Cool Lights

Lighting Controls

Smith points out one of the most common requests from building owners is controllability of lighting systems by the occupants. This originally stemmed from the incentive of LEED credits for energy efficiency through controllability but has evolved to building owners understanding the correlation between occupant comfort and productivity.

One of the particular challenges of adding lighting controls has been installation logistics, particularly in retrofit situations, which can be difficult or impossible in some cases. Simplified lighting controls are becoming more common and are broken up into two categories, wired and wireless. Some systems utilize a low-voltage cable for wiring that is simpler to install in most spaces. For more difficult spaces, companies have developed wireless lighting controls that communicate wirelessly with controls rather than through traditional hard wiring. More complex control functions like daylight dimming, time-based scheduling, and occupancy controls of larger areas have never been easier or more cost-effective to implement.

For retrofits in more difficult spaces, Hubbell Lighting developed the wi-Hubb, which utilizes wireless technology to communicate with controls rather than through traditional hard wiring.

In addition to owners’ desires for energy efficiency, energy codes are becoming more stringent. Maximum lighting power densities (watts per square foot of space) have continued to drop, causing lighting designers to become more aware of fixture efficiency. Many of the leading manufacturers have taken note of this and are making fixture selection easier for lighting designers by including fixture and lens efficiency numbers in product specification sheets.


Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is continuing to reshape how designers work. In years past, realistically rendering lighting in a space was produced in software programs, like Radiance or 3ds Max. Although these programs have many complex capabilities, they are not often used in mainstream architecture projects. BIM, which is increasingly being embraced by the architectural community, integrates lighting design and has the ability to quickly show clients lighting mock-ups. Smith’s firm is using BIM whenever possible. “It allows us to dive into a space much more than CAD would let us,” he says. “We can quickly add lighting to BIM models to show clients options or help our own design team understand how lighting affects complex spaces.”

A Bright Future

When asked what the future holds for the lighting world, Smith expects the short term will solidify LED usage, including the design of more fixtures specifically for LED technology and not retrofitted from fluorescent technology. “We will see more LED product development for smaller, more delicate and, in some instances, crazier packages,” Smith notes.

Wattstopper’s fixture-integrated dimming photosensor provides a continuous dimming signal to a 0-10 VDC dimming ballast, based on daylight levels.

He adds, “In the long term, we are going to see much more development of products, like organic LEDs, quantum dots and other technologies that will allow us to shed the notion of a traditional light fixture and allow lighting to become integrated with the structure and be more artistic.”

Although it remains to be seen what the future holds, we can be sure LED technology will be solidly at the forefront for many years to come. “It’s an exciting time to be a lighting designer,” Smith says. “I’m excited that I get to play with all of these new toys, even if it can be a daunting task to keep up with all of the new information that comes out on a daily basis.”

About the Author

Nathan M. Gillette
Nathan M. Gillette, AIA, LEED AP O+M, CEM, is director of Natura Architectural Consulting, Grand Rapids, Mich., and a retrofit editorial advisor. He works with clients to successfully implement and manage energy efficiency and sustainability projects.

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