How Human Centric Lighting Can Help a Building be More Sustainable, Efficient and Green

Human centric lighting actually has a great deal in common with sustainability.

Not just the lighting part—the human part.

Yes, “sustainability” has become associated with sourcing green materials, pursuing LEED, and reducing a building’s energy consumption, all of which are connected with lighting. But sustainability should also be about putting occupants first—that is, the people who live, work, play, and study in our office buildings, campuses, and hotels.

Lighting, after all, goes beyond illumination. It may have notable effects on a space’s occupants. Whether at home or in the workplace, the color temperature and intensity of lighting may help people feel calmer and more engaged by allowing them to adjust their desired settings. The use of personal lighting controls, such as remotes, can give occupants a sense of agency. Moreover, providing daylight and views in the workplace has been shown to lead to increased productivity and employee engagement.

And this is essential because people—not the real estate in which they work and live—are an institution’s most valuable asset.

When we talk about “human centric lighting” we should be thinking about lighting with a mission—to help promote comfort, enable enhanced well-being, and foster engagement. It’s an approach that supports sustainability at many levels.

To that end, the tools used in human centric lighting design—including tunable LEDs, automated shades, and smart wireless technology—are also the keys to creating sustainable built environments.

Delivering the Best Light
LED lighting, in particular, plays an increasingly important role in establishing human centric environments.

It’s already contributing to sustainable environments. LED fixtures use substantially less power than other forms of lighting, helping to cut energy bills and contribute to carbon-sensitive goals. In addition, they radiate very little heat, and they last far longer than alternative forms of illumination.

But that’s just an entree to the broader benefits. LEDs also have the ability to be tuned to deliver the best light for a particular setting or circumstance. Instead of just the soft-white glow of incandescent bulbs, or the permanent spectrum of fluorescent tubes, multi-chip LED technology—controlled by sophisticated microprocessors—has pushed the boundaries on how LEDs are used inside a lamp or luminaire, as flexible participants in the dynamics of user-building interactions.

In turn, lighting designers can use LED solutions to deliver beautiful, customizable light that dynamically shifts color temperature and intensity throughout the day to mimic daylight—providing a seamless transition from the soft golden glow of a sunrise to the sharper, bright blue light of midday. With interior light that mimics daylighting, it feels like the warmth of sunlight is with you wherever you are, whether by the window or in the middle of a room.

Promoting Daylight, Wirelessly
Daylight itself has long been at the heart of human centric lighting design. The sun is, after all, the original “human centric” light, and we have organized our lives by its rise and set.

But as much as we crave daylight, it can be too much for most humans, which is why window treatments play such an important role in light control. Shades, in particular, can contribute to an overall total light management strategy by promoting views—one of the most popular workplace amenities—and optimizing the benefits of sunlight. Moreover, they help prevent heat gain, which saves energy by reducing the use of HVAC systems; and mitigate glare, making workspaces more amenable to productivity (and less amenable to squinting).

Shades can be even more effective when automated with software that ensures the shades are open at the right level, at the right time, to optimize their benefits. Motors have improved to the point of being whisper-silent, so their sound isn’t distracting when in motion. And appropriate fabric—one that’s both environmentally friendly and adherent to a high standard to control variations in openness and transmittance—can add efficiency and sustainability.

Both shades and lighting can be controlled wirelessly, and wireless technology not only saves energy and helps contractors reduce installation man-hours, it literally saves on material costs, helping reduce the amount of hard wiring necessary in a space’s design.

In addition, wireless is flexible. It’s easy to scale, so going from an office to a floor to a building is simply a matter of adding and programming devices. And smart, wireless solutions allow facility managers to easily monitor, adjust, and manage the system from any smart device. You can design lighting control to proactively accommodate building churn, improve occupant comfort, and enhance energy efficiency, and with simple integration, connect with other building systems using BACnet protocol.

With proper integration, all these systems can be made smart, too. Lighting control companies, including Lutron, offer user-friendly system interfaces to deliver a simple, consistent user experience, and integrate easy with other building management systems to enhance building performance. Enterprise solutions also allow facility managers to manage data and operations for multiple Lutron lighting and shade control solutions, and that saves energy as well as promotes a positive experience for occupants.

The Bottom Line: Supporting People
Certainly, saving energy is easier to quantify: Simply look at costs. But the human factor, though harder to gauge, is far more valuable. Employees who are uncomfortable or unhappy with lighting may find themselves struggling to be productive.

Human centric lighting, therefore, not only lightens our buildings’ impact on the environment; it supports the people within those buildings. Overall, human centric lighting makes for a win-win strategy, shaping spaces where extraordinary human experiences and energy savings can co-exist, and helping construct a more sustainable environment for us all.

Categories: Light