Sustainable lighting: is a new model the answer?

Jonathan Rush

Jonathan Rush, Partner

Incentivising energy reduction with a service…

A service model is where we pay for our ongoing consumption of something, as opposed to a one-off purchase.

Interestingly, people have never viewed light as a ‘service’ in the way that we do with gas and electricity. There are many logical reasons for this – the main two being:

1. light can come in the form of a ‘free’ resource (daylight)
2. artificial light has always been a by-product of the commodity purchased

In today’s world, the ‘one-off’ purchasable commodity for light is a bulb or lamp.

For about 50 years, the lamp and luminaire have defined how we think of artificial lighting. The light emitted is seen as an outcome of the purchase and installation of a light bulb. The cost of actually lighting a space is your responsibility, in the same way you buy a heater to warm a room but still have to pay your heating bill.

The LED revolution.

The use of LEDs to light spaces has started to change this though. LEDs differ from traditional incandescent bulbs in the way they produce light: rather than requiring electricity to pass through a filament, LEDs use a semiconductor that emits light energy when a very small electrical current is passed through it. As such they use, on average, 90% less energy.

LED sources are now an integral part of the luminaire and the product is designed to be installed until complete failure. However, lamp changes are complex and the technology is moving so fast that products can be obsolete only a few years into a reported 10-year service life.

LEDs require us to rethink how we approach an artificial lighting model.

This need to stay up-to-date with technology is where ‘lighting as a service’ comes in. The idea is that light would be provided in the same way as electricity: paid for by the KW and the infrastructure (wires, meters, etc) is provided free-of-charge by the supplier.

The concept:

  • Luminaires provided free-of-charge to a client, who would effectively lease them at a monthly rate.
  • The capital expenditure is replaced by greater operational expenditure, but would include new technology updates and ongoing maintenance.
This model has the potential to completely change our relationship with how we purchase lighting and may prove to be a game changer in a fast-moving industry.

No stranger.

It is a model we are increasingly using elsewhere in our lives: with mobile phone contracts, Netflix, broadband and car leasing. Possibly most significantly, it allows us to keep up to date with new technologies in our connected world – the Internet of Things. It is also a model that is being discussed with other building services, such as air conditioning and heating.

The benefits abound.

As we look to a future of reduced energy usage, this model also brings an added incentive for energy savings. At the moment, the only way we as designers can do this is by reducing the number of luminaires in the initial layouts, in an upgrade, or through full commissioning and scene setting via a control system.

However, a model where clients only pay for the amount of light used, not only automatically discourages ‘over lighting’ but also incentivises proper commissioning of the installed lighting and utilisation of daylight.

Is this the answer to a truly efficient lighting? It’s certainly an interesting prospect and offers lots of benefits to a client.

Read more about the considerations of this service model.