When designing new facilities or retrofit projects, we often talk about how to make these projects sustainable. Despite this, most of the time we do not have a great rubric for what sustainable really means. Particularly in a field like lighting, where there are so many factors to be considered, it can be difficult to nail down. To make this process easier, we have gathered three factors which contribute to the sustainability of a lighting design, as well as some information about ways you can judge how healthy a building is.
Utilizes Renewable Resources
One distinct way of ensuring that your facility is employing lighting in a sustainable way is to utilize renewable resources. This can function in two possible ways, utilizing photovoltaic panels to collect electricity for artificial lighting, or integrating daylighting into your building design. By providing lighting at no cost throughout the day, daylighting is capable of reducing energy usage for lighting by 50-80%, maximizing light while reducing reliance on nonrenewable resources.
Minimizes Electricity Usage
Incorporating these sustainable methods can help cut lighting costs, but it is also important to invest in design which reduces costly HVAC usage. In 2015 about 40% of total US energy usage was devoted to heating and cooling. Utilizing green roofs, glazed windows, smart glass, and skylights designed to protect the building envelope can cut these costs significantly. Not only that, but many inefficient artificial lighting systems can produce excess waste heat, increasing interior temperatures.
Reduces Carbon Footprint
Why is reducing energy usage for lighting and HVAC so important? Because in the US 67% of all electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels. Well-integrated lighting design not only complements the building design holistically, it can be fundamental to lowering energy usage. With lighting accounting for an average of 35-50% of building electrical costs, the total effect of these reductions comes close to 90% of a building’s energy consumption.
Rubrics for Sustainable Buildings
Beyond looking at these factors, several different rubrics have emerged for observing how sustainable a building is overall, which can be used in part to evaluate the effects of a specific lighting design. These include the LEED certification (managed by the US Green Building Council), the WELL Building Certification, and the Energy Star Certification. Each of these sets out a series of criterion that can be used to determine the sustainability of various elements of design, including lighting design.