If you’ve spent any time in the Library Learning Commons over the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly noticed a fair amount of renovations. One of the major changes is a completely updated lighting system. This change has largely flown under the radar because it isn’t as immediately noticeable as new furniture and other layout changes. However, the new system has been quietly and efficiently making positive changes over the last half year.
The new lighting system is the culmination of a two year research project by CSC’s Master Electrician Casey Roberts and Electrician Jarrod Allen. The update was financed by the 309 Task Force, which means CSC funds were not used to pay for the new lighting system. The Task Force for Building Renewal is a division of Nebraska Administrative Services, with oversight provided by the Committee on Building Maintenance. The Task Force is responsible for Deferred Repair, Fire/Life Safety, ADA, and Energy Conservation projects for state non-revenue producing buildings. This project was funded under the energy conservation portion, whose funding is generated through taxes on cigarettes. CSC’s Director of Facilities, Harold Mowry, stressed how important this fund is for continued improvements on campus. Without this fund, we simply would not have been able to update the antiquated system.
The old system presented some difficult challenges for both the electricians and custodial staff, so they sought out solutions to address these issues. The main problems were related to time and cost. In January 2012, federal legislation prohibited manufacture of certain types of lamps; unfortunately, many of the lighting fixtures in the library relied on these lamps. As the remaining supply dwindled, prices continued to increase. Compounding the problem was that the ballasts were wearing out and needed to be replaced quite frequently. This meant a huge amount of staff time for both the electricians and custodial staff was devoted to changing out lights and ballasts.
Fortunately, at the same time as fluorescent light prices were rising, LED lights were making huge improvements, both in function and cost. LED lights are generally billed as lasting 3 times as long as fluorescent lights. Depending on the fixture and the manufacturer, you will easily get even better life than that estimate. Our electricians anticipate that we won’t need to touch our new lights for 10-15 years. Considering that the electricians had to change ballasts 5 times a year, and the custodial staff would have to change out lights once a month, this is a huge improvement in efficiency.
After researching numerous options, the campus Electricians made a recommendation to go with RAB Lighting’s LightCloud system. One of the selling points of this system is that unlike other advanced lighting solutions, LightCloud is not added to the local wireless system. Rather, it uses a cellular link. The campus Electricians coordinated with CIO Ann Burk and the IT Department to find the right fit for campus IT protocols.
One of the other benefits of this system is that RAB Lighting paid to send CSC’s Master Electrician Casey Roberts to their headquarters in New Jersey for a two-day training to learn all the intricacies of the system. The system allows for lots of customization, and this training has proved invaluable as Casey and Jarrod fine-tune the system. Quite simply, they can do things with this system that would otherwise require intensive wiring that would be financially impossible in terms of materials and labor.
The system gives precise scheduling and control by using a wireless mesh network to communicate lighting schemes – it’s the same idea as smart home technology, but it has more bells and whistles because it’s a commercial lighting control system.
The LightCloud system utilizes a cellular signal for commissioning and support (including software updates from RAB). It handles the storage of the LLC’s scenes (lighting levels) and schedules (lights on/off and dimming). The LLC staff can control it with local wired devices (dimming switches and the touchscreen tablet command center) or the Electricians can access it via the LightCloud app. This capability of the LightCloud app means the Electricians can access the building’s lighting remotely. So, for example, if campus had a snow day, they could turn off the schedule from the comfort of their own home.
The system is equipped with lots of fantastic extra features. Some of the highlights include:
- The lights now turn on and off automatically. The Electricians worked with the library staff to schedule the lights according to library hours. Casey was able to program in Spring Break hours, weekend hours, etc. It really is a set it (at the beginning of the academic year) and forget it (for the next 12 months) system.
- The outdoor lighting is set to an astronomical clock, which accounts for change of seasons, daylight savings, etc. Before this system, the Electricians had to do this manually. Now it is automatic and saves lots of time, and they don’t have to climb on rooftops unless something malfunctions.
- The perimeter zones along the windows on 2nd and 3rd floor utilize daylight harvesting. This solar powered daylight harvester tells the system to dim to preset values based on natural light levels. On a sunny day (above 100 footcandles), it dims to 50%. On a cloudy day, or at night (under 100 footcandles), it goes back to 100%. This ensures we are making the most of our natural light.
- Ceiling sensors, set to detect motion and sound, monitor the basement hallway and turn on and dim accordingly. This is especially noticeable on Friday afternoons and other times when the library doesn’t get much traffic. If you hang out it a classroom or office long enough during one of these slow times, the hallway will literally welcome you with a gradually increasing glow.
On a personal level, one of the most exciting new features are the new office controls. The LLC’s personal workspaces, classrooms, and meeting rooms are now outfitted with individual light controls. This means that individuals can adjust the lights to their comfort level. This improvement has efficiency built in, because people generally prefer lower lighting than the old fluorescent lights provided.
It took a little bit of time to calibrate all of these features correctly, but the small hiccups were all resolved quickly. The system has been functioning great for the past half year. In order to measure LightCloud’s impact, the Electricians did a series of spot-checks before and after the update to gauge the efficiency of the change. The average value to light the inside of the building went from 55,000 watts to 15,000 watts. The difference outside was even more impressive. The large rooftop flood lights now use 200 watts, whereas they were using 1,250 watts previously. Casey colorfully describes the old system’s energy usage as “basically a microwave oven sitting outside running all night long.”
Next time you’re in the LLC, make sure to look up! You’ll see one of the unsung heroes of the LLC.
A hearty kudos to Facilities and the Electricians for a job well done!