Putting the spotlight on the sustainable campus

Putting the spotlight on the sustainable campus

By Richard Hunt, Managing Director – Contrac Lighting

As universities become increasingly mindful of their environmental impact, today’s facilities managers are no longer being tasked with simply seeking energy savings when it comes to lighting, but also implementing LED technology that can deliver wider value to the establishments they manage. Richard Hunt, managing director of Contrac Lighting, explains.

Lighting accounts for up to 20% of energy costs in Further and Higher Education (FHE) establishments, so it should perhaps come as little surprise that post-18 educational institutions have traditionally been keen to adopt LED lighting technologies that help reduce costs and save energy. However, as the challenges of illuminating campuses become broader – driven by corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and green energy standards – so too are the requirements for lighting.

Harnessing the power of state-of-the-art LED lighting technology, therefore, has also become about enhancing sustainability, reducing carbon emissions and building green credentials, as well as ensuring adequate lighting is supplied to all areas of a campus. All of this is leading to a changing role for the modern university estate manager.

Facilities teams now have a greater number of responsibilities as they seek to foster and enhance the teaching, research and clinical activities of the campus, and central to this is lighting.

However, given that FM’s are tasked with managing wide-ranging facilities, from classrooms to libraries, sports halls, lecture theatres and even science labs, each with their own precise requirements when it comes to illumination, the challenges of lighting a large campus estate, not only in terms of high energy costs, but also ensuring adequate lighting is supplied, are vast.

The campus challenge

Whilst understandably the biggest draw for educational establishments that switch to LED will likely be the substantial savings in energy that can be achieved, such a search for cost reductions can pose its own problems.

For instance, the pursuit of savings can be at a detriment to light quality and suitability to the environment in which they are installed, meaning universities are left frustrated by lighting systems that on paper look good, but in reality, are not fit for purpose and can even have a negative effect on building occupants and finances.

What’s more, by opting for cheaper, lower-quality LED luminaires, high light levels are often achieved at the cost of colour quality. The result is unbalanced illumination and imprecise colour output. Furthermore, by installing cheaper off the shelf lights, solutions often have a shorter lifespan leading to larger maintenance costs – placing FMs under unnecessary pressure.

The good news is, today’s facilities have a new wave of LED lighting technology at their disposal, designed to provide superior lighting quality compared to heritage lighting sources, while at the same time delivering significant improvements in cost and energy efficiencies. However choosing the most suitable, well considered options and specifications depends on the exact environment.

Looking for products with high quality, long life, low energy consumption and minimal maintenance should always remain central to any LED upgrade, however, facilities managers should also consider a number of less well-known factors when looking to implement the latest technology.

Considering lighting quality

The latest LED technology, for example, can deliver significant improvements in lighting quality across all areas of the campus, largely due to the quality and stability of Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT), which is why it is becoming an increasingly relevant factor in deciding between luminaires.

CCT is a metric used to characterise the colour appearance of white light, specifically how ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ a light source appears. Measured on a scale of degrees Kelvin (k), a light source that emits cool-blue temperatures of over 4000k is considered cool, whereas a luminaire with a CCT of 2700k to 3000k would be considered warm in appearance.

By calibrating lights at varying frequencies, spectral powers, and adjusting CCT and intensities, lighting can be tailored to suit different tasks being completed, times of the day or even the environment in which the lighting is installed. This ensures the ideal lighting scenario for any building is achieved.

Cutting-edge lighting solutions, precisely attuned to specific colour temperatures and Spectral Power Distribution (SPD) can even influence mood. Commonly referred to as Human-Centric Lighting (HCL), or Circadian Lighting, the goal of such fine-tuning is to deliver lighting that supports the natural circadian rhythm of a person, delivering benefits to human physiology and psychology.

By effectively replicating natural light, and increasing illumination as the day begins, lighting can stimulate the production of the “stress hormone” cortisol to rouse wakefulness. Whilst, dimming the levels of illumination and altering colour temperature at the end of the day can encourage the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that helps promote sleep and improve emotional wellbeing.

Warm, soft, dim lighting has been proven to help spur creativity and stimulate the production of the “stress hormone” cortisol to rouse wakefulness. Whilst, researchers at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences even found that university employees exposed to warm lighting were able to solve challenges more creatively .

An expert partner

Although the trials of lighting an education environment are well-defined, understanding how to overcome them remains a substantial challenge. And whilst knowledge of both the visual and non-visual benefits of light are growing, especially amongst FMs for educational institutions, realising the value that LED lighting can deliver beyond a positive impact on the bottom line often requires specialist expertise.

This is where the benefits of collaborating with a company that has a wide-reaching set of capabilities, which include manufacturing, as well as design and consultancy services, can come to the fore.

By forming such a partnership, educational establishments are not only more likely to have the most appropriate solution installed, but also achieve the desired outcomes, be that cost savings, reductions in carbon emissions or even aesthetical improvements in facilities, are achieved.


Putting the spotlight on the sustainable campus