Deployment Considerations: Networked Lighting Controls

As improved lighting control systems hit the market, sifting through the bells and whistles of a possible solution is a daunting prospect. To assist in overcoming this challenge, this week’s post offers key pieces of advice when researching system options. As a result, with the right gameplan, your organization will save time, money, and frustration.

Let’s jump in.

For the longest time, I’ve argued that the advent of more affordable networked lighting control systems would become the leading force in the commercial adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT). And while both the IoT movement and networked lighting control advancements have been driven by cheaper sensor technology and higher computing power, how much has the commercial market latched on to the idea of the IoT vis-a-vis lighting control systems?

Well, the most recent Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is especially relevant in shedding some light on this question. The latest survey indicates that large commercial buildings are most likely to use advanced lighting control strategies to improve both operations and energy efficiency. So far, so good. Why? Consequently, these advanced lighting strategies are most effective when deployed through a networked lighting control system. Or in other words, a lighting control system that utilizes the Internet of Things.

Lighting Controls

As indicated in the above graph, the most used lighting control strategies in commercial buildings revolve around a few key themes. These themes include occupancy, task tuning, and scheduling. Moreover, the specific increase in controls strategies used by commercial buildings include the following, more IoT-specific, strategies:

  • Occupancy Control
  • Plug-load Control
  • Scheduling
  • Building Automation
  • Demand-Response Lighting Control
  • Multi-level/Dimming Light Control
  • Daylight Harvesting

The interesting aspect of these results is not the fact that larger commercial buildings are more likely to use lighting control strategies, that’s a given. The bigger the commercial building, the more energy that building will use, so of course increasing energy efficiency would be of interest.  The fact that the strategies they're choosing to implement are in direct parallel with networked lighting controls – or smart building technologies fueled by the Internet of Things - is what's interesting. Not to mention, helping to back the IoT adoption vis-a-vis networked lighting controls argument.

Smart Building Design

The power of networked lighting control systems is their capacity to gather, store, and analyze data on a single platform. This data collection provides facility managers and building owners with deeper insight to facility operations. As a result, facility operation teams are empowered to drive further efficiency cost savings with actionable information. But in order to take advantage of this deeper insight, you first need to know where to start when evaluating system options. Here are some of the top system design and deployment considerations to keep in mind.

Before your organization can take advantage of this deeper insight, you first need to determine which smart building (i.e. networked lighting control) technology will best suit your specific needs.  To assist in this sometimes painstaking process, here are some of the top system design and deployment considerations to keep in mind.

Key System Research and Deployment Tips

  • Installation Challenges: Some systems may not be appropriate for particular use cases because they're difficult to deploy. Building managers should be certain that the solution they choose fits their unique use case. For example, are you controlling a single facility, multiple facilities, HVAC systems, lighting system, or a combination of all?
  • User Interface: Can the system be accessed via a Web browser? Is there a smartphone app? How do facility managers and building owners seek to use the system? Will they access data remotely, onsite, a combination of the two? Answering these questions can help determine which type of system to consider.
  • Data Collection & Reporting: As a first step in determining which type of networked building control system to consider, facility management and building owners must determine what pieces of information are important to each party and answer the following questions: Does the platform report system status? Is it possible to track custom key performance indicators (i.e. energy used, space utilization, etc.)? Does the system platform generate useful reports?
  • System Design: Depending on the system technology, deployment strategies may differ greatly based on facility environment. The deployment of a wireless system in a large open warehouse will differ greatly from a twenty-one-story building. Understanding these environmental variables is key to designing a control system that fits your specific facility's needs and delivers the meaningful insight you require.

Smart Building Control System Design Considerations

Why is the design of your smart building control system important? For starters, your smart building transformation begins with the design of your system. As a result, if your initial system design is shoddy the result will be an incomplete system. At the bare minimum, your system will run at a suboptimal rate, shorting you on any projected investment returns.

Moreover, the initial system design is the template from which the installation team will take direct instruction. Therefore, if the design is missing key system components, your system installation will prove inoperable. Even worse is the fact that you’ll take a bath with additional contractor costs to re-install system devices correctly. These types of challenges are simply not worth the time, frustration, and potentially exorbitant project costs, due to something that is easily avoidable.

What steps can you take to avoid system design shortfalls?

System Design


Key Considerations for Effective Control System Design

To ensure your smart building control system is designed to deliver the ROI you’re seeking, here are a few additional considerations:

  1. System Goals: What goals do you want to achieve with your smart building system? And what pieces of information will you need to achieve those goals?
  2. System Characteristics: Based on your overall goals, will a Zonal controls design or a Granular controls design work best?
  3. Environmental Application: Based on your physical environment where is your system going to live? Are you implementing a system in a warehouse, office building, or retail space?
  4. Cost Restraints: What kind of cost restraints do you have when it comes to building your system? If you are on a tighter budget you may need to reassess your overall goals and system design.

Keeping these system design considerations top of mind when evaluating/implementing a new system solution, you can rest assured that your finalized system will deliver the value required to justify your organization’s investment. It is clear that the power of today’s advanced networked lighting and building control solutions are bar none. It is only through the right planning and forethought, though, that your organization can take advantage of the growing opportunity to deploy a smart building system smoothly. Therefore reaping the many energy and non-energy benefits it provides today, while laying the foundaiton for future expansion of a complete smart building infrastructure.