Singapore 19th March 2012
Back in our Singapore office for a few days before jetting off to India again. I spent most of the day with my team going through one project after another to clear out any outstanding design issues. Not surprisingly one of the key design issues popping up most of the time is in regards to sustainability. When I mention sustainability I really mean the definition of sustainability as depending who you talk to, this seems to take on different disguises and appearances. But the general definition of sustainability (see Wikipedia for instance) is actually quite expressive.
While most people seem to say that sustainability is about watts per square meter, energy saving, reducing your carbon footprint, using renewable energy and so on many seem to forget that there are other factors that determine whether a lighting solution is sustainable or not. In Light & Learn today I would like to expand a bit on what I believe is sustainable.
First of all we have to acknowledge that there are 3 components to sustainability; the environmental component, the economic component and the social component. The environmental component is probably the most obvious as this relates to the use of our fossil energy and our pollution of the environment and the one most people talk about. However there is also an economic component, the value for money, cost aspect and return on investment…it all has to make economic sense! Last but not least there is the social component; whatever is designed has to make social sense too! In other words we have to design for human use in terms of comfort, ease of operation etc. Once all these three components gel together we have a truly sustainable system.
Light & Learn 3-10: The sustainability relationships and what it means in lighting terms?
The environmental component translates towards energy use and light pollution. Many of the “green guidelines” prescribe a maximum watt’s per square meter use, which we have to translate into a selection with a certain lighting performance or lumens per watt. The light pollution aspect relates to lighting layout design, aiming and beam control to assure maximal use of the light were it is needed and minimum spill to where it is not needed (glare, light spill).
The economic component is really the budget that our clients have available to pay for the lighting. While many of the high energy saving systems are more expensive, which means we cannot just for the environmental component without looking at the return on investment (if the client at all is willing to look at that beyond his capital investment).
The social component is probably the least represented in this sustainability relationship. This is the human factor. We need light to see and perform visual tasks (application related lux levels), we need light to create moods and ambiance (artworks, balance of brightness, contrasts), we need the lighting to be easy to operate and maintain (controls, comfort). To often we find that the human aspect is totally overlooked when it comes to setting sustainable lighting standards.