Let there be light
Contractors don’t care about using LED lights because they only have to put them in a building for a year and then it’s ‘someone else’s problem’ when the contract finishes, claims Andrew Prince of RWN Trading, which sells architectural lamps from LEDs to direct replacement of these and CFLs and is the distributor for Cube Lighting in UAE.
The drawback to switching to LED is the initial cost but the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the lighting systems will drive demand for more affordable lights. Irrespective of cost there are still tremendous financial and energy savings to be made.
Nathan Savage, principal lighting designer/partner, Light Touch, believes budgets for lighting are often unrealistic and the amount of times lighting has not been thought about until the project is almost complete is frightening.
“Ecological issues are becoming forever more prevalent however the key issues that surround ‘energy efficiency’ when related to lighting are not well understood,” he said.
“There is a huge misconception that as long as you buy a branded bulb and have a good transformer or control gear to run it, this is OK. The luminaire itself is not just a lamp holder and needs to be correctly wired, electrically tested and fit for purpose.
“The idea of cheaper is better more often than not leads to the scenario of buy cheap, buy (at least) twice.”
The operational life of most LED lamps is 50,000 hours. This is 10 plus years of continuous operation, or 20 years of 50% operation. The long operational life is in stark contrast to the average life of an incandescent bulb, which is approximately 5,000 hours.
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are available as small solid light bulbs, panels, direct replacement, tubes or in cluster form with diffuser lenses.
“I was at a meeting recently on energy management in the region, it was a breakfast meeting held in a large clear glass fronted mezzanine room, with 50 people including MEP, contractors, suppliers and FMs.
Blinds were drawn and there were 40 MR16 spotlights plus five standard artistic lamps all incandescent and ranging from 50 to 100 watt all on at 8am,” said Prince.
“Three quarters of the way through the meeting one member suggested we open the blind and turn off the lighting to be proactive in putting into action what we were discussing.
The point of this comment is to show that all too often we discuss the need to be sustainable but fail to see the importance of making the discussed points become reality. It always comes down to the belief that it is someone else’s problem.”
Over the last three years RWN Trading has been trying to encourage contractors to switch over to more energy efficient lighting but there are various reasons that prevent this from happening; money, colour quality and a lack of understanding.
Prince added the cost is considerably higher in comparison to standard lamps, approximately AED 60 for a typical LED compared with AED 5 for incandescent.
“Though the lifeline is longer for the energy bulb 50,000 hours compared to 10,000. The
focus for many property developers and contractors is to achieve minimum requirements, low operating costs all at narrowest of financial outlay.
If energy efficiency were put in place at day one then the retrofitting charges at a later date would be at a lower cost. To be able to achieve this, the designers and property developers need to be making the decisions way before the contractors get involved in building or running the property,” he said.
Secondly there is a myth that the colour and quality is not as constant as in traditional lamps but developments in the last two years has meant quality is more than acceptable and the range of lamps is broader.
There is a lack of understanding by some contractors and it will take some time for the market to get up to speed on the full benefits on LED lighting not least in the length of life of the bulbs but the need to be making a concerted effort to support environmental needs worldwide.
Beau McClellan, of Beau McClellan Design claims the main challenge today is ‘doing right
with what people did wrong in the past’.
“Unfortunately, when the first wave of LEDs came out, they were launched onto the market before they were ready. Now, as designers, we’re having to prove to people that they are the way forward,” he said.
“One of the problems we had in the beginning was the colour, and more specifically, the colour temperature. Originally, the colour temperatures gave a very cold feeling to interiors, but we’ve overcome that now and the lights are much warmer to the point where we’ve achieved the feel that halogen bulbs give.
In the Beau McClellan lighting studio, we’re actually working on a chip ourselves, so as you dim the LEDs, you bring in those nice red colours you used to get with the 12 volt halogen bulbs.
“Another challenge I’ve found as a designer, was the colours of RGB: the red, green and blues, that are used to make up the whole colour palette. These colours tend to be very harsh, so myself and my team have spent a lot of time trying to break them down to make them much more pastel in colour.”
In traditional lighting systems, three aspects play a crucial role in the specifications of any light fixture said Indu Varanasi, owner, ir design; the electrical, thermal and optical performance but, it is the optical performance which determines the ‘visual perception’.
“When the new technology of light emitting diodes changed from indicators (traffic signals) to illumination and benefits of such a light source became known, it was then designers started looking at them for interior design projects. There are hundreds of manufacturers giving various data on the type and quality of the light fixtures, ranging from LED module, heat management, lens types, reflectors, control gear and dimming systems,” she said
“What concerns a designer is how to compare apples to apples? We need to have a system which allows us to compare a 50W halogen lamp to an equivalent LED lamp in the quality and quantity of light generated.”
Savage said he has seen more independent lighting consultants, suppliers and manufacturers set themselves up in Dubai recently.
“Clients also seem to be gradually recognising the need for truly independent lighting design advice,” he added.
“This is an everyday educational process existing at all levels within the project design team and directly with the clients. Unfortunately there are also a lot of people who dabble with lighting design who call themselves designers but with a limited knowledge which generally leads to a less than satisfactory installed finished scheme.”
Varanasi agrees and said in regards to a retro fit, it has been found that replacement of a 50w halogen lamp would require three to four times the number of light fixtures to achieve the same lux levels adding that the payback time would be anywhere between four and 11 years.
“LED light fixtures are still evolving. The technology is changing fast. There needs to be a comprehensive education on compatibility of the systems at a technical and educational level. Designers should be able to understand the equivalent parameters to know what the lighting design will achieve,” she added.
“LED lights are good for general lighting areas, vast areas. They are good for decorative lights and very good for ‘colouring’ buildings although one wonders if there can be 64 million colours, why do we always see pink, green, yellow and blue.”
According to McClellan, one advantage of LEDs is that they are easy to control digitally so now a home can be lit like a theatre.
But, he strikes a note of caution and said with so much colour and so many possibilities, you can turn a very beautiful house into a very tacky one, if you’re not careful with the colours. “We’ve done a lot of damage to the planet and one of the quickest ways to make headway to resolving that is if the whole world turns to LEDs.
It’s a fast solution and one that could make a big difference,” he added.
“Having said that, I feel strongly that the customer shouldn’t be forced to use an LED, purely because it’s environmentally friendly choice. Designers should use them in such a beautiful form that people want them in their house or in a commercial interior, as a design piece.
The fact that they’re ecologically sound is an added bonus. It’s our job to make LEDs look aesthetically pleasing, so people will readily accept them into their home, office, restaurant or hotel.”
Prince added we can do our own bit to save the environment by turning off lights in the day and switch off if a building is empty.