the stairwell and media room. The choices are made based on issues like safety, comfort and energy efficiency.

2. It’s about communicating. “Cost savings starts with the superintendent interacting with the school board to get the message across that a lighting investment is going to last 50 years,” says Terry Clark, founder and chairman of Union City, California-based Finelite.

3. Lighting is affordable. “Reducing expenses related to lighting has become a much more simplified and effective process,” says Tom Veltri, product manager of New Product Innovation for Greenville, South Carolina-based Hubbell Lighting. “Between state codes, rebate programs and available design resources from both manufacturers as well as channel partners, administrators are relieved the burden of specifying their exact needs but rather identify their financial and operational goals.”

media center lighting


DSST Conservatory Green School designed by RB+B Architects with lighting design by RB+B Architects and M. E. Group.

4. Consider life cycle costs. “We’re all guilty as consumers of perhaps giving an improper weighting to a system’s first cost,” says Foley. “It’s important to consider a system’s full life cycle cost. LED is more competitive and lower cost than when it emerged in the mid-2000s. So there’s less of a financial hurdle to overcome. But the quality of light and solutions vary greatly between manufacturers. Run the numbers, and consider a bit higher cost on the front end.”

5. Do It Once; Do It Right. Veltri advises that administrators wait until they can afford LED lighting with all the bells and whistles. “Include tunable white light, giving teachers the ability to adjust from 2700K to 6500K,” he says. “Include plug-and-play controls. If you install long-lasting lights and give teachers the ability to make adjustments but they have to go through convoluted steps to get there, they’ll be frustrated, and you won’t get better learning outcomes. If you can’t do all three at once, then wait until you can, as no one has been able to come up with meaningful half steps at this point in time.”

classroom lighting


6. Sometimes simpler is better. “Identify what is functionally needed in the space,” says Veltri. “Most times facility owners are pushed toward complex lighting systems and controls when a simpler retrofit is sufficient. Additionally, controls may not be advantageous in every region because of lower energy rates, lack of legislation or non-existent rebates.”

This article originally appeared in the issue of .