Success Begins with Flexible Lighting Controls

Success Begins with Flexible Lighting Controls

This piece was originally published in the February 2018 issue of electroindustry.

Pekka Hakkarainen, PhD, Vice President, Lutron Electronics Company, Inc.

Dr. Hakkarainen, a recipient of NEMA’s Kite & Key Award, chairs the NEMA Standards Strategy Working Group.

Advanced lighting control solutions offer powerful benefits for commercial building owners and occupants by delivering a more energy-efficient, comfortable, and productive environment. Yet there are barriers to widespread adoption of integrated lighting control solutions.

Codes and standards, which are updated on a regular basis, vary by state and municipality, and keeping up with them can be overwhelming. It may be tempting, then, to forgo advanced lighting controls in favor of the simplest system possible to meet required codes, but this trade-off has long-term ramifications. Specifiers and contractors must also ensure that lighting control systems meet rigorous occupant performance requirements.

Smart, flexible, scalable lighting control solutions may increase initial installation costs, but they guard against expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive updates. They facilitate the addition of smart features and easy software upgrades as they become available, providing a direct, positive impact on energy use, occupant comfort, and effective space utilization. Solutions that incorporate light-emitting diode (LED) drivers along with wireless sensors and controls can make future lighting retrofits, rezoning, and repurposing easier and faster.

Although code information is available online at code-specific websites, such as the International Energy Conservation Code® ( and ASHRAE (, more targeted energy code lookup tools can make quick, easy work of finding state and local energy codes. Manufacturers’ websites, for example, can ease the path to code-compliant lighting and control solutions that meet customers’ needs, within budget and without sacrificing lighting performance.

Advanced solutions in the workplace go beyond energy savings to focus on strategies that improve employee satisfaction and productivity. This idea is broadly known as the 3/30/300 formula: organizations spend approximately $3 per square foot per year for energy, $30 for rent, and $300 for personnel. Since people are a company’s most valuable asset, improving the occupant experience delivers the greatest return on investment. Advanced lighting control solutions enable data collection and analysis that can positively impact all three aspects of building cost by reducing energy use, improving building operations, and enhancing employee comfort and productivity.

Reaping Returns

For years, utility rebates have largely been component-based, offering, for example, a specified rebate per sensor or luminaire. With the proliferation of LED lighting and expanded wireless capabilities, utilities are encouraged to find new ways to encourage energy savings beyond mandated code.

In May 2016, the DesignLights Consortium released V.1.0 of its Networked Lighting Control Systems Specification to provide utilities and energy-efficiency programs with a way to qualify networked lighting control systems for inclusion in commercial sector lighting rebate programs. In June 2017, that coverage was expanded and the first participants introduced rebates for networked lighting controls.

This indicates the beginnings of a trend that can reduce the cost of advanced lighting control systems and provide impetus for broad adoption of networked control solutions.

Lighting control manufacturers remain committed to helping specifiers and contractors deliver the best user experience to clients and end users. Successful installations start with resources and products that not only make it easier to provide code-compliant solutions but also offer expandable, value-added solutions that improve the overall customer experience.

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