Douglas Lighting Controls, part of the Panasonic family of companies, is among a number of growing businesses in the Vancouver, British Columbia area vying to create this type of environment in order to compete with other locally based powerhouses.
“There’s no question that companies are currently attracting the best business and technology talent locally because of the workplace amenities they can provide,” says Rob Mahaffey, general manager at Douglas Lighting Controls, which manufacturers relay panels, daylight sensors, Bluetooth wireless controls and more as part of integrated lighting systems. “To create parity from a competitive perspective, we decided to invest in a workspace that would enhance current and future employee partners’ comfort and satisfaction.”
But the process of selecting the right space for Douglas required attention to a unique design need; a facility where its own products could be tested and monitored as if they were in a client’s workspace.
“Unrestricted access to this type of living laboratory environment for our engineering department allows us to become more customer-centric and develop products ahead of market demand,” says Mahaffey.
Rather than taking on the burden of new construction to create this test-bed facility, Mahaffey and team selected a 9,500 square foot space in a multi-tenanted office building just minutes from the company’s former headquarters building in Burnaby, British Columbia. The office features a generous amount of glazing in addition to separate test, demonstration and workspace areas, making it the ideal location to gather raw data about its lighting solutions. Open work areas and team breakout areas also help create a comfortable workspace for all employee partners.
During the planning phase, Douglas leaned on its own in-house applications and design team to set out a plan for implementing its control capabilities exclusively throughout the space. For external projects, specifying engineers will utilize this team to help determine an appropriate lighting control strategy and ensure code compliance.
“Given our experience creating lighting control strategies for commercial spaces in office park environments like ours, it made sense to run this project ourselves,” says Mahaffey. “We partnered with our sister company, Universal Lighting Technologies, to source LED drivers and modules. We also installed some of our latest technological advancements, such as wireless lighting controls featuring Bluetooth wireless mesh technology. Our wireless control solution was perfect for this application because control wires add additional labor cost to the installation of a lighting controls system in an existing building.”
Other technology includes daylight harvesting, which measures the amount of natural light entering the building and automatically adjusts luminary output to save energy and optimize occupant comfort.
Early feedback on the office space further validates Douglas’s investment. Not only has the company reduced energy expenditures in the space by more than 50 percent year-over-year, but the payback period for the LED lighting and controls technology is estimated at less than three years. That’s due in part to optimization tests conducted by the applications and design team, which showed that the space would be better lit after reducing the number of fixtures in the building from 110 to 80.
Perhaps more impressive, says Mahaffey, is that the office space has balanced the need for testing Douglas products with employee partners’ need for a well-lit office that will not disrupt their work. Not only does the space enable Douglas to gather feedback in a quality-controlled environment, but also to showcase technological advancements and developments—all under one roof.
“Due to our investment in this Centre of Excellence facility, we’ve made progress towards our vision of becoming a visible development house that stands apart in a competitive job market,” says Mahaffey. “We’re learning from our experiences daily and are excited for the opportunity to lead the transformation towards the fully integrated lighting systems and office environments of the future.”