Cave like lighting is not OKBy Lynne Blundell

by Lynne Blundell

20 July 2010 – A small Australian manufacturing team is bucking the trend with its linear fluorescent light fitting, using what many consider outdated technology to achieve what it says is a 70 per cent reduction in lighting energy use and more effective lighting. Some large property owners, including Local Government Superannuation, are converting to the fitting.

T5 linear fluorescent lighting is now pretty much the standard in commercial buildings in Australia, replacing the previous T8 fittings. Most people in the industry consider T5s to be superior to T8s, pointing out they use less power because fewer are needed per square metre and they have a longer lamp life.

But Allan Turnbull, principal of light manufacturing company Envirolite begs to differ. His e1 light fitting, based on the T8 but with significant modifications and improvements, has been taken up by Local Government Superannuation for use in buildings across its entire portfolio. Optus also used the fitting in its buildings, as did the Victorian Government in 16 of its Treasury buildings.

“We tried to convince lighting engineers that the T5 was not the most effective form of lighting but we came up against a brick wall so we developed our own fitting. T5 has been widely adopted in Australia but it hasn’t elsewhere and while it is seen to be world’s best standard here we’re achieving results that are much better with our product,” says Turnbull.

The problem says Turnbull is that T5s are susceptible to ambient temperature and their efficiency is then reduced. They also throw light directly downwards, creating a cave effect where the walls and ceilings are left without enough light (see our other lighting story this issue). Most fittings also use twin lamps whereas Envirolite’s e1 is a single lamp fitting.

“We use single lamps and so use fewer lamps per square metre. We have also effectively reduced the light energy by around 75 per cent. This reduces the heat load on the air conditioning which saves another third in energy use.”

The coating on the e1 casing is designed to diffuse and spread the light more effectively to overcome the cave effect of the T5s. The light is also a better quality, resulting in less eye fatigue for office workers, says Turnbull.

Brian Churchill

Brian Churchill, Property Portfolio Manager for Local Government Super told The Fifth Estate that replacement of the previous light fittings at the LGS headquarters in Margaret Street Sydney with the Envirolite e1s had decreased the building’s energy bill by around 40 per cent.

“We had 1600 light fittings in the tenancies throughout the  building before and now have only 1000, each one only containing one tube. This means less maintenance and less wattage per square metre. And because it is much more efficient there is less heat which means the air conditioning is 10 per cent more efficient,” says Churchill.

LGS has made the e1s the standard across its portfolio of six office buildings and is looking at introducing them into its four shopping centres and one industrial asset, which it expects will reduce lighting energy by approximately 66 per cent.

“T5s were the standard but they had shortcomings – they can make offices look like bat caves because the light is very directional. The e1s give out much more light and it is a better ambient light with less glare,” says Churchill.

LGS was also attracted to Environlight’s environmentally friendly approach to retrofitting. The company removes all old light fittings and recycles them, each of the components going to different recyclers – the mercury tubes to a company in Melbourne where the mercury is extracted and re-used, the aluminium to a manufacturer of aluminium ingots, the glass is recycled for fiberglass insulation, phosphorus is reused for phosphate fertilizers and the metal melted down to make new iron ore ballasts for more lights.

LGS is offering to install the lighting for tenants if they convert to green power.

“We want one hundred per cent green power and so we offer a free lighting upgrade if tenants will convert. This is just bringing forward our capital expenditure regime and is also a benefit to tenants as the reduction in their power bill through greater efficiency will help offset the higher cost of green power,” says Churchill.

The combination of e1 lighting and installation of the Shaw method of air conditioning has resulted in a significant energy saving across the LGS portfolio (see our earlier story on the LGS makeover https://thefifthestate.com.au/archives/14439), says Churchill:

“It can mean a quantum leap in NABERs rating. You can achieve half to one star improvement for lighting and then combined with the Shaw air conditioning this increases to two star, so that an older building can get four to five stars.”

lblundell@thefifthestate.com.au