Solid-state lighting systems using white light LEDs are quickly becoming a viable solution for interior, ambient lighting in K-12 schools and universities as they begin to rival the performance of linear and compact fluorescent lighting systems.
More than 700 RTLED luminaires brighten the interiors of new multiplex residential hall building at University of Akron.
This is good news for those involved in school construction and renovation that are interested in the multiple “green” and related economic benefits of LED lighting. In fact, as a short case study on the University of Akron demonstrates, a number of colleges and universities are already specifying LED overhead lighting in gyms, lecture halls, classrooms, labs, student housing and facility and administration offices.
A well-designed LED lighting system for an interior space has multiple benefits compared to incandescent and even compact fluorescent systems. With a 50,000-hour lamp life (more than twice that of CFLs), LED systems can easily last more than a decade before requiring replacement — greatly reducing maintenance costs associated with conventional lighting systems. As a result, facility management resources become available to focus on other tasks as the time and labor traditionally dedicated to servicing lamps and ballasts are significantly reduced.
The “green” construction benefits are significant. LEDs are inherently more environmentally friendly than CFLs as they do not use mercury or other detrimental, potentially harmful materials. And because LED systems last much longer than fluorescent lighting counterparts, there is less waste (i.e., fluorescent tubes) going to landfills. These environmental benefits can contribute significantly to the sustainability goals for new and existing school facilities.
Furthermore, many facilities are able to reduce cooling loads, resulting in substantial savings in air conditioning costs because LEDs generate significantly less heat relative to incandescent and CFL lighting sources, The Department of Energy projects between 2010 and 2030 LED lighting can save 1,488 terawatt hours — representing $120 billion savings in energy at today’s prices.
A final and often overlooked advantage of LED lighting is its compatibility with digital lighting controls. As a general rule, LEDs are more “control-friendly” than conventional light sources commonly used today and this is beginning to make a more profound impact on the application and selection of LED systems for mainstream general lighting applications.
Unlike conventional sources, LEDs become more efficient as they dim, and more extensive dimming and control functions actually extend the service life of LEDs. The LEDs light source features a true “instant-on” capability, and maintains a constant color temperature throughout its entire dimming range. These combined capabilities allow digital controls to substantially leverage LED performance — lengthening LED life expectancy and improving system efficacy — making the overall economic equation more attractive.
LEDs are digital light engines that have the ability to interface directly with discrete control devices on-board every light fixture. The result can be an “intelligent” light fixture that has the ability to monitor and respond to its environment, and perform pre-programmed tasks to further conserve input power and reduce lighting maintenance. One example of such a task is executing a constant lumen output over system life to eliminate the waste of over-lighting associated with initial lumens delivered early in a lighting installation.
Additionally, the LED light fixture can be digitally addressable, allowing it to easily network and communicate with other fixtures and like-kind control devices in the same room or throughout a building. Network connections can easily be made using standard CAT5 cabling for true “plug-and-play” convenience. Again, facilitating simpler, more cost-effective control solutions that reduce installation and operating costs for better return on investment.
Unlike conventional light sources, the performance of LED systems significantly improves when they are controlled. This makes LEDs excellent candidates to take advantage of occupancy sensors, dimming, daylight harvesting or facility and campus-wide energy management programs, which further enhance their overall cost-effectiveness.
Given the significant advantages of advanced technology, ambient LED lighting is quickly becoming an innovation of choice among universities seeking long-term solutions for saving energy, reducing maintenance and operating costs and minimizing their environmental impact.
University of Akron
In Akron, Ohio, the University of Akron serves 29,000 students with a campus that encompasses more than 80 buildings on 218 acres. The University’s most recent project was the construction of a new multiplex residence hall.
LED lighting was not the initial recommendation for the facility. To that point, very few LED lighting systems proved to be capable of meeting indoor, ambient lighting requirements. In support of the university’s “green” initiatives, a request was made to determine if LED lighting could be incorporated late in the construction cycle while minimizing the impact on the installation work already completed.
“A lot of the branch circuiting and lighting fixture flex connections were already installed,” said Ronald Radabaugh, P.E., L.C. principal and electrical engineer with Scheeser Buckley Mayfield. “All that was missing on some of the floors were the luminaires themselves. We were tasked with finding the right LED fixtures for the project, which had to be characterized by a high degree of energy efficiency, high quality light output, the overall look of the fixture and the ease of installation as a one-for-one replacement.”
Multiple lighting manufacturers and LED lighting systems were investigated and evaluated. The Lithonia Lighting RTLED luminaire was ultimately selected due to several factors: overall architectural look, ability to meet the installation demands of the LED conversion, quality of light and brand reputation.
The new multiplex residence hall features more than 700 RTLED luminaires throughout hallways, study lounges and social lounges. And while it has only been open since mid-August 2010, the university’s Ted Curtis, vice president of capital planning and facilities management, is already pleased with the results.
“We are extremely happy with our decision to move forward with LED lighting as the RTLED system not only met, but exceeded our initial expectations,” said Curtis. “The installation process proceeded as smoothly as it would have using conventional lighting technology. The LED ambient lighting delivers a crisper lighting effect and provides a comfort knowing we are spending fewer dollars to obtain better lighting.”
Powered by an advanced LED light engine, the RTLED luminaire delivers an expected 50,000 hour system life and a superior lighting environment: high color rendering (80+ CRI), 3500K color temperature, and full range dimming with 0-10V DC control. The patented optical system integrates LED brightness while maintaining maximum light output and effectively balancing visual comfort and efficiency, meeting the University of Akron’s goals.
Dave Ranieri is the vice president and general manager of Lithonia Lighting Commercial Fluorescent /LED Business Unit and has more than 26 years of experience in the lighting industry.