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Lighting Experts Encourage Innovative Use of Advanced Lighting

The Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Initiative introduced the Integrated Lighting Campaign (ILC) in 2020 to encourage facility owners, operators, and managers to save energy and reinvest those savings in their facilities. This initiative offers resources and support to participants. It also highlights how participants are integrating lighting with other building systems to achieve energy and non-energy benefits.

This year, new categories were added to reflect new priorities and a special focus on equity and deployment of underutilized, yet promising, technologies. The deadline to submit projects for recognition is March 30, 2022.

Lighting is only one aspect of energy consumption; today’s sensor technologies, for example, are enabling consumption coordination among many building systems. The result is significant energy savings that can be reinvested to improve building operations or occupant and consumer experiences.

And it’s this next step — reinvesting energy savings — that the ILC is encouraging participants to examine.

New categories offer new ways to look at lighting

Participants can now submit projects that use lighting in horticulture or greenhouse farming applications. The ILC is looking to recognize connected lighting projects that resulted in better crop yield and contributed to plant growth and health.

“Natural light can be unpredictable, but we’ve seen a growing trend of resourceful horticulturists using advanced lighting controls in service of better, more sustainable, farming,” said Felipe Leon, lighting engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), who, along with a team of engineers and solid-state lighting researchers at PNNL, organized the campaign in collaboration with Better Buildings.

Also new this year is a category dedicated to projects that financed the cost of installation or ongoing operations of their advanced lighting systems using alternative third-party financing — such as lighting-as-a-service (LaaS), energy conservation grants, or utility incentives.

The category was introduced to bring awareness to the ways creative financing approaches can help building owners bridge funding gaps to get their advanced lighting projects off the ground.

“Integrated lighting can have incredible energy and non-energy benefits, for the owner, the occupants, and ultimately, the environment, but the high cost of installation can often impede these positive outcomes,” said Leon.

With LaaS, for example, the entire system — luminaires, controls, and lighting management system — is owned and operated by the LaaS provider for the duration of the subscription contract. This eliminates high upfront costs for installation and improves product end-of-life outcomes through reuse, recycling, and proper disposal of e-waste.

The ILC also added the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Champion category for Supporters, a special designation for organizations or people using advanced lighting to support equitable outcomes for underserved communities, underrepresented groups, or minority-owned businesses.

Above and beyond basic lighting

In 2021, its first year of operation, the ILC recognized 13 participants for the performance of their advanced and connected lighting systems. The participants were announced virtually in August during the annual Illuminating Engineering Society conference and formally recognized during a Better Buildings webinar in September.

Walgreens, one of the 13 recognized, “had one of the most advanced uses of lighting leading to non-energy benefits,” said Leon.

The retailer conducted two pilot projects in four different locations. In one pilot, they automated the reporting and testing of emergency lighting operations, reducing both the need for team members to manually open outage tickets and the maintenance costs for diagnostics. In the second pilot project, the Bluetooth network installed in the lighting system enabled them to perform analytics on traffic patterns within their store to improve the shopping experience.

Lighting integration proved to be a valuable experience for others, too.

Kenny Seeton, building manager for CSU-Dominguez Hills, says the level of granularity provided by lighting integration allows him to only cool spaces that are being used. He says Bluetooth capabilities afforded by lighting can enable wayfinding on larger campuses and integrating lighting occupancy sensors with building automation systems uncovers valuable trends in how spaces are used.

For Johnson Controls, lighting integration played a central role in enabling a top-to-bottom smart building environment featuring a long list of advanced lighting technologies, including noise cancellation, HVAC controls, plug load management, occupancy, and even flush valves to monitor toilet water systems and paper towel dispensing in the bathrooms.

“We had some really exemplary submissions in the first year,” said Leon. “We know that this coming year’s participants are going to be just as impressive.”

A series of case studies are being released in the first quarter of the year as a resource for others looking to understand the practical applications and use cases for networked lighting controls and integration with other building systems.

Recognition is just one of the benefits of joining the campaign; participants can also access educational materials and technical assistance, and their projects may be featured in the ILC’s HighLIGHTs e-newsletter.

For more information, and to join, visit

Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

By Elsie Puig-Santana, PNNL

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