Next-generation lighting control and its potential to transform educational establishments

Powerful overarching control systems and motion sensors are enabling schools and colleges to derive tremendous benefits from the latest LED lighting solutions.

As so often happens with technological trends, when it comes to LED lighting what started as a trickle ultimately became a flood. Once the evangelical sentiments of early adopters began to sink in, the number of end-users keen to replace their ageing and inefficient fluorescent lighting systems with the latest LED equivalents, started to soar. Government bodies and large corporate establishments were among the clients to switch to LED most fervently in the first decade of the 21st century, with retail operations and SMEs soon seeing fit to join the cause.

One can also add education to this list given that schools, colleges and universities have upgraded to LED lighting in their droves – particularly during the last half-decade. The initial investments may sometimes be substantial, but the long-term advantages almost invariably repay the effort in terms of reduced energy consumption, and much lower expenditure on support and maintenance functions. For various reasons, these benefits have proven to be especially attractive to the education sector.

To understand why it helps to know a little bit about the context in which many schools and colleges now operate. The era of austerity ushered in by the post-crash period of 2008-11 has inevitably heralded an ever-greater focus on the bottom line, with schools obliged to save money whenever and wherever possible. Not surprisingly, energy consumption has received substantial scrutiny from school governing teams and their contractors, with many exhibiting a desire to engage with technologies that can reduce day-to-day expenditure.

Traditionally, lighting has been one of the two or three most substantial contributors to schools’ energy costs, so it should come as no surprise to discover that a great deal of investment has taken place in this area in the last few years. Correctly specified and deployed, LED lighting systems can routinely achieve annual energy savings of as much as 60%. Returns on investment of just two or three years are common, even with projects that span large sites. Meanwhile, the extended life-cycle of LED fittings means that they need to be replaced much less frequently, leading to a reduction in support and maintenance expenditure.

In more recent times, the advent of sophisticated systems that allow powerful control to be taken of complete, site-wide lighting installations – and provide efficient localised control – has made the case to switch to LED even more compelling. And a closer look at one specific recent project makes it even easier to understand what has become surely an unstoppable trend.

Improving illumination and delivering real control

Frampton Cotterell Church of England Primary School in South Gloucestershire can certainly attest to the contribution that can be made by modern lighting and related control systems. The transformation was initiated earlier this year when the school’s technical team decided to undertake a comprehensive upgrade in order to improve the quality of lighting and reduce energy expenditure. As the result of a competitive tender process, the contract to implement the changes went to Connected Light – through whom it actually had a personal connection thanks to Director Matt Holway being an alumnus of the school, and now having his own child as a pupil there.

The Connected Light team worked out-of-hours to minimise disruption to the school during a project that drew on LED lighting fittings and fixtures from their comprehensive range. But equally critical was the provision of simple controllers integrated into a number of key areas – including the toilets, storerooms and cupboard areas – with personnel given an overview of the new lighting and control systems.

Several months on from the completion of the project, the school reports that the entire team has been wowed by the quality of the new lighting, while the controllers mean that “staff can easily take charge of what lighting is required, and when.”

The ability of schools to specify both overarching control systems – to be used by trained personnel – as well as localised controllers that require no specific experience to operate, heralds tremendous benefits for schools and colleges. Complementing the need to reduce unnecessary expenditure and carbon footprint impact, these controllers pave the way for a much more precise and exacting use of light. Leaving lights blazing in empty classrooms and corridors can easily be rendered a thing of the past, with obvious benefits for the amount of budget that has to be allocated to lighting.

Factor in the inherent efficiency of LED lighting on its own terms, and the related reduction in the need for maintenance and replacements, and it is easy to see why controllable LED lighting systems are increasingly becoming a default choice for schools, colleges and universities everywhere.