What is good LED lighting? Are Facilities Management the enemy?

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Lighting. We need it for everything we do. Whether it is natural lighting from windows or artificial light from LED lighting, everyday life would be almost impossible without it. And when it’s bad, it can affect our mood, productivity, and safety.

This article looks at what makes good lighting from two different perspectives:

1. The occupants of the building and;

2. The facilities management (FM) team

Both have differing needs, which may not always align.

Centropi provides Lighting as a Service (LaaS) and manufactures investment-grade light fittings. We are not a big brand, but our NipponLED products are investment-grade and best-in-class.

You may buy and maintain your light fittings ad hoc, that's fine. Our content aims to give you the information to make smart buying decisions.

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Who wears the lighting trousers? The occupant or the FM team?

A survey of over 7000 office workers showed that 40% struggle to work in poor lighting daily.

So one would think that it’s the occupants that wear the trousers. Their lack of productivity must affect the business so leadership would stand up and make changes.

But that is not the reality. We have a choice over the job we take, but we don’t normally get a say in the quality of the environment (office, clinic, factory etc). So when you turn up for the first day of your dream job to find no or few windows and buzzing light fittings, for the most part, we suck it up and get on with it.

Typical occupants don’t buy new light fittings, and their KPIs are not based on cost savings;purchasing therefore, it is very hard to incite change. I feel a strike coming on!

However, the targets of Facilities Management are set on cost savings and sustainability targets. For them keeping costs low is key. So they might see problems but have their hands tied by budgets to solve them. In addition, the cost of fixing the problem may go beyond just purchasing a new light fitting. In spaces with high ceilings, it may be necessary to bring in specialist equipment after hours to make the changes. All of this is not cheap.

So, no, your FM team is not the enemy; they have different KPIs than general occupants. So who wears the trousers?

Normally upper management and finance.

What is good lighting?

Good lighting is thus a balance between what the general working population needs, the targets of the Facilities management team, and finance budgets.

Priorities of the general working population

  • Lighting brightness - Lighting should be neither too bright nor too dim to avoid straining the eyes  
  • Light colour - The choice of light colour should align with the type of work being performed, creating a conducive environment
  • Lighting consistency - Flickering or buzzing lights should be avoided to ensure a comfortable work environment.

Priorities of Facilities Management

  • Minimised maintenance - Not having to change light bulbs regularly
  • Low running costs - If the efficiency is low, running costs will be higher, offsetting any reduction in purchasing costs.
  • Low capital expenditure - Lower upfront costs are not necessarily the best choice. Exploring light-as-a-service subscription options can eliminate the need for upfront investments and immediately reduce overhead costs.

The 2 big reasons not to buy cheap lighting

Normally the story goes something like this; Complaints come in from staff and the FM team is instructed to procure new lighting but with a restricted budget. They start their hunt for products.

They decide on low-grade commercial fittings as it's what meets their budget. But what are the negative effects of buying poor quality light fittings at a budget-friendly lower cost?

  1. You need to replace them more often. This should be no surprise and goes beyond light fittings. Commercial light fittings last 50% less time than investment-grade light fittings. Investment-grade lighting is engineered to eliminate replacements. That's not the case for commercial grade, which is engineered to have an acceptable replacement rate. For the most part, if you buy cheap, expect to replace it often in the long run.
  2. They cost more to use. Even though there has been a huge shift to LED light fittings, they are not all created equally. Check out the efficiency of your light bulbs, a measure of Lumens per watt (lm/w), and the L70 is the expected lifetime in hours before the light loses 30% of its brightness, expressed as hours, i.e. "50,000 hours L70". The former will tell you how much visible light you get from the electricity you put in. The initial lower cost of the fitting will be offset by higher energy use.

It's all about balance

If we think a bit harder, we can see that savings in one area can lead to losses in other areas. For example, cheap lighting can reduce productivity.

A buzzing or flickering light is irritating at work. And the facilities management teams are no strangers to unsolvable complaints due to budget restraints.

This does not mean that either party should have to compromise. It is possible to buy high-quality light fittings backed by guarantees. One can also "rent" lightbulbs so the facilities management team can meet their targets

So whether you are an occupant, facilities manager, or upper management, the next time you see a flickering light fitting or hear a buzzing bulb, think twice about your next move.

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